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Wednesday Food: This Absurd Homemade Life

This weekend I enjoyed a caprese salad comprised of handmade mozzarella, patio-grown tomato and basil, and a seasoning of Himalayan pink salt.  I was at once proud of having made/ grown everything myself (save the salt) and appalled at how pretentious the whole situation appeared.

A foreseeable epiphany, this moment had been building for some time.  I’ve oscillated between self-congratulating and self-loathing in regards to all the things I make and do at home.  Are my pursuits in composting within the limits of an apartment or grinding maize for homemade tortillas a laudable agenda of self-improvement and keeping tradition, or are these activities delusional yuppie distractions in a relatively pampered life?

My out of control DIY spiral began with a recent trip to Julian, CA where I had the great fun of picking my own hops from a small but picturesque crop.  Cascade, Magnum, Nugget, Northern Brewer’s– it was a homebrewer’s enchanted kingdom– complete with one of the nicest growers you can imagine who shared stories of success and failure from using fresh hops in cooking.  The experience got me thinking about how great it would be to grow my own hops and grain, not as an enterprise, just so in making beer I could be entirely self-sufficient.  That led me to fantasize about distilling my own whiskey, establishing an avocado orchard, and raising chickens.  Before I could stop myself I was imagining some compound of self-sufficiency that reeked of cultish isolation or zombiepocalypse preparation.

Where does this impulse for DIY stem from?  Is it just a trend made accessible by user-friendly online marketplaces and attractive instructional guides?  Is it our generation’s creative reaction to being overeducated in an economy where our years at university can only be compensated by esteemed jobs as administrative assistants?  I desire high quality in the things I wear, eat, fill my life with, and entertain myself by, but don’t have the resources to buy them.  If I want well-made preserves or pickles my only option is to make them myself.

This could explain why I partake in these activities, but not why the idea of churning butter or extracting salt from seawater whips me into a frenzy of DIY ecstasy.  My impoverished chicken-farming great-grandmother would be wielding a pitchfork and swearing at me in German if she knew how much time and energy I spend, when I could just go to a supermarket.  I’d have no defense.  I’m becoming a pathological Martha Stewart.

Many of you readers are equally committed to self-reliance over modern convenience, so I’ll put it to you: is the do-it-yourself ethos a commendable path of self-sufficiency or a way to fill empty moments in a privileged existence?

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August 10, 2011 - Posted by | Wednesday Food

1 Comment

  1. Not being one of the Many, I would say: rather the latter. And: good on you!

    Comment by Guido Nius | August 12, 2011


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