Contemplation is seldom prioritized