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Archive for March 5th, 2006

The sterileness of American food

I was at BJs today walking by their food section. I feel like my balls are being cut out; washed till they are pale white, then zap with ultraviolet light. All the food looks so sterile there is practically no life left in them. All the meats are vacuum packed; all the veggies are precut and prepackaged. There are jars and jars of mass produced and heavy processed products lining up the shelves.

Don’t get me wrong. Mass production is the only way to get food production cost down. But I don’t see the prices being especially low. But is there an alternative? Japan is a country that favors micro farmers. To justify for the effort, the prices of it produces are astronomically high, which in turns provided a negative backdrop against farming innovations. But if we look at wine production in France, for some reason the small vineyards are able to absorb the overheads cost of bottling and distribution and produce great wine under $15. Granted it’s not the big 5, but the price to quality ratio is unbeatable.

I am not against mass production. Lafitte is a “mass produced” wine. Without mass production it is difficult to achieve economic of scale to market it. But what I don’t see in BJ is the love that you see people like a local French bakery would put into to their food. It kills the life and the passion in one of the most celebrated things in mankind. But then dreams have to come to reality. Maybe the only way to scale our food production to feed the entire world is by automation. Or maybe the new way of food distribution is leverage the information infrastructure to broker off food in a real time manner; where artisan products will be rated and allotted to the highest bidder, and generic production will be rated and auctioned off as an alternative to artisan product. Factoring out protectionism, we can utilize the country that can product the best quality to price ratio for a particular food product. Local artisan can then provide small batch alternatives for customer looking for their individual characters and other value added service to bring out the best of their art.

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Social Expectation

Saw a play called “Kiss and Cry” with Christina on Friday. The play was a romantic comedy about a gay figure skater and a lesbian actress; who tried to conform to societies’ expectation and pretended to be together in front of public eyes. It was quite interesting as it tried to question the conflict between expectation and our own value system. The lead and supporting female character plays the extreme opposite view of an artist, where one seeks the approval of millions and the other tried to change one soul at a time.

I think every culture–be it the wholesome Christian community, the African American neighborhood, the Asian American grapevines–there is a certain expectation of how we should behave. Any deviation from that expectation could risk being coined as “not acting black” or “not acting Chinese”. One of the very interesting point the play tried to make was as an artist, are we doing art for ourselves, or for other people.

Of course how other see us plays a huge part in how we see ourselves. At the very least we learn a lot of our moral values from observing others. And certainly people I care about have a big influence on what I think. But what become interesting is when the moral values that we picked up deviates from the society’s expectation. That’s what makes individual an individual. That’s the fundamental force that makes American what it is today.

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