Thursday, September 30, 2010

Everything Old is New Again

It was 1994 when I first heard university students singing and dancing along to ABBA. I started to laugh. To me, ABBA was the music on the vinyl records at the houses I babysat at. It was music of the late 70s. I remember being incredulous in 1994 that ABBA had made their big comeback. Ten years later, my young sister-in-law laughed when I told her I had never truly lost my love for skinny jeans - but within a couple of years, they had become fashionable again and she too gave up her wide-legged pants.

Everything old is new again.

The other day, I saw a sign outside a restaurant inviting patrons to enjoy locally brewed beer on their patio. It got me to thinking about how, years ago, local went the way of wide-legged jeans.

I imagined a time when the world felt chaotic after the war and when the idea of standardized, systematized, regular, knowing-what-to-expect felt comforting and safe. Open a McDonalds burger and you'll find your pickles arranged just so, whether you are in Moosejaw or Montreal. Same-sized eggs. Uniformly perfect apples. Brands you can buy at home or on holidays. Labels that made you feel big cityish even if you lived in a small town. Starbucks instead of going to the local diner for coffee in a chipped cup. Sophistication instead of same old-same old.

Now the pendulum has shifted again. Uniform red tomatoes have less taste than the variety of weird-looking heritage ones. Thoughts of local sufficiency and consuming less fossils have fueled our consumer trends toward eating the view. Local honey counteracts local allergens.

I have yet to see a non-ironic power blue frilly tuxedo in the 21st century. Some things - mercifully - don't come back.

But I wonder, what will last? Where will we be five years from now? In our wide-legged jeans, will we have shifted back to global foods? or will an orange in the toe of our Christmas stocking be an unaccustomed treat? Will we even have choices to make - or will our choices be made for us by the choices we make today.

I don't always follow trends (See Skinny pants). I am actually irked by the glass wall that comes up at 100 miles for the Correct Diet Today. I have almost always eaten seasonally - have you tried that dead corn-on-the-cob that is available in January? - and locally. I have always loved going to farmers markets wherever I am, learning about how people eat in that place. I'm concerned that buying locally is a fad that will be abandoned as quickly as a 1970s pop group. I hope not.

For the sake of our planet and our taste buds, I hope not.