Fixing dinner this morning (behold, the glory of crockpots) and thinking about Wrede’s Thirteenth Child (Frontier Magic) book.
There’s a mention of getting to eat chicken dinner “even though it’s not Sunday”—driving home the point about how eating meat was a special thing. Saint Pat’s day being so recent, I was also musing on how my mom never ate corned beef growing up, because “that’s what poor people ate.” You might be eating spam and chicken feet, but you were not eating corned beef. Mom grows up and never fed us spam or chicken feet, although we did eat a good amount of “chicken”—some of which may have had fur and gone hippity-hoppity-hop. In turn, her mom had grown up not eating mutton for similar reasons, and I’d guess at some point her ancestresses had served mutton because it’s MEAT, and way on beyond that there was the whole “at least it’s food” thing….
Which lead my mind to the logistics my parents have to explain to the frufu “buy local” people who want their home area to be self-sufficient, but don’t realize that means you don’t get things like beef all year round, and some things you don’t get at all.
My mind connected that to the frozen chicken in my hand vs the logistics involved in even a magically aided 1800s style civilization, and a little light bulb came on: yes, people want meat more as they get prosperous. But “meat” isn’t a set benchmark—ignoring that a beef cow now is nothing like a beef cow of 500 years back, ignoring economies of scale, it’s simply easier to deal with the stuff. You don’t have to corn, cure, salt or smoke when you can refrigerate and freeze, and the level of waste just has to be much smaller in a mass aging room than in a cold room like my uncles’ ranch has. (think thousands of dead cows vs maybe four)
It’s sort of like how the price of a loaf of bread means something entirely different now vs when it was made by hand and spoiled in a week. (Of course, the price of stuff made the same way now as then isn’t the same sort of style, either—you’re paying for fancy now, instead of basic stuff. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen the cheap end of hand crafted chairs from way back—they’re nothing like the least expensive hand crafted chairs from today. It’s sort of like the difference between the cheapest particle board stuff today and the normal level stuff you by after you move out of the dorm!)
But, yeah. I’m no big believer in the usual claims about how we’re all gonna die because the world is getting richer and people want to eat more meat when they get richer, but I never thought about how I was accepting a part of the premise that I really shouldn’t….
I should know better. Technology changes the value of things.