What was surprising about the recent food scare in the UK was that people were surprised to find out there were traces of horsemeat DNA in beef burgers. To be honest I was expecting the amount of alien substances to be similar to that commonly found in a witch’s list for a magical potion.
In the movie The Truman Show, Jim Carrey plays Truman Burbank, an ordinary and unassuming insurance salesman leading what seems to be a perfect life. What is less obvious to Burbank/Carrey is that since his birth he has been the main focus of the most popular reality show in television history.
We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented, intones solemnly the show’s director Christof (played with great panache by Ed Harris) at some point in the film. That is, in my opinion, what happened with Equusgate.
|Please, refrain from making jokes, they're completely un-neigh-cessary|
One of the reasons why the horsemeat DNA that was found in burgers recently caused such a brouhaha was because occasionally this faux-reality is punctured by actual crises. Then we’re brought back down to Earth. Our food is not what is meant to be. In the case of Equusgate, it was the lower range of the shelf that was mainly affected. These are the cheaper products, often bought by those without the means to opt for something healthier and safer. Hence the checks and regulations most comestibles have to abide by are easier to duck. So, we have a problem of class and modernity. Class because once again it’s the poor bearing the brunt of a crisis. And modernity because one of the prices we’ve paid for our economic and social development is a divorce between man (generically speaking) and nature.
The processes of food preparation and consumption are so far apart these days that it very often feels as if we’d signed an agreement many years ago that read: “Ask no questions, be told no lies. Just swallow”. Except that the reality of the world with which we are presented is sometimes so hard to believe that even the powerful forces of marketing have to backtrack and issue rushed mea culpas.
As a meat-eater myself, I know I’m part of the problem. Instead of paying attention to the way animals are reared and kept, I turn a blind eyet. The steak I had a couple of weeks back at our local probably had a happy life before ending up on my plate. Or maybe it didn’t. Maybe it lived in cramped conditions and suffered a horrible death. I don’t know and to be honest with you, my fellow blogger, I didn’t ask the pub landlord any questions about the provenance of the (dead) animal in front of me. Chomp, chomp, chomp, that’s all I did. I’m part of the problem. I should enquire why bananas seem to keep their beautiful yellow colour after more than five days, when in reality they usually go dark after a 48 hours. Or when I buy those cartons that read “juice drink”, what’s really in them? I should be asking those questions, but I’m not. Because many years ago I signed the agreement that tacitly states that “hereby you accept the reality with which you are presented”.
At the end of the movie The Truman Show, Jim Carrey exits the set after realising that his life is nothing but a television programme. Christof desperately attempts to change his mind. And guess what? When Carrey finally signs off he is cheered by the same audience that had followed his every move since the day he’d been born. Could the same happen to the food we eat? Will we have a happy ending? What do you think?
Next Post: “Pieces of Me, Pieces of Havana”, to be published on Wednesday 6th February at 11:59pm (GMT)