Economics, Modern Times

Sauerkraut.

The Division Of Labour, Part 2.

I was chopping the stuff, I had two cabbages that needed processing, it struck me just how boring the work was. No, not boring. Because it wasn’t boring at all: the work might have been boring

A head of cabbage being prepared for making into sauerkraut. I really enjoyed doing this, for all its being hard work!

Zuurkool as it’s called here in Holland. Whatever it’s called, it’s a nice tasty meal for the deep mid-winter evenings. And there’s nothing quite like the home-made stuff. It still has that cabbagey crispiness, yet melts on the mouth; the salt and the fermentation has turned the dull cabbagey flavour into something with a little more edge.

It was whilst I was chopping the stuff, I had two cabbages that needed processing, it struck me just how boring the work was. No, not boring. Because it wasn’t boring at all: the work might have been boring, but it wasn’t. It was tiring, even with my razor-sharp kitchen knife that glided through the layers of cabbage nicely.

A sharp kitchen knife is something to really enjoy, you can feel the cutting power of the edge and in not having to force it through, a sharp edge is a lot safer to use than a dull one.

In the right hands, at least. I wouldn’t let my friend Hendrik touch it, because in his hands, he’d think of something else, drop the knife only for it to cut through the leather of his shoe and into his foot. Dull minds should be kept at a distance from sharp objects: but a dull mind will be unable to comprehend that a sharp tool can be used safely. The boy up the tree is perfectly happy, and has the skills to get down again. The fool on the ground doesn’t have, and so wants to put a stop to it because he couldn’t. If ever you meet someone who tells you not to do something because it’s dangerous, realize that they can’t do it, and they can’t imagine how to do it either. Therefore in their world, nobody can do it. But the ways of the dull mind are for an upcoming post which is requiring more pondering than was at first imagined.

It’s not so much that the dull mind cannot accept that a skilled person isn’t going to slice all their fingers off in the first five minutes, it’s that skilled work is amazingly satisfying. Okay, so slicing wafer thin slices of cabbage isn’t the epitome of skills, getting the knife sharp enough most certainly is. It was the way the knife cut through the cabbage that was so satisfying, it was, in English parlance, ‘moreish’. I certainly didn’t want to stop, but then, even large cabbages come to an end eventually.

It was the way the knife cut through the cabbage that was so satisfying, it was, in English parlance, ‘moreish’. I certainly didn’t want to stop, but then, even large cabbages come to an end eventually.

Compressing the shredded cabbage – this time using a thick wooden spatula.

Not only that, I had the cabbage to stuff and compress into two old Weck pots, glass preserving jars. Popping a ‘hair’ of cabbage into the pot – and the stuff really is styled after Donald Trump’s hair, or Boris Johnson for that matter – and with a third of a teaspoon of salt, I pummel it with the end of my wooden rolling pin.

Once you’re at the top, it’s done. Cover it with an old teatowel and leave it to enjoy becoming sauerkraut. That takes around three weeks, during which time you can watch it and reflect on the fact that you spent an entire evening working your fingers to the bone in order to achieve it.

Make no mistake, it was hard work. Which is where Vincent van Gogh made his mistake: he imagined the work of a peasant as being like factory work. Well, these were Dutch peasants, so it’s possible that he was right. The real issue here is that for someone who has a real contact to their work, the work in itself is its own reward. In the world of the sustenance farmer, there are times when that’s all they’ll get.

What was it the Hindu sage said? “You have every right to work, but you have no right to expect anything for it.”

Those people who have skills and understanding of the things they do, the very act of doing it is sufficient. The pursuance of quality is its own reward: and it has to be stated that in a world where nothing is perfect, it is the striving for perfection that makes the difference.

The Division Of Labour.

Because too many people lack the level of skill to be able to enjoy what they do, for all its being hard work that is badly paid. I will attest to the fact that Monday mornings are as joyful for me as they are for the birds singing the morning chorus. Those who lack skills Mondays are a problem. Because without skills, their work really does become a drudge. In that as yet unpublished post, I speak of how a poultry butcher can hire in people to help him when there is too much work. Given a little training, they can do a reasonable job, especially if each person undertakes one task. This one might call the appropriate division of labour. In the village economy people could find work simply because there’s donkey work in every business that needs doing. All that is needed is someone with the willingness to do it.

Which is fine for the worker as long as there is enough work in the town or village, and that the work changes every so often. In our modern world, the division of labour has been taken too far and people can literally spend their lives putting on the wheelnuts of a car. This wouldn’t be so bad for a few days, even a week. For any period longer than that, such work has very serious psychological side-effects. I spoke of this in my post ‘A Railway Waggon At The Roots Of Dementia?” Where I discuss the nature of repetitive work on the conscious mind.

The real issues underpinning the division of labour is to keep it in balance: not only for the businessman, but for the worker too. Any effective business is one that cares: not only for its customers, but its workers and the things it does. Balance that little lot and you will find your business is not only stable, but profitable too – and that with the higher prices you need to charge. In short, everybody’s happy: especially the customer who is more than happy to pay a little extra to get a product that excels.

Negative Spirals Eating Businesses From The Inside.

The business that does not is a business that will face problems. Just look at the fierce competition in the poultry meat industry. The chickens suffer horribly, the business owners have sleepless nights because they can’t make ends meet… and their workers are put under inhumane conditions and have to wear nappies at their work because they aren’t allowed to go to the toilet during shift hours. Negative spirals are the result of negativity in the mind of the owners – and those who are prepared to work for them.

Once you’re at the top, it’s done. Cover it with an old teatowel and leave it to enjoy becoming sauerkraut.

Why is it that I can’t do anything in my kitchen without the cat getting in the middle of it?
This is finished sauerkraut, you can see the water, which is from the cabbage itself. You don’t add anything more than the salt.

As a final word, I reckon the veggies in my garden to cost me around 50 euros a kilo. In terms of time, at least. No matter: I’m not working for a slave-driver, and I enjoy the things I do. What does it matter if it costs so much in time when every moment of that time is bringing me happiness? Not to mention the inspiration for my book. It’s a very different matter when your work is so crushingly boring that you hate the thought of Mondays. And you’re the boss!

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