Biting Off More Than We Can Chew
In our society, eating - including animal products and byproducts - is normally done without mindful consideration of the food’s origins. When shopping for food at the grocery store, we often don’t consider it as our form of hunting and gathering because of the abundance and opportunity for finding what we wish to eat. Without effort, the most we stop to consider is whether or not something was grown organically or with pesticides. We don’t know what we are taking away from a community or consider the face of the animal- the convenient packaging allows us to separate the face from the meat. This is the modern version of pastoral- in an urban life, most of us view attaining food as something not requiring work or effort. We consume without the consideration of how our food was grown, raised, produced, and distributed globally. This sub-exhibit attempts to challenge and bring awareness to this passive consumption by redefining how we understand our consumption as the human and non-human.
This sound is a recording of a Furman University student at the PalaDen sipping his iced cold soda drink. The PalaDen or what students call the PDen offers a variety of food options including: Chick-Fil-A, Moe's, Sweet n' Savory, and Maru Sushi. The PalaDen serves as a grab and go food option for busy college students to fuel up for their rigorous studies. In Susan Leigh Star’s, Ethnography of Infrastructure she explains how her definition of infrastructure shifted after thorough research. She says that, “We began to see infrastructure as part of human organization, and as problematic as any other.” (Star 380) This connects to the sound of someone sipping soda due to the fact that the cup in which is holding the liquid was constructed by another entity and the ice placed in the cup is also created through machinery and an infrastructural entity. Is this problematic? It can be if we don’t recognize what we consume is so much bigger than ourselves and the convenience factor of the food system is not to be taken for granted. Similarly, on WNYC radio station, On the Media published a podcast entitled Pulling Back the Curtain that discusses how much of what we do is unseen or unheard. For John Solomon of On the Media, “now that the curtain has been pulled back a bit, the natural question is, so what. Is there any problem that this behind-the-scenes manufacturing process is largely unknown…” (00:06:32-00:06:46). Most days we go through the dailymotions and get our food and drinks but do not think about the impacts of what we are eating or drinking has on the food chain. As many podcasts edit sounds that make the show flow better, the question of transparency and fake news arises. As far as the sound of a student sipping soda goes, this raw sound contains background noise in order to create an atmosphere as if you were there drinking that same drink.
Biting Into an Apple
Sound recording of biting into and chewing a Granny Smith Apple in a dorm room at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. The sound is recording using a Zoom H4n sound recorder. The listener initially hears the sound of the first bite into an apple, then the apple is chewed inside a mouth. The sound of the chewing becomes quieter until the piece of apple is swallowed. The apple came from Daniel Dining Hall at Furman University. Biting into an apple is something that I have done so often, without putting much thought into it. Usually, I only think about whether or not the apple tastes good, but I do not spend much, if any, time thinking about where the apple came from or what it took for the apple to be sitting in front of me. This way of thinking is connected to the pastoral trope because of the idealist nature of it. The pastoral “looks back to a vanished past with a sense of nostalgia, … celebrates a bountiful present, … and looks forward to a redeeming future” (Garrard 42). I do not appreciate where the apple came from, the struggle that might have gone into the apple crop this year, or all the hard work that humans did before I ate the apple. The pastoral is the ideal, it is easy, and hardships that goes into it are not evident. Hearing this sound of biting into and chewing an apple is not the full story, the sound is only a piece in what occurred at the time of the recording. The soundscape is the environment of all of the sounds a listener experiences, which Stefan Helmreich argues against (1). Helmreich believes the soundscape is thinking in reductive terms because the “soundscape objectifies sound rather than treating it as experimental” (1). Sound and a soundscape are more than just hearing, it is about experiencing. The soundscape causes a person to think in reductive terms, which is similar to the pastoral trope because a person never thinks about the struggles.
Eating Ice Cream
This sound recording includes opening a pint of ice cream and then enjoying the mint chocolate chip flavor inside. Recorded using a Zoom H4n sound recorder. Central to this recording is the sound of the lip smacks and chewing of the ice cream. The original recording of someone chewing was edited, and you can now hear that the chewing gets faster and faster throughout the recording. This was done to represent the human tendency to eat quickly and mindlessly, unaware of our food's origins. In Consider the Lobster, David Foster Wallace describes his experience at a large lobster festival. The main event was the food tent, where various types of lobster were consumer. Rather than celebrating the lobster for it's intrinsic value, the festival is premised upon the gustatory pleasure that the animal brings to humans. Wallace notes, "over 25,000 pounds of fresh-caught Maine lobster is consumed after preparation in the World's Largest Lobster Cooker (236)." Additional events include, "concerts by Lee Ann Womack and Orleans, annual Maine Sea Goddess beauty pageant, Saturday's big parade, Sunday's William G. Atwood Memorial Crate Race, annual Amateur Cooking Competition, carnival rides, midway attractions, and food booths. (236)." Through this description, it is apparent that the festival is based solely on humans and their enjoyment of lobster, especially with regards to taste. My recording speeds up the sound of the chewing to represent this human-centric enjoyment of ice cream and other animal by-products. It is quite common in our society to eat foods without thinking of their sources as illustrated in Wallace's piece. In contrast to our current consumption habits, we should be mindful both when consuming food and other times of our day. We should think about the origins of our food and what was required to harvest, grow, or collect it for consumption. When thinking about food that is an animal product or byproduct, it could be helpful to imagine the potential behaviors that the sacrificed animal may have been exhibiting in its natural habitat. John Clare emphasizes the personalities oof animals in his Animal Poems, writing in one, "The old fox plays and dances round her young...and starts and snaps at blackbirds bouncing bye to fight and catch the great white butterflye (244)" and in another, "The timid hares...dance and play then dabble in the grain by nought deterred to lick the dewfall from the barleys beard then out they sturt again and round the hill like happy thoughts–dance–squat–and loiter still (247)." This account of animals emphasizes the personality of animals, which could be a useful tool for eating more thoughtfully and being mindful of the origins of one's food and the impact that each bite may have.
