Search This Blog

Let's eat.

From Big Sur's killer cliff-clinging eateries to Salinas' unparalleled produce, this blog aims to sniff out all things Monterey County can stomach, via picture and prose, curiosity and appetite, hand and mouth.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Paul Hawken on the Power of Taste

California native Paul Hawken is the guy heads of state talk to when they must weave economic development with industrial ecology and environmental policy.

He writes in arresting ways about the most important things—The Next Economy, Growing a Business, The Ecology of Commerce and Blessed Unrest were best sellers, but his most recent, Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution with Amory Lovins, is described as required reading by some of the world's brightest minds.

He thinks through lens of philosophy and health and science and mortality and humanity. And, as the journalists, food providers and sustainable souls who shared the room with him at yesterday discovered, he speaks lyrically, vividly, poetically.

"Tastebuds are a teacher, a kindness, a guide. They guided us here today," he said. "They can heal us, heal the earth, heal how we farm."

His remarks, which led off the Sustainability Institute (the academic component of Cooking for Solutions), still have those present buzzing about them.

Here are some kernels I was able to scratch down:

"We tend to look at foodie events as other and indulgent, a niche idea, a niche movement. I’d like to counter that. We human beings have been chasing food since we got here. For 50,000 years, there was a spice trade all the way around the world. Visitation by Columbus was in search of spices. It was tantamount to gold. He found extraordinary edible landscape. He came from a continent where famine and disease was constant to one where, from Patagonia to Bering Straight, the natives were well fed. Was he surprised.

"There were 2,000 variety of corn, which today is the largest source of calories in world. He found vanilla, strawberries, zuccini, cranberries…and an endless variety of beans."

"Taste isn’t a sense, it’s common sense—how we evolved, an expression of our genetic needs."

"It seems like our culture is rediscovering our mouths, things that are to be enjoyed, tasted, not what Michael Pollan calls 'food like substances.' But corporations got there way before you. Studied senses, and they've been engineering food for years and years and years—in way to create few intense flavors that become pivot points…The Wall Street Journal had a story about McDonald's selling happy meals with a doll that was really popular at the time. They knew young girls going into puberty don’t want fatty foods, that they were losing the girls, and they wanted to get them more addicted to fatty foods. That was exactly what was happening. They had an understanding of mouth feel."

"Some chefs are almost autistic in taste. They taste things we cannot. We read poetry because people write things we cannot but we recognize them once they are there. These chefs are extrodinary, they can sip bouillabaisse, tell you where thing came from, whether the oil is virgin or extra virgin, whether it's mandarin zest—they know things that would go right past us. They write recipes the way poets write verse. We go to their theaters now. We go there as part of our evolution."

"Farmers and chefs and fishermen folk are not mere workers or artisans, yeomen of boats and farms providing pleasure with labor, this is a movement about reclaiming land, our place, our culture…How we let our biology end up in hands of Nestle and General Mills I'll leave in hands of cultural historian; [let's focus] on how to take back integrity of land, and sea, take back ownership of mouths, take back tsastebuds too."

"We want to create biological and social capital, not for those who steal future, but those who heal the future."

"Without farms with dandelions, heirlooms and minors lettuce, without those who understand relationship betweenwatersheds and soils, unless master those, we live in world with no memory, no faithfulness, and we do not honor our past."

"Taste unfolds because of interaction of water molecules—in this case saliva. When you kiss, you taste, when you put a raspberry in your mouth you kiss food. It's an orgy of exchanging bodily fluids with salmon and sorrel and soft cheeses."

"I hope every time you eat is an offering, is a toast to these remarkable people reimagining what it means to be a human being, do it by enticing us back to a world we have lost, of social interchange, about collective humanity we share."

"Stand up to raw and cancerous insults from mouths and guns and checkbooks of obese corporations, we who seek to protect this earth and all its denizens, actively seeking to love this world."

"Treasure the enormity of the simplest thing…"

"Small things done with love, small things lovingly done, are always within our reach. [That is the blessing of] exquisitely grown and prepared food—it's a model for everything we do in this life. If plutocrats did things as lovingly as chefs, it would be a very different world. We pay people who give the most of their lives the least. Today and throughout the weekend the least we can do is offer them our utter gratitude and amazement. Our unvarnished oath that we will take their offering and multiply them in world and never take them for granted."