Localism

My roommate came home from brunch two weeks ago looking decidedly troubled. She had gone to eat with her, um, Friend (also my friend, with a little ‘f’, to whom I introduced her) at a local/organic foods “breakfast club” held at an acquaintance’s house a few blocks away.

“It was like being at a cult meeting!” She had exclaimed to me.  “These people [pause for emphasis] are in a cult!”

We have had somewhat heated debates, sometimes tongue-in-cheek sparrings over what a certain sociologist actually means by “common sense knowledge” (yeah, we’re dorks), but lately we’ve been quabbling over localism in relation to our shared class on “Consumption.”

My roommate’s argument is that localism, like any other set of beliefs, is just that. It’s a system of values just like thrift, religion, or pacifism.  It happens to drive consumptive practices in certain spheres.  And yes, like in every value system, there are hypocrites.

I really don’t argue with her there. I’m totally aware of the constructed-ness of localism as a value system.  And yeah, it happens to be a value system that I ascribe to myself.  What I don’t understand, though, is why it bugs her so much and why, for example, religion does not.  I understand that she might feel like she’s at a cult meeting during brunch or at the Farmers’ Market, but I feel like I’m at a cult meeting during church services.  She says it’s the self-righteousness of locavores (those that eat local food).  Clearly she has not had a nice long discussion on morality and religion with my aunt.  Different strokes for different folks.

Maybe I took a big glug of the Koolaide, though. Or make that “locally roasted, fair-trade, organic coffee.”

So I dragged my Friend (in town for spring break) out of bed early on a Friday (okay, technically, he dragged me out of bed because I kept hitting snooze on the alarm, which is a pet peeve of his. tee hee hee.) to go with my friend (who is my roommate’s Friend… get it?) to this dude’s house to have brunch made by a guest-local chef.  My roommate stayed cozy in her bed.

This whole thing started about a month ago with a fundraiser for the Farmers’ Market and Slow Foods Huron Valley.  It was apparently so much fun, that this dude (I’m going to keep referring to him as that) decided to hold brunch every week.  He named it “Café Selma” and posts a sign out in his front yard on Friday mornings to let his neighbors and passers-by know to come on over.

The menu and chef change every week, and the staff is all volunteer.  This week, the chef was the owner of Arbor Teas (http://www.arborteas.com/), a locally-owned organic tea distributor.  The menu included an omelete made with eggs from chickens in the dude’s backyard, mushrooms, cheese, and my friend’s greens (www.brinesfarm.org); waffles and fruit; and homemade granola and yogurt.  I know that following my usual eating-out policy, I should have gotten the waffles (because I don’t have a waffle iron at home and so can’t make waffles). But the omelete looked really good, and we all know that I’ve been on an omelete kick lately.

I also (drumroll please) had a cup of regular coffee, because they didn’t have decaf. Make that two cups of coffee. I am now hallucinating and twitching.  No, I won’t resume that habit; it was a treat and helped to get me perked up for what will be a pretty solid day (1pm-10pm run run run).

The crowd was mostly late 30s, 40s, and early 50s… my Friend and I were definitely the youngest ones there (and my friend referred to some local roasters as “28-year-old kids”, which made me feel like a baby!).  The demographic was about what you’d expect for Ann Arbor.  White, highly educated, working in the creative or intellectual industries.  Able to take Friday morning off from work.

I chatted with the folks that sat at the table with us (most of the others were on the couch or at the counter in the dude’s gorgeous kitchen) about anthropology, and they asked me if I was working for the government.  Didn’t know quite how to reply to that… I got the feeling that “the goverment” were “good guys” for these folks.  Granted, they’re not “bad guys” for me, but they’re definitely not “good guys” either. Hm. Hard to know what to say when your political leanings don’t quite jive with mainstream democrats, but there’s no other way to describe them.

The food was quite tasty.  A real treat was the home-cured ham in the omelete; I almost never eat pork, but this was really delicious.  My Friend also happens to be a fan of pork, and we got the low-down on how the dude had cured the ham.  He has quite the set-up in his basement.  We also got to sample some of his proscuttio, which I (uncultured as I am) had never tried before. Quite tasty.

Payment was by “donation only,” which really meant that in order to not appear as a total jerk, you had to donate something.  We ended up paying about $10 each (which was “suggested”).

I’m still digesting (um, literally and figuratively) the whole experience in relation to my roommate’s critiques, and in relation to this class on Consumption I’m currently in.  The critiques in regards to class and values are on the mark and relevant, but I don’t know if that justifies passing judgement on localism as a value system.  Of course its flawed, but so is any other set of beliefs, and no one is value-free.  What to do?  I think I’ll go again next week.

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1 Response to “Localism”


  1. 1 Doc March 14, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    Granted, at least it was somewhat gender egalitarian. I think the Nazis’ version was focused on the Hausfrauen doing all the work. ?

    Exhibits A through … regarding why the snooze button is bad, bad, bad:
    http://news.softpedia.com/news/Tips-for-Not-Hitting-the-Snooze-Button-in-the-Morning-105750.shtml
    ^”So, even if we’re not fully aware of it, sleeping after the alarm goes off actually does us more harm than good. It’s about time we tried a different approach to it then.”

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/chronicle/archive/2004/10/17/MNG5J99V9V1.DTL&type=health
    ^This guy’s approach is similar to mine; if I really want to ‘snooze,’ I set my clocks a full 45-60 minutes earlier than I absolutely have to get up. Sometimes I’ll get up early and work; other times I reset it for the ‘real’ wakeup time and go back to bed.

    http://www.thebluesmokeband.com/alarm.clocks.php
    ^This one’s the best. Excerpt:
    “Somewhere in history, someone’s alarm clock rang and this person thought, “Hey, I wish that I could sleep longer”. This was not the novelty. No, the novelty was, “Hey, I could sleep longer if I reset the alarm.” The obvious thing to do was to, well, reset the alarm for a later time, but this was far too much work. Hence, the auto-resetter. That’s all that the snooze button really is: it’s an auto-resetter. So why not either 1) get up when you intend to get up; 2) reset the alarm for real; 3) set the alarm later in the first place if you have so much time to kill pretending to sleep more.

    That’s the thing too: you don’t actually sleep more. It has been claimed that “people with healthy sleep habits fall asleep in about 10 to 20 minutes.” (about.com (again)) So what’s the deal with the infamous nine minute snooze (or in my case, it’s a four minute snooze)? This is up for tremendous debate as well — the links below have more about this point — but I think that the answer is obvious: that’s just enough time to almost fall back to sleep. This means that the snooze button is actually a torture device. It is a mechanism of self-emotional-mutilation.”


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