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Wednesday, February 02, 2005

S.W. was looking at a New Yorker article from the 1960s today, which prompted some discussion of the advertisements, often hilarious, often slightly appalling, that appeared therein -- about which I will not engage in much discussion, as S.W. plans to do so himself. One interesting bit: alongside ads for Tiffany pearl necklaces and mink brushes (that's a brush for your mink, not made of it) was one for canned vegetables. While to a 21st-century sensibility this seems odd, I think it made sense at the time -- canned vegetables were the wave of the future, a way for those who could afford them to eat such delicacies as artichokes and baby French peas year-round, not subject to the seasonality constraints or bruises and bumps of mere farmer's-market fare. (Contrast this with the behavior of, say, me -- until last year I had never used canned tomatoes in cooking, unwilling to believe the assurances of many a chef that they were actually tastier than the fresh variety, at least in winter.) There was a similar phenomenon with polyester -- the modern fabric par excellence at its inception, wrinkle-free and non-shrinking, it is now often shunned as a relic of the misguided '70s. Natural fibers reign supreme -- few are the self-respecting designer suits that would display a polyester lining rather than a silk one today.

Is our bias towards all things fresh and organic misplaced? Our foods are hardly "natural" by traditional standards, even when we pick them from their genetically-modified vines and branches. See also my earlier post on fashion as perversity -- is this just another way in which the upper classes assert their disdain for the exigencies of health and well-being, insisting that they can get by with out-dated methods? Is civilization onto something when it calls this "progress"? Or am I being too cynical, and should we take our appreciation for Foods and Materials of Bygone Days at face value?

Two unrelated observations. First, for those who care, my laptop has at long last returned from Fujitsu-land. It appears to be fully functional! But I plan on backing everything up on my iPod, just in case. ;-) Second, two signs in this post that I grow far too egotistical: I run on to unnecessary length, and (worse) I cite to myself. Oh dear.

© Paula Levy
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