February 20, 2011
I just spent about forty-five minutes trying to figure out how to open the package for my new Sony digital noise-canceling headphones, and before that I broke a pair of scissors trying to get my new ratcheting screwdriver out of its plastic encasement. The headphones were a Christmas present (kind of a Christmas present to myself, if I were to be totally candid, but why would I be?). I’m just now getting into them because I don’t actually have a big call for headphones in my life. Oh, sure. I put on some ear buds when I go over to the gym to walk on the treadmill, but if you’ve ever seen these Sony bad boys you would know why you wouldn’t be using something as gargantuan and slick on the treadmill. I mean they are some honkin’ headphones. That’s probably how they should market them: Sony Honkin’ Headphones. (I wonder if I can copyright that?)
Well, more to the point, I haven’t gotten into these honkin’ headphones since Christmas because I really only need noise-canceling headphones if I’m going to be on an airplane for more than two hours straight. Not that I’m going anywhere immediately, but I’m starting to think about it. I know lots of people that will spend days or even weeks packing for a trip. I’m actually pretty good about doing it in twenty minutes, but I’d actually rather allow at least a couple of hours. But with new honkin’ headphones, who knows how long it make take to get these titans of the road ready for battle. Like, I take them out of the box and it turns out that it will take three hours to charge them. Who knew? And while you’re at it, bub, charge that i-pod, too.
Now in the spirit of my last two blogs, readers may be putting on their symbologist hats, trying to decode the food connection so far. “Let’s see, is it the gym/treadmill thing? Maybe this one’s about food and obesity?” Actually that’s a good guess. I should do a blog about food and obesity. Wait a minute! I think i did do a blog on diet and obesity… But no, the main thing here was actually not the gym or the fact that it takes three hours to charge a new pair of Sony honkin’ headphones (the same amount of time it takes to roast a small turkey, for those who are not avid Dan Brown readers and are not hip to the symbology jive). And no, there’s no real deeply embedded poultry riff going on here, either. The main thing that set me off was packaging. Just like you never know how long it’s going to take to get your new high tech gear ready for deployment at 10,000 feet, you never know how many hours, what devious symboligical puzzles you must decode, or what power tools you will have to jump into the car and head down to Home Depot and buy simply to get it out of the box.
And when it comes to headphones, I am definitely an out of the box type of guy. Sure those headphones have been fine sitting there in the box since December, but now their time has come. I’ve noticed the same thing about food. It’s fine for it to stay in the package until I’m ready to eat it, but it is much more enjoyable, and probably more nutritious if it is removed from the layers of Styrofoam, Plasticine, polystyrene, polyvinyl chloride, Celluloid, polytetrafluoroethylene, phthalates, aluminum, polyethylene terephthalate and cardboard that surround it when it comes from the grocery store. (Actually, some of these are out of date for food packaging and there’s never been any Plasticine used in food packages that I know of, but it’s so much fun to say!) One of the great things about the Thornapple CSA is that the wonderful veggies we will be getting again before you know it have never been packaged at all! I think this is great, and that it’s good for the environment, too. But I halfway expect that somebody somewhere in a college of agriculture has written an academic paper showing that these industrial packages actually lower global emissions of greenhouse gasses, especially when you include the emissions from Diane driving her Vibe out to Appleschram farm every other day.
Which just goes to show that whatever we do, we’re probably doing ourselves in somehow. And that takes me back to the title of this week’s blog, which is a quote from the late Warren Zevon. Zevon gave foodies these immortal lines:
I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand
walkin through the streets of Soho in the rain.
He was lookin for the place called Lee Ho Fooks, gonna get a big dish of beef chow mein.
Zevon died in 2003. He uttered the immortal admonition to “Enjoy every sandwich,” in response to a question from David Letterman as to what lessons he had taken from his diagnosis of mesothelioma. And I would add that to do this, you should also be sure to take it out of the bag.
Paul B. Thompson is the W.K. Kellogg Professor of Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University