Wednesday, August 17

Nearly every vegetable suffers under the supermarket regime, but it occurs to me (not for the first time) that it's the most basic and uncomplaining of foodstuffs which have taken the most abuse.

Most everyone is aware that a grocery-store tomato is a sad and pallid beast, alienated both from soil and the possibility of human love. Farm kids, at least, will understand that an ear of sweet corn is meant to be consumed within a few hundred yards of its origin. The lover of strawberries or asparagus is well aware that industry has not yet replicated more than the merest shadow of these delicacies.

And yet — who gives a thought for the humble potato or the simple onion? Mere commodities, these, in the dominant hierarchy of value. A few dollars for a bag.

Thesis: The global network and all of the human minds plugged into it are right on the edge of hosting a nebulous collection of emergent software proto-organisms. There is a kind of insectile humming unspooling itself within the static and foam of all those stochastic protocols and misdirected social impulses. Somewhere in all that fuzzy pattern repetition and retransmission of filtered sensory data. It is the sound of an ecosystem on the edge of existence, a hot mess leaning towards self-organization as humanity (our tattered souls all twitching, addicted, riddled with lolcats and elaborate fictions) edges ever closer to becoming a substrate, a platform.

There will be ghosts in this machine. The way things are going, we might be some of them.

So back to things that grow in dirt. I've really got to wonder how many of the old poor-people foods that seem to have ebbed out of the generic American diet have lost ground because they're just not as good under modern production-at-scale and supermarket distribution. (People still eat turnips, beets, cabbages, and so on — but am I wrong in thinking these things aren't staples unless you're lucky enough to be surrounded by an ethnic or regional cuisine?)