“Incredibly little trouble” to get your food (Walden 35)

“I learned from my two years’ experience that it would cost incredibly little trouble to obtain one’s necessary food, even in this latitude; that a man may use as simple a diet as the animals, and yet retain health and strength.” — Henry David Thoreau, “Economy,” Walden

I don’t want to say I don’t believe Thoreau here, but I suspect that we differ on our definition of “incredibly little trouble.” He has already written of spending seven hours a day hoeing beans. I guess in his era that was a pretty easy day for a farmer, instead of the usual sunrise to sunset. (By way of comparison, my wife and I have a tomato plant and some herbs.)

Most of us today have very little idea what it would be like to raise our own food, or to raise more than a token amount of food. Most of our food is packaged and processed. In the US we’re besieged by food advertising. Portion sizes have grown steadily over the past generation, and rates of obesity have grown with them. Our understanding of food is about as far removed from Henry’s as is our understanding of transportation or electronic communication. We simply live in a different world.

One thing is a safe bet. We don’t need all that we think we need.

(About  “A Year in Walden”)


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