Monday, March 24, 2008

End User Culture

On a recent “Cast On” podcast, Brenda Dayne said something that got me to thinking. She said that we are now a culture of “end users”. That struck a cord with me but I feel like I have to “journal it out” to know if that is the truth or not. Webster’s Dictionary defines end user as the ultimate consumer of a finished product. Hmm. Is that how I would describe the culture that I live in? I think that the answer would be yes.

Our western culture is a consumer culture, there is no doubt about that. If it can be manufactured commercially rather than being made at home then people will buy it. If you don’t believe that then you should take some time to observe what is purchased at the grocery store or your local big box store. I am an observer of people and the things that are going on around me. One of the things that I do is I look, discreetly, at what people have in their grocery carts in the check out line. I have to say that I am in the minority when it comes to almost totally fresh fruits, veggies and the other consumables. I am amazed at the amount of preprocessed, prepared foods that people buy. All in the name of convenience I would think and because they don’t want to cook for themselves, they don’t know how to or they just don’t care and think that because you can purchase a fully prepared lasagna in the frozen food section then you should. That sounds really preachy and I don’t mean it to be (well, just a little maybe). I just think that all that preprocessed, low fat, low carb, low sugar, low everything, high convenience food tastes really bad and in the end doesn’t to anything for you.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am a consumer just like everyone else. I made a trek to Walmart just this morning. I am not advocating using corn cobs or catalog pages for TP (I have gone the catalog route when camping, NOT FUN). Nor am I saying that we all need to know how to sew our own clothes or make our own shoes etc. However, I think that something vital and important has been lost in our quest to purchase what we consume rather than produce it ourselves. Or for that matter to even be aware of where the raw materials are coming from. This statement can cover a wide range of things. In no way am I saying that we all should be raising our own chickens (I have my brother to do that for me) or go out and hunt our own game (again, the bro does it for me) or have a cow out back or even have a garden if you are not so inclined. But, I think we have lost something precious when we don’t know how to make a loaf of bread (which is a disgustingly easy thing to do and tastes SOOOO much better than store bought) or cook a meal from scratch, or knit a sock, or even sew up a hem. We only know how to buy those things that we think we need.

I came across a study recently whose conclusions were that convenience foods that are purchased to save time aren’t really all that convenient. On average a convenience “main course” saved 5-10 minutes of prep time toward the total meal. However, the person using the convenience food often added on more side dishes than the person who was cooking from scratch and in the end consumed more calories. Interesting. I can tell you that I can make bread a WHOLE lot cheaper than I can buy it and my homemade pizza is very good (and getting better) and costs a great deal less than the stuff that I get from my local pizzeria. I make the crust, I make the sauce. Yes, I buy the cheese. I can’t say that the stuff I knit or sew is any cheaper but the satisfaction that I derive from producing those items far out weighs (for me at least) the cost of the materials. We have lost the ability to look at something that we have produced with our own hands and to know that we have done something special. We have also lost the ability to sit and quietly do a project. We must always have lives full of noise and action and stuff. No wonder we all need medication to sleep or to wake up or to get over our depression or other things that I can’t mention here. Have a cup of jasmine green tea, people, and take a load off!!! Knit a sock, read a book, weed the garden (if the snow would ever melt that is). Slow down and smell the roses.

1 comment:

  1. So, when you build on that beautiful property in Tennessee, I'm coming to visit for a breadmaking session. No sourdough, tho. I barely feed my family -- I'm NOT feeding a jar of starter!


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