“Prepare your own food. This means reviving in your own mind and life the arts of kitchen and household.”—Wendell Berry, “The Pleasures of Eating”
Food today is available more readily, and in more varieties, than ever before, as supermarkets, and restaurants offer an abundance of convenient eating options. But this proliferation of quick and easy food products, while certainly advantageous at times, is not without problems. In his essay “The Pleasures of Eating,” farmer and author Wendell Berry draws his audience’s attention to a major issue confronting our population: the modern-day phenomenon of “industrial eating.”
Berry describes the industrial eaters of today as “passive consumers”(64), disengaged from and unaware of the stories behind their meals. While, as he states, “Eating ends the annual drama of the food economy that begins with planting and birth” (64), many people do not think of themselves as active participants in this drama. Instead, “eating has become a degraded, poor, and paltry thing” (66), which people hurry through with little or no awareness.
Berry cautions against falling into this detached mindset, which is perpetuated by the omnipresence of industrially prepared, pre-cooked, and processed food products in our society, and he paints a grim image of “the ideal industrial food consumer” as someone who “would be strapped to a table with a tube running from the food factory directly into his or her stomach” (65).
And while this graphic picture is—as he acknowledges—an exaggeration, he nonetheless urges his readers to break free of the industrial food machine.
By applying the simple steps that Berry offers in the conclusion of his essay, people can regain a greater awareness for what they eat. They can grow their own food (even a simple herb cultivated in a tiny pot on an apartment windowsill will help), they can study the origins of the foods that they do purchase, they can choose to buy food from local vendors when possible, and they can cook for themselves instead of relying on processed store products. Berry hopes that, through these strategies, the population can distance themselves from the frenetic and mechanical aspects of the food industry and rediscover “the pleasures of eating.”
As a college student, I often find myself relying on the processed, prepackaged food products that Berry warns against. A granola bar scarfed down as I hurry to my morning Italian class, a hamburger snatched from a fast-food restaurant at lunch, and a can of soup microwaved for dinner certainly allow me more time to focus on my schoolwork, and the instant gratification of such ready-made meals makes it all too easy for me to sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture.
My favorite snack to munch on while reading literature assignments or typing out essays is a stack of chocolate chip cookies—I could probably spend hours gazing at the plethora of shiny, multicolored packages of Chips Ahoys and other similar snacks on display at the supermarket.
But while gazing upon this festive array of packaged goods appeals to me, another experience appeals much more. I love the treat of a box of Chips Ahoy cookies, but most of the time, when I want a baked good, I prefer to make it myself, from scratch.
I assemble the diverse cast of this culinary drama—the jar of flour, the bag of sugar, a carton of eggs, a bottle of vanilla extract—on the kitchen counter and set to work, sifting dry ingredients, blending wet ingredients, and eventually combining them to create a thick, rich dough into which I can add chocolate chips or any other embellishments that strike my fancy: pecans, almonds, dried cranberries, white chocolate chunks, marshmallows, M&Ms, or even pretzels and Fritos have all featured in my cookies at one point or another.
Baking my own snacks opens up a whole world that a store-bought package of cookies just doesn’t offer. I can eat my homemade creations at the end of the process (which is wonderful indeed), but in the meantime, I also get the satisfaction of mixing and blending disparate elements and watching as they combine to create something new altogether. I enjoy shaping each ball of dough and watching as the wet lumps transform in the oven and emerge as warm, fresh, golden cookies.
When I prepare my own food, I have the opportunity to engage with and fully appreciate the ingredients and the process behind what I eat. The result is not only a delicious snack or meal, but also a sense of creativity and accomplishment, along with the incredibly valuable knowledge of exactly what my food is.
Easy Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup (packed) brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup white chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375° F.
In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.
In a larger bowl, beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract until creamy. (You can use an electric mixer for this step.) Add the eggs, beating well. Then gradually incorporate the dry ingredients.
When dry and wet ingredients are thoroughly combined, stir in the chocolate chips.
Drop the dough, by large rounded teaspoons, onto an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 7-9 minutes or until golden brown.
Let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 2 minutes, then move them to wire racks to cool completely.
––By Annemarie Lisko
Berry, Wendell. “The Pleasures of Eating.” Food Matters: A Bedford Spotlight Reader. Ed. Holly Bauer. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2014. 64-71. Print.
“Fast food.jpg.” Photograph. Wikimedia Commons. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 20 March 2015. Web. 3 February 2016.