April 27, 2014
I have a robot on my phone that buzzes me once a day to deliver a word. I don’t mean that the robot offers an update on happenings around or some message of prospects & aspirations such as one might get from a human being in response to the question “What’s the word?” I do have robots who give me updates on happenings, of course. One of them sends me sporting news and the robot from the Lansing State Journal will let me know if there is a fire in town or a big accident on 127. But the robot I’m blogging about this morning does nothing like that. What this robot delivers is literally a word. To be fair, it’s a word and a link, so if I click on the link it will take me to a definition of the word, and if I’m in a particularly clicking mood I can go on to an audio recording of some pleasant authoritative speaker of American English where I can hear how this word is pronounced by those of us on this side of the pond.
All of which is offered in something of confessional modality, admitting that this week’s blog entry was stimulated by an automaton. I suppose that any of my regular readers who have the same robot got this delivery, too, so I might as well fess up here at the outset rather than trying to pretend that it was my erudition that brought me here this morning. This particular word is a big one, a massive ideogram and a real sesquipedalian treat. It refers to what we might colloquially call “the aha moment”. It’s the point in a story where one of the characters learns something that will shift the entire drift, leading to a significant turn of events. But what does this have to do with food, the more relevance-obsessed of my readers are asking?
Now here I could wax poetic. I could talk about how we seem to be shifting in our approach to food. We have gone on for a long while being fairly content to slurp down any old garbage put in front of us, but then we have that aha moment. Maybe it involves the final stage in a slow recognition that we will one day regret what we have been doing and that now it’s time to shape up. Maybe it is just the awakening of long dormant taste buds. Home grown tomatoes often have something to do with that kind of anagnorisis, and frankly any line of thought that gets us to mention home grown tomatoes is self-justifying in the context of the Thornapple blog. But actually it was hearing Ezra Klein explain to Charlie Rose how easy it is to underestimate both the intelligence of people and also their background knowledge.
Which is why we try to ‘splain it all here at the Thornapple blog. But I confess (second time in a single blog) that while I’m going to be ironic (even sarcastic) when I use a word like sesquipedalian and then I’m going to go on and provide some pretty obvious clues for the inquiring minds who want to know, I’m probably going to drop a mot on confessional modality without batting an eye. I’m not really trying to show off or adopt an exhibitionist modality. Dropping words like ‘modality’ is just my manner of acting. Sorry about that. Blame this one on the robots among us.
Paul B. Thompson holds the W.K. Kellogg Chair in Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University