The Monochrome Intellectual, Part 7.
I made a mistake the other day, because when I was in my local supermarket, there were some rather lovely leeks on sale. It wasn’t so much the price – albeit that they were on offer and this was another temptation – it was more that they looked so nice!
You see, my problem was that my neighbour Nico had given me a leek from his garden. And it was a beautiful leek. What’s more, when cooked in a puff pastry wrapping and covered with a tasty mushroom sauce, the whole experience was of leeks and mushrooms battling for attention on my tongue. It was fabulous.
So when it came to enjoying my meal with my supermarket leek, I was puzzled. I mean, there was a leek there, I could see it! I could sense the ‘leekishness’ of the leek, which was a kind of strandiness that you get with leeks and means they’re not over-cooked. I could taste the puff pastry, too, which was even more of a puzzle as usually with this dish, the puff pastry is what one has for texture and the leek for flavour.
Not the other way around…
I could taste the blandness of the puff pastry and not the leek.
And then it hit me. I’d made the mistake of buying a leek from a supermarket. Farmers produce these things in as close a manner to a factory as it is possible to arrive at, and the result showed: there was a leek that in all outward appurtenances was a leek. It’s just that as with all modern food, it didn’t actually have anything else by way of appurtenance. It looked like a leek, and therefore it was a leek.
It just didn’t taste like one.
It was a leek that had been turned into a commodity: anything that did not add to the way it looked had been stripped away in order to save money.
I can’t say that I was disappointed, because if I were, it would be to express disappointment in myself for having bought the stupid thing in the first place. Put another way, I was fooled into thinking this was actually a leek… and please remember that if you are going to fool someone, make sure they want to be fooled. Because otherwise it doesn’t work. And I was there, ready and waiting to be fooled.
Fair enough: but I learned from that mistake, I learned from my weakness and my lack of conscious thinking at that point in time. It’s not as if the alarm bells shouldn’t have been ringing, because they probably were: this is a commercial supermarket after all, and the produce is going to be displayed on the basis of it being the cheapest they can sensibly get away with.
Which is why, when I want veggies, I usually trudge over the hill to Doorn – where the Kaiser used to live – and visit my nearest organic grocer. I know, I live in Holland and there’s a ruddy hill between me and the nearest town. Someone obviously saw me coming… there aren’t any windmills either. They must have saved some money by not having to build any of those for me…
The real point of this post isn’t leeks, it’s that people actually like the things. I mean, preferring the vapid, tasteless things, rather than the kind of leek that gives you a nudge in the side and says “eat me.” What is it about people who prefer the tasteless variety to that with even a tincy-wincy bit of flavour?
Until very recently, dining out with my friend Henrik was a matter of me taking pot-luck and ordering something I’d never had before – and of him choosing Nasi-Goreng met kip (1). It wasn’t so much that he’d choose this, but that he wanted this every time we met. Indeed, he’d eat it at any and every opportunity.
Why? Because he knew what he was going to get! Which is the key to the modern intellectual: either it is known or it is ‘strange’. These distinctions do not apply to food alone, but to the panorama of perceptions they witness. That is to say, from people, to their choice of music and holiday. Everything is either nice or nasty.
What with the world changing and new experiences, the strangeness of the world increases, meaning that the intellectual needs the safety of their comfort zone even more.
So what’s with this food that tastes of nothing? Again, we have to look at this problem from their point of view: buy an organic leek and it might taste of something. That ‘something’ might – or might not – be what was expected. That is the real and present danger for the mind enclosed by their needs – their comfort zone. It might taste different… which is why it is important to have food that tastes the same. What’s more, the food industry has leapt to their defence by making pre-prepared sauces that one need only add water to in order to produce the same flavours time and time again, irrespective of the kind of meat or vegetables you pour it on.
After all, they don’t taste of anything, do they?
It is the perfect solution to having a varied diet and still be able to expect the same, safe, experience.
The Other Side Of The Coin.
There is always the matter that the person simply doesn’t have the discernment to taste the difference. Hendrik wonders at me for preferring Verkade chocolate because he can’t taste the difference between that and the cheap stuff. But then, Brian – a partner from long ago – made tea in his coffee machine and it didn’t worry him that it was the worst tea that I have ever tasted.
I mean, if it doesn’t make any difference if the tea tastes like it’s been crossed with an unwashed llama, are flavours really going to make any difference – I ask this question because I simply do not know why a person doesn’t like things that taste of something. It may simply be a case of it costing a few pennies more. The few pennies that they will spend on the packet of flavourings to add that little something to their meal…
There is the small matter of perceived normality. After all, supermarkets have been around for as long as mankind has existed. Okay, so they haven’t, but the thinking has it that if the Greeks and Romans had thought of supermarkets, they would have jumped at the opportunity because it would have been such a great idea.
Supermarkets are modern, efficient and ‘state of the art’. They are the best of what humanity can produce and that is an end of the matter. After all, how else could the world be? If a supermarket has been part of your experience since childhood – as is the case with me – is there any credible alternative? The only alternatives are dismissed as being impractical or worse, inefficient. Supermarkets are here to stay! They are here to stay because people imagine them to be the pinnacle of evolution, and they imagine them to be because it comforts them to think this way.
We live in a world where food is seen as energy, and as such, is valued not for its nutrition and its flavours, but on price. A little like the way people choose the fuel for their motorcars: if all the fuel comes from one refinery in IJmuiden, why pay more if it’s all the same?
The farmers, the supermarkets have all painted themselves into a corner: in being cheaper, they have followed the perceived demand for cheapness because nobody’s ever heard of quality. There is only one thing the supermarkets can do, and that is to be cheaper. They can even tell their customers that they are intelligent to be able to determine the difference between two numbers, one of which is smaller than the other. Not that this takes much intelligence, but a customer is reassured when the supermarket
lies speaks to them in this way.
One Final Point.
What with scientists being able to prove that the nutrition of organic food is barely any difference with normal food, people are reassured that they are making the best decision. After all, it’s not as if there’s any difference in the numbers, is there? It’s not as if they’d want to taste the difference…
It was Rudolf Steiner who spoke of how the ability to think is directly related to the quality of the food we eat. Putting this the other way around, and you have a situation where people are so dim that they will believe the scientists when they give them the numerical facts. Most people know that scientists are an authority from childhood (2) and have never thought to question this.
Something they might have the cerebral power to do if they ate a truly healthy diet. I want to add a note that a family of my acquaintance has some amazingly bright children. It should come as no surprise to you to know that both parents were especially keen to feed them the best food they could.
And it shows.
(Please note that my attempt to add on-page links are removed by WordPress software in an attempt to show their kindness to my readers. They do this by making life a little harder because you cannot click on the number and arrive at its corresponding footnote. I will speak of this kind of anti-economic behaviour in a forthcoming post about the brain-dead intellectual and their approach to business).
(1) Chicken done in the Indonesian style with fried rice.
(2) This applies in all cases save those where the person wants to show that they have the authority over you. See “The Invisible Science, And The Imaginary.”
The Monochrome Intellectual. Links To Other Parts In This Series.
Part 1 <h1>Code Is Poetry.</h1>
Part 2 Vincent Van Gogh: Enclosing Reality On Canvas (only published on my private blog)
Part 3 Kazimir Malevich: Supremus 1915-16.
Part 4 Decision Making Without A Net. (Only published on my private blog)
Part 5 It’s Cold Out There! Blue as a Phenomenon. (Only published on my private blog)
Part 6 Reverse Engineering The Guru.
Part 7 Leeks For Dinner!