Industry as Victim of Own Success

Thursday, September 05, 2019

A recent All Things Considered story featured the Kraft Heinz "ketchup master," the quality control engineer in charge of ensuring a consistent product. Among other interesting things about what my brother jokingly calls "the magic spice" comes the below epiphany:

Image by Charisse Kenion, via Unsplash, license.
For some people, ketchup is a symbol of the problems with American food. It's highly processed, mass-produced, and full of sugar. Historian Gabriella Petrick certainly saw it that way when she started digging into the archives of the H. J. Heinz Company.

"I'll be honest, I came to my subject as a complete food snob and jerk," she says. "I was going to show how awful Americans eat, and how terrible industrial food was!"


It was a captivating mix of tomato sauce, sugar, vinegar and spices. Above all, it was thick and red. You couldn't make anything like it yourself. In fact, maybe you didn't really want to make it yourself. "Women used to make ketchup at home," Petrick says. "Why make watery ketchup when you can simply buy high-quality, super-thick ketchup?"

Petrick isn't quite so judgy about industrial foods anymore. "A lot of these products, I just learned to understand how important they were for people's lives, and how they made people's lives easier -- women's lives in particular," she says. [bold added, link omitted]
This reminds me of a couple of socialist grad school acquaintances who tried their hands at running a small business and started to see how difficult multitudes of government regulations made it to do anything. (I don't know if this caused them to more broadly question the propriety of the government directing the economy, but it wouldn't have surprised me.) It also reminds me of countless Green New Deal types who don't seem to realize what their proposals would mean on a mundane level, if they were implemented.

We live in an era of unprecedented prosperity: Many of us grow up used to things being quite easy, but with little appreciation for what it takes to make things that way. It is good that adults generally don't have to spend large amounts of time making ketchup -- but the price of this is that most people end up taking such things for granted at best. In that sense, industry is a victim of its own success, but I don't think that is the whole story.

Even aside from the torrents of left-wing propaganda being fed to children during their "education," it is remarkable how poorly many people understand the benefits of things like processed food, vaccines, and fuel. Some begin to get glimpses as adults, once they join the work force, but most people still do not get the full picture. Familiarity gained through personal experience can help, as the above example shows. But that is no substitute for the kind of solid education that would have prevented such prejudice in the first place, and instead nurtured the sense of curiosity and wonder we all have as children.

-- CAV


Dinwar said...

This is one reason I love watching shows like "Dirty Jobs" and "How It's Made": They give an insight into how the things that make up modern life come into existence. They often show aspects of life that aren't just taken for granted, but are completely ignored--and it's astonishing how much thought, ingenuity, and creativity go into these unsung heroes of the modern world.

I had my wedding band made of steel, because it's a perfect metaphor for love: strong yet ductile, rugged enough to handle daily wear, underpinning everything in our lives, and easily--though often catastrophically--forgotten. It is as valuable as bridge girders and plumbing pipes, to borrow a phrase.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks for reminding me of two series I loved pre-kids. They're old enough now that they might enjoy them, and they'd add an element to their education they will clearly need.

Jennifer Snow said...

I once saw a French chef bad-mouthing French's Yellow Mustard, which is like the perfect condiment. It has no artificial colors or flavors, the bright yellow color comes from turmeric!

If you want people to take you seriously as some kind of food expert, shouldn't you know that stuff? Just because it's made in huge batches doesn't make it bad!1

Gus Van Horn said...

I did not realize that. This is amusing since the bright yellow would practically scream ARTIFICIAL to most people, and such people all "know" that everything man-made (except their distinction of man from nature) is artificial in one way or another.

Gus Van Horn said...

... and therefore bad.