Saturday, September 19, 2015

Atlantic: "What a $1,500 sandwich tastes like" the limits of the DIY locavore ethos in food

Over at Mockingbird there's been plenty of  content posted about purity codes and food

for everyone who might scoff that in ancient Israel there were ridiculously legalistic food restrictions, let's not forget that in our own day it was easy for Portlandia to riff on "is this chicken local?"

Somebody decided to DIY/locavore the most Americana of American cuisine, the sandwich.  All the ingredients done according to the purity of local/DIY stuff.  The result?  A $1,500 sandwich that gets described as what you'd have if you dipped cork board in lemon juice.

The latest episode of How to Make Everything finds George applying his global-trade-networked approach to that most basic and yet most profound of American food items: the sandwich. In this case, a chicken sandwich with cheese. Making the sandwich requires George to, among other things: grow his own vegetables, milk a cow (for the cheese), evaporate ocean water (for the salt), collect his own honey, grow and then grind his own wheat, preserve his own pickles, and slaughter/de-feather/butcher/cook a chicken. The whole thing takes six months, George says, to put together. It ends up costing him $1,500.00

The result of all that was a lesson in the complex nature of even the simplest foods, in how easy it can be, in a world of Walmarts, to take our conveniences for granted. [emphasis added]
But the result was also, though, an actual, edible food item. So how does a sandwich that costs the amount of a used car end up tasting?
“It’s not bad,” George concludes. “That’s about it. It’s not bad. Six months of my life were … not bad. Yeah.”
At this point in the video, he removes his glasses and puts his head into his hands. There’s a literal head-desk situation. And, there, the video ends.  
But: There’s a follow-up video! George also shared his sandwich with a mostly anonymous selection of taste-testers who are very likely members of his family. They gave slightly more detailed assessments of the sandwich.
A guy, probably in his late 20s or early 30s (brother?), concluded that the sandwich “tastes like a cork board dipped in lemon juice.”
But the kids might have had the most telling reactions to George’s $1,500 foodstuff. A young girl, putting a large, pre-cut bite of the sandwich into her mouth, chews the whole thing dutifully. And then her eyes widen. And then she looks like she has just, for the first time in her life, understood what betrayal tastes like. [emphasis added because these sentences are too beautiful]
A boy, even younger, chews the sandwich briefly, then yells an indecipherable bit of kid-profanity, then reaches into this mouth and removes the offending contents. He then walks to the kitchen, presumably to get a drink to wash away the taste of the sandwich forever.

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