BY MARJORIE STEWART
Have you heard about cloud kitchens, the latest way to avoid taking responsibility for feeding ourselves?
Two or three generations ago most meals were prepared at home using staples such as flours and fats from grocery stores, used with basic ingredients supplied by nearby farms, market gardens and fishing fleets. Gradually, enterprising merchants began to provide branded goods to free up home cooks who were able to take paid work to increase family incomes. We went from greasy spoon eateries to fast cheap food chains as globalization of food systems proceeded. Lately, takeout has begun to replace seating space.
Now we have the takeover of takeaway as the last step in the provision of cooked food is being transferred to corporate businesses providing individually ordered meals to ‘restaurants’ without kitchens to be delivered direct to online clients.
I see this trend as a manifestation of the kind of individualism promoted by smart phone dependency. The device becomes the connection to basic needs and the device users become further divorced from community life as they consume meals at home from ‘clouds.’
The word ‘adulting’ has emerged to describe the sets of skills necessary for independent living as individuals mature physically. At the same time, infantilization emerges with smoothies and cosplay and tourism as entertainment and children who are not allowed to play independently.
‘Adulting’ is hard. UC Berkeley has a class for that – a recent article by Hannah Fry in the L.A. Times describes how adulting classes for college and post-grad students are multiplying, because of parents fixated on academic success and high school curricula which have dropped practical courses. Whatever the causes, intelligent young people recognize the deficits and are taking steps to fill the gaps. Fry quotes the principal of a Maine Adulting School, “We’ve had clients who are millennials having major anxiety that they didn’t have these skills and didn’t feel successful as adults. There’s a lot of self-loathing that happens.” These young folk are not lazy or entitled, they merely lack the skills that family, school and community life should be delivering.
One of the Berkeley adulting course founders points out that as soon as she moved into her own apartment she discovered that she was spending far too much money eating out because she couldn’t cook. I am willing to bet that she discovers more satisfaction than just saving money in adding this basic skill to her repertoire.
Technological change for non-essential convenience can create major cultural changes, sometimes unfortunate. The de-skilling of executive secretaries by word processing has provided managers who relied on those skills the ability to produce their own documents, but not the mastery of language and management of documents that kept many institutions running smoothly.
Will chefs de cuisine lose their place in providing unique culinary experiences if their contributions are moved to anonymous cloud kitchens with standardized recipes? How long will it take for corporate profit to reduce standards of nutrition and authenticity?
Action on the crises of population overshoot is more important than more complex ‘convenience.’
Marjorie Stewart is past chairwoman of the Nanaimo Foodshare Society. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.