Culture of Consumption

One of the biggest obstacles facing us is that our culture, as a society, is driven by consumption. This is why we are running out of natural resources. This is why we are damaging our ecosystem. This is why we are in trouble, and this is why we cannot fathom a way out of it.

We judge people’s success on their consumption level. The more people can consume the more successful they are. One person has a small apartment and occasionally skips meals due to a lack of funds, but he has a wonderful relationship with his family. He has friends that would do anything for him, and he for them, and he has a healthy relationship with a girl three blocks over. This person is considered to be less successful than a loner who is estranged from his family, but has five cars and two houses.

This is a big problem. And there are numerous examples of this from all different kinds of places and people. But there is a small example of our consumption-base life style that probably best emphasises the situation: the garnish.

What could more thoroughly demonstrate our consumption driven life-style than serving food that is not meant to be eaten. The fancier the restaurant the more garnish and the more expensive the garnish. Inexpensive and family restaurants generally do not serve garnish at all. And certainly the idea of a garnish at a fast-food restaurant is amusing. Expensive restaurants, or restaurants that want to seem expensive, often provide an extra piece of lettuce with dinner. And restaurants that cater to the ‘prosperous’ often add specially cut fruit and vegetables to that otherwise lone piece of lettuce.

In Western Civilization this tendency is common. Many restaurants serve their patrons food that they are not expected to eat, and usually do not. And when these little bits of odds and ends of lettuce, and oranges, and lemons, and radishes are all added together, entire villages in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia could be fed.

Its such a small element of our waste. Why should we care? We should care because it is such a small part of our waste. When such a small part amounts to so much, how can we not address something so small? And, by the same token, how can we then not address our larger excesses.

Its a small thing. We are often served food we are never meant to eat. Next time, do what I do: eat it.

-Benjamin Shender

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2 Comments

  1. JimFive said,

    January 30, 2007 at 1:25 pm

    Ben,
    A nice look at something no one notices. But, how does eating the parsley or the lemon wedge address the issue. The garnish is “consumed” the moment it is put on the plate and brought out of the kitchen. Actually eating it doesn’t seem to change anything to me.
    JimFive

  2. Aftermath said,

    January 30, 2007 at 2:45 pm

    You’re right. It’s more of a personal act of defiance. “I won’t throw it away.” Its a small symbol, but the power of a symbol is the will we put into it, not the size of it.

    I tried asking them not to put it on before, but the whole thing became very confusing for the waiter and the kitchen. Eventually the manager came out to find out what was wrong. I tried explaining, and we thought we had it figured out. They gave me the garnish and left the lettuce off my burger. So I put the garnish on my burger. I should have known better than that, previously I tried to order a salad without garlic bread, but that’s a different story.

    I suggest eating it because if you try to make an unusual change to a meal at a restaurant it can get frustrating for everyone. Frustration being one renewable resource we are not running out of. Besides, sometimes you get garnish when you least suspect it. And, well…most people wouldn’t be hurt by some extra vegetables and fruit in their diet. And I’m no exception to that.

    -Benjamin Shender


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