Interest in food (and beverages) has exploded in recent years because the artisanal, farm-to-table, locavore, slow-food ethos of the food world is an antidote to the globalized, time-compressed, impersonal, highly-administered, constantly disrupted corporate world in which most of us work. The romance of food is an escape from the bureaucratic nightmare that can best be described as Weber’s Iron Cage on steroids.
The digital revolution is part of this world of post-industrial capitalism—the loss of a sense of the local, the hands-on, and the face-to-face is accelerated when all of visual and auditory experience can be translated into bits of digital information instantly transmitted around the world and accessible to anyone with a computer. The fields of music, journalism, publishing, photography, finance, and education have all been radically transformed, for better or worse; and with 3D printing expanding and driver-less cars on the horizon, most of us mere humans will become obsolete in a matter of years.
So it is comforting to know there is one area of life that is relatively immune to mechanical reproduction—food. As Joe Satran writes:
But here’s the thing: In the age of digital reproduction, that which cannot be digitally reproduced only becomes more alluring. And good food cannot be digitally produced, at least not until the Replicator from “Star Trek” becomes a reality. Yes, the Internet has made it easier than ever before to look at pictures of dishes and written accounts of meals from restaurants on the other side of the world. But it has not made it much easier to actually taste that food. This sets food apart from almost any other cultural artifact. You can access just about any book, song or photograph in the world using a computer or phone, but in order to eat the food from a specific restaurant, you have to go there yourself.
Food may be the last frontier that resists transformation into digital code, the last reminder of what life on earth was like before the singularity.
The food revolution is not a trivial playground for the wealthy. It supplies a deep need people have for real geographical connections and work that engages all the senses.