Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Dark Side of Pastoral

The genre of food writing both memoir and cookbook are the last gasp of the Pastoral.

The pastoral is the genre of art, literature or music which depicts rural life as lived in harmony with nature preferably according to the seasons. It's heyday was in the Romantic era late into the Industrial Revolution. The revolution had created a massive upheaval and migration from rural to urban centers. It also created massive wealth through increased productivity.

It was possible then for an urban aesthete to romanticize the myth of the unsoiled countryside clashing violently with the notably apparent grime of urbanity and thus mythologize the past.

If you find yourself thinking that this resembles a massive number of books in recent time about the "joys" of farm life, you would be entirely correct.

There is a book published recently by a woman who married a Japanese farmer, and the book is spectacular, of course, but the CC was a little puzzled that she could afford a modern house with fancy equipment in rural Japan. A teeny-tiny little dig beneath the surface, you find out that she made her money running an English school.

The book is selling a fantasy.

The blunt truth is that there is very little money to be made in farming. The reason is simple. It requires minimal skill. Any farmer in rural Africa or Asia can do the job so there's a ton of supply and only a fixed demand which goes up only slowly as populations rise.

There is an exception naturally. As any good economist would tell you that it consists of having a high demand and only limited supply. In this context, it would mean selling a unique product that nobody else produces.

This explains the rush for obscure heirloom tomatoes, varieties of eggplants, herbs, etc. The CC should also mention the existence of Sembikiya in Japan where "perfect" fruit is sold akin to jewelry (with prices to match!) These are luxury items and can easily sustain a livelihood.

Of course, you could always be a "gentleman farmer" as can be seen in the books of Jane Austen but the wealth has always been obtained from somewhere else. The farm is a consumption item not one of production, and the consumption comes attached with the genuine pleasure in consuming a superior product.

So as Ricardo might have understood it, you might as well out-source the problem, and consume the finest produce, meat and seafood that other people can procure or produce better than you unless you happen to be skilled at its production which case the CC would appreciate an invitation!

1 comment:

macavity said...

Love this post!