Mark Phillips, 2004.03.02 North Island, New Zealand
Mark Phillips, March 2, 2004, North Island, New Zealand.
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March 6, 2004:

Food with flavor.

In America, industrialized agriculture is so productive that we could feed the world if our leaders chose to do so. Yet that productivity comes with an ironic downside. Our food ripens on trucks, it grows in warehouses, it spends its days immersed in pesticides and pollution, so that even the best of it, the locally-grown organic produce available if you search it out, tastes like non-taste.

I first understood this in Greece. There the cucumbers in the ubiquitous Greek Salads are crisp and crunchy and delicious. In the states they're soggy and taste like water. Oranges were even more dramatic. In Crete an orange has the flavor of twenty American oranges, as though the American variety, while copious, were somehow diluted. That's the sad fact about all American food: it tastes diluted.

At this moment in history New Zealanders enjoy what might be the best of all possible circumstances, food-wise. They have the advantages of industrial technology, allowing control of pests and scientific fertilization. Yet their food is still grown on a small enough scale to be allowed to ripen in the ground. And the country is tiny enough that transportation doesn't require days. The outcome is food with flavor so rich it astonishes visiting Yanks like me.

Americans sacrifice much to enjoy their unprecedented level of abundance. There's a lot to be said for a more sensible, that is to say, smaller approach. Have Kiwis found the appropriate balance?