In the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, the author chronicles the attempts by her and her family to spend an entire year eating nothing but locally grown food. Toward this end, Kingsolver concludes that it is entirely possible, though difficult in the process of adjusting and acclimating oneself to these new conditions, to eat only natural food, adjusting one's diet to the local growth available in the season. The author clearly links the wholesomeness, freshness and healthiness of these organic and local foods to the ubiquity and assembly-line perfection of the supermarket in one particular passage, which depicts life on the Appalachian Harvest organic farm compared to the average supermarket:
"For the record, this is what organic looks like at Appalachian Harvest: Red Wing work boots, barbershop haircuts, Levi's with a little mud on the cuffs, men and women who probably go to church on Sunday but keep their religion to themselves as they bring a day's work to the old tobacco barn. If sanctimony is an additive in their product, it gets added elsewhereSupermarkets only accept properly packaged, coded, and labeled produce that conforms to certain standards of color, size, and shape. Melons can have no stem attached; cucumbers must be no less than six inches long, no more than eight. Crooked eggplants need not apply. Every crop yields a significant proportion of perfectly edible but small or oddly shaped vegetables that are 'trash' by market standards." (Kingslover, pp. 204-205).
In this passage, the utopia of the small, local farm is celebrated while the drab, expensive uniformity of the supermarket is vilified. Kingslover's use of language, in particular, notes her preference toward organic markets and their quaint imperfections. From the start, Kingslover implies a certain cultural attitude that must be dispelled, that of the ineffective, sloppy organic farm, through her use of the phrase "For the record" as a clarified to this challenge, which is implicitly made. Images of quaint hard rural workers, with just enough dirt and ugliness to make the environment seem intriguing, are then described; these images are meant to elicit the barest hint of hard work, hence the "Levi's with a little mud on the cuffs." By making these filthy images somewhat cleaner, imperfection is glorified, just like the vegetables and plants they would later state are too imperfect for the assembly line food companies. The phrase "a day's work" is important in this passage; Kingslover uses it to sum up the work ethic of the local grower as part of their life. Local growers, it is implied, keep their ambitions small, and therefore give their work greater character.
Kingslover then goes on to describe the cold corporate world of the supermarket, which eschews this character for the sake of uniformity and comfort for the average food buyer (Hutchings, 2003). These local foods provided and produced by small growers are then subject to hard, restrictive guidelines regarding food size and shape (which Kingslover implies is secondary to taste and nutritional value); the author then subtly derides the regulations themselves by refusing to add a value judgment onto them, mentioning "certain standards" they have to abide by. The list then continues with several seemingly arbitrary and foolish size and shape regulations that are meant to sound silly on paper; Kingslover also adds to the ridiculousness with her use of blanket statements and sarcastic dismissals of entire plants ("Crooked eggplants need not apply").
Kingslover's overall point is then summed up effectively in the final sentence of the passage: the supermarket's arbitrary selection processes, all done for the sake of aesthetic uniformity, discounts "perfectly edible but small or oddly shaped vegetables". The use of the word "perfect" assigns positive connotations to the majority of local vegetables, thus contributing to the overall utopian atmosphere Kingslover attributes to the format of local farms. This perfection is directly juxtaposed with the supermarket's overly high and arbitrary aesthetic standards, by sardonically labeling these "perfectly edible" foods "'trash'", complete with quotes to emphasize the author's disbelief at this label.
In conclusion, Kingslover, in this passage, harshly contrasts the hard, earnest work atmosphere and 'natural' feel of the local farm to the cold, overly harsh standards attributed to their product. Here, imperfection is noted as a distinctly human and natural attribute that lends character to people (and therefore the foods they create); the supermarket, in its quest for homogeneity, cuts out that imperfection, and therefore its character. It provides a subtle illustration of the current food market as a microcosm for modern society; just as "crooked eggplants" need not apply, "crooked" people are equally as disdained. In the search for perfection, Kingslover implies, modern industrialized society distrusts the unfamiliar and the asymmetrical, which is a perspective that should change. Kingslover cites the local Appalachain Harvest farm as a utopia for local, organic food that is imperfect but full of character; by placing it right next to the robotic supermarket standards for uniformity, the local farm is given much greater appeal.
Hutchings, John B. Expectations and the Food Industry: The Impact of Color and Appearance.
Springer, 2003. Print.
Kingslover, Barbara. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. Harper-Collins, 2008.