It’s amazing how things come back around. I’m also reading old essays by noted urbanist Lewis Mumford, and he complains about food, coffee, and culture as if he was part of the vanguard of hipsters in early 2000’s Williamsburg. He says:
"Every grocer’s boasted a row of black lacquered bins holding tea and coffee in bulk, which were identified by their place of origin. One bought coffees––Santos, Rio, Maracaibo, Java, Mocha—knowing their special flavors and gauging the quality against a wide range of prices… Nothing so well indicates to me the difference between my own generation and the present one as the fact that I do not, without a certain inner resistance and resentment, accept a system of marketing in which all the decisions have been taken out of the hands of both the shopkeeper and the customer and put under the remote control of the market researcher and the packaging expert, the advertising agency and the wholesale distributor. Those who have grown up in this packaged world accept such external controls and compulsions as normal: their loss of choice, their loss of fast, they do not even notice, for they have never known anything different. We have now exchanged autonomy for automation." ("A Child of the City," from Sketches from Life by Lewis Mumford. © 1982)
And yet in spite of that, I spent this morning in Downtown Durham, NC sipping an excellent single origin coffee from a brand new coffee shop, Cocoa Cinnamon, and paying a premium to do it. The shop was packed, and the couple who opened the shop began as a roving tricycle, and eventually used Kickstarter to raise the funds for a brick and mortar shop.
The slow food movement, the local food movement, the revitalization of a number of urban areas have been slowly building for decades. I am optimistic that these forces will continue to mount in cities of all sizes, and we will continue to increase the number of choices we have. I hope that the stories of our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents will inspire us to become more connected again, and search out unique joys, to build our local communities, and create more sustainable economic models.
This is asking a lot, but I get hopeful while drinking single origin Costa Rican coffee.