The Supermarket of the Future

The latest issue of The Atlantic arrived in my mailbox last week, and I stumbled across an article that I think many of you would be interested in.


The Slow Food movement got it’s start in Italy as a socio-political response to the rise of industrial food-processing corporations and their emphasis on economies of scale and profits versus nutrition or taste. One of their latest ventures is endorsing a new food market in Turin, Italy, close to their home base that emphasizes local, organic foods. This isn’t all that unusual, but the twist is that the market is doing it’s best to make local and artisanal foods popular and affordable to everyone, not just elitists.

Around my area, at least, the Slow Food movement appears to be aimed towards upscale crowds that can afford to shop at luxury markets and eat at five-star restaurants. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the epicurean side of things of course, but I think the group would have a much broader appeal if they actively focused on the whole range of local food opportunities, including growing victory gardens, doing more cooking at home, and the like. Perhaps they will focus on such things in the future.

The Eataly market concept appears to be gaining traction elsewhere as central farmers’ markets regain some of their lost status. As time goes on and the issues with industrial food production and processing become more self-evident I think that we’ll see even more markets spring up. Our local farmers market is starting work on a year-round indoor market that can offer at least some goods no matter what the weather is like outside.

I’m writing this post on Easter Morning while waiting for some bread to finish baking in the oven. The bread will be served to family as part of our Easter dinner today. There’s nothing special about the bread other than the fact that I made it from scratch, and because of this I’ll get a number of very nice complements from everyone. The fact that eating fresh-baked, homemade bread elicits such a response says something about our culture, namely that we have commoditized even the most basic needs of life to the point that actually making your own bread, or your own clothes it treated as a sign that you’re different somehow. You’re wealthy enough to have the time to do such things, or perhaps you’re poor enough that you have no choice, or maybe it’s just one of those strange hobbies you choose to do when there’s nothing good on TV.

When the time comes that doing such things is seen as the norm rather than the exception, I think we’ll all be a lot happier whether we have more material wealth or not. Super-Farmers Markets like the one described above will hopefully encourage more people to think and act this way.


5 Responses to The Supermarket of the Future

  1. Jim says:

    I was having coffee with friends over the weekend, and one guy said he made some bread on the previous day. Several members of the group expressed disbelief, especially when he said that he doesn’t use a bread machine. I think he’d have received a similar reaction if he claimed to make his own hand tools from chipped flint. The idea of making bread is so far removed from most folks’ existences, that they can’t imagine how or why any sane person would even attempt it. The funny thing to me is that my grandmother almost never bought bread. Every time I’ve visited her house, she had homemade bread, usually that she had baked within the past day or two. She made bread for probably 60 years before she ever heard of a bread machine.

  2. Rebecca says:

    I agree with Jim. I make my own bread, from scratch without a bread machine, and people invariably express disbelief (sometimes tinged with, of all things, horror) when they find out. I get almost the same reaction when people find out that I planted ten pounds of potato sets this spring (or that I have a vegetable garden in general), that I line-dry my clothers, or that I’m in the process of replacing my lawn with no-mow grass and landscaping. People just don’t get it. I’ve actually been told that I need to see a shrink (ha, I am one, or rather, am about to be) and that I need to get cable so that I have something better to do. Insert pounding head against wall here. Sigh.

  3. Bart says:

    Haha… the idea that getting cable is somehow a better thing to do is hilarious and sad at the same time.

    The bread making takes some time, but I don’t mind it. I do a lot of thinking while performing tasks like kneading bread, mowing the lawn, weeding, etc. Slowing down and finding the time to enjoy life makes sense and it also makes my nine-to-five existence (a.k.a ‘the job’) seem less fulfilling.

    For what it’s worth, the fact that I make my own food and enjoying things like gardening loses me some coolness points with some of my friends. Playing video games is much more enthralling to them. It was to me too at one time, but things change over time.

    Depending on what happens in our world, I could easily see a situation where both energy and food are much more expensive. If your life revolves around traveling, buying stuff and eating food of dubious nutritional value processed somewhere far away, how much are you going to enjoy your life when you can’t afford to go anywhere or buy anything, and it’s up to you (an unskilled cook) to prepare (and possibly grow) your dinner?

  4. Alex says:

    Kia Ora Brad:
    Just found your blog and it’s great. Keep up the good work on sustainability. Having spent most of my formative years in MN and still having my family live there I have a soft spot for the Twin Cities. However, I find that talking to people of my age group there about issues such as Peak Oil, pending economic depression and Sustainability is impossible. The state is just so wealthy and so full of itself. It is hard for people to see that this lifestyle is temporary and unsustainable. It is only possible because we have (1) cheap oil (2) foreigners lend us money in return for our promise to someday pay it back even though it strains credulity. I would expect that if and when necessary, Minnesotans will adapt and come together to help each other out. It is still a very nice place to live. Thanks to Global warming I noticed that the winters are milder then when I was delivering papers door to door. So thats a silver lining doncha think?

    I think your decision to stay in the Twin Cities is the right one. We have moved to New Zealand of all places but that is not for everyone. Staying close to family and building a close community is probably a better solution to the upcoming crises’. We can’t run away from this thing. It is too big and unpredictable. We can only ride it out and adapt to it the best way we can.

    Best of luck to you all in beautiful land of 10,000 lakes.

  5. Bart says:

    Hello Alex,

    Thanks for your comments, and I’m glad you like the site.

    I don’t think it matters what age group you talk to in the USA; most people in general don’t think about things like peak oil and don’t want to, for it messes with their comfort zones. As time goes on I think an economic correction is inevitable, since the boom & bust cycle of things is a given in any economy driven by fiat currency. We’re overdue as it is… once people have been shoved out of their mental happy places, then I think you’ll see some more real action out of folks, but even then a lot of them will simply strive harder to regain their former place in the world rather than deal with the reality of their situation.

    We have been seeing warmer winters, which is a blessing, especially since natural gas prices are only going to go up in coming years. Now if we could move from zone 4 to zone 5 where I’m at, that would be nice.

    I agree with you that we can’t run away from the problems of the world, and staying put near family makes the most sense for me at this time.

    Thanks again

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