“You don’t miss sewing or darning your socks, do you?”

Michael Pollan has a piece in this week’s Times Magazine on how people today watch cooking shows instead of actually cooking. Nothing new in there for those of you who follow food politics or who have read his other work- he’s still banging the same drum. He interviews a cynical food behavior researcher named Harry Balzer who says the next century of food will be prepackaged and prepared at the supermarket. Balzer provides us with the quote above. He obviously hasn’t been reading the Times’ obsessive coverage of the local food movement.

Pollan argues that people watch cooking shows because it fulfills an emotional need, and that the way that the American people could get healthy again would be to start cooking for themselves from scratch.

I think that we need to start sewing and darning those socks again too. My grandmothers when they were my age had a completely different relationship to their clothes than I do. They had a very few well made dresses that they cared for. They knew their measurements.

Our dress, like our diet, reflects our era and is shaped by our economic system:

Clothing sizes reflect a classic modern dilemma, a conflict between human heterogeneity and mass production. Standardized sizes made inexpensive, off-the-rack garments economically feasible. They gave shoppers a reliable guide to finding clothes in self-service shops. (Historically, the biggest advocates for standard sizes were mail-order catalogs, whose customers couldn’t try on the clothes they were buying.) Standardized sizes seemed efficient and scientific. Clothes could be as predictable as screws or frozen peas—and as regimented and impersonal as an assembly line.

– Virginia Postrel from the Atlantic

Pollan argues that we need to spend more time and money on our food, we need to know where it comes from and who and how it is produced. This is, to him, a moral act, for mental, physical, and cultural health. The same is true for how we clothe ourselves. Cheap clothing is not healthy for those who make it or wear it, or the farmers who grow the cotton, or the land where it is grown or factory extruded.


Author: Emily

Writer/ Librarian

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