Infant Drinking from Bottle
You’re hearing a healthy three-month old male drink five ounces of Holle Goat Stage 1 Organic Infant Formal powdered goat's milk from a bottle with a silicone nipple. The sound was recorded at approximately 1:00 pm in residence in Travelers Rest, SC and was the infant’s third bottle of the day of the same powdered goat’s milk. As he is allergic to breast milk, this will continue to be his primary source of nutrition until he matures enough to eat semi-solid and solid food.
The goat’s milk formula is organically produced and manufactured in Germany; then shipped internationally to customers for infant consumption. Its packaging assures everything’s organically grown--without genetic modification and with goats being kept in accordance with EU Organic Regulations. The formula’s product description on Baby Kind Market boasts that the formula is sourced from “grazing goats on lush biodynamic fields and pastures” giving rise to its “superior” quality and reassures consumers that “Holle farmers avoid the painful dehorning of goats.” Such descriptions rely upon and reactive literature’s Pastoral Trope, which misrepresents the landscape and the lives of goats and handlers. The description diminishes the demanding work of maintaining a goat farm and romanticizes rural living on the Germanic hill sides. The pastoral lens distracts from the probable stress that such milk-production demands and elides fenced-in limitations put on the un-voluntary inhabiting goats.
Further, the comment about Holle taking pride in not participating in the “painful” dehorning of the goats, echoes David Foster Wallace’s “Consider the Lobster;” several rationalizations for maltreating lobsters justify unethical behavior with biased information from the Maine Lobster Promotion council who suggested that, “There’s a part of the brain in people and animals that lets us feel pain, and lobsters’ brains don’t have this part” (Wallace 243). Sure, we cannot speak personally to the treatment of the goat on the Holle farm, nor are we suggesting that they could be intentionally torturing their livestock. Rather, this connection reframes our passive thought process about our food’s real origins and what is at stake when we consume it. Though these goats are certainly not being boiled alive, such as lobsters are in the traditional means of preparation, Holle is still not providing enough information about the actualities of the farm: the amount of space the goats have, the amount of stress milking causes them, how often they are milked, how many of them suffer from sores from excessive milking--all for the benefit of human consumption. Instead, they paint a pacifying pastoral picture for consumers that blankets the harsh realities for all participants on the farm.
Lastly, it is important to consider who the formula is serving. As discussed in Ramachandra Guha’s “Radical American Environmentalism and Wilderness Preservation: A Third World Critique,” the wilderness trope has been established for the pleasure of the wealthy, as demonstrated by the cash-flow fueling Project Tiger--a preservation effort to protect Indian tigers without regard to the dislocation of millions of poor peasants and their livestock the projects requires (235). Those with capital can prioritize the aestheticized lives of the tigers and wilderness over the “less-attractive” underdeveloped neighboring communities. Similarly, Holle is a relatively expensive substitution for breast milk. While there are several other options available in the US at lower costs, it is often at the expensive of quality – soy milk instead of goat’s milk, non-organic, excessive preservatives, etc. This means that in order for a mother to provide the proper nutrition for her offspring, she must have ample funds and access to international resources.
Cat Eating Dinner
Though people often think of humans when considering food production and consumption, this process also includes nonhuman animals. The cat, Mia, is eating here with the same vigor as a human who has not eaten all day. The uniqueness of Mia eating is not simply because she is a cat and the one recording her is human, but because Mia has a uniqueness about her that comes from her species and separates her from other animals, even other domestic pets. In Ecocriticism, Greg Garrard recalls Frans de Waal’s idea on the supposed idea of humanity’s uniqueness, saying, “Very often a human activity or ability… is proposed as the defining characteristic of humanity, but turns out to be shared with at least one other species” (149). Humans have simplified the idea of a house cat to this: a distant, furry creature who often acts in mischievous ways. The cat is being anthropomorphized in the way of giving it a stereotypical personality. What is not normally considered is the ways in which cats have similar behaviors to humans: making sounds to communicate with humans and showing signs of hunger. “When we look at animals, they may return our gaze, and in that moment we are aware of both likeness and difference” (Garrard, 152). When Mia’s owner looks at her as she asks for food, it is understood that like her owner, Mia gets hungry and desires food, but unlike her owner, lacks the ability to get her own food and must have it provided for her. The sound of Mia eating brings into perspective her unique cat characteristics while also connecting her with the sameness of hunger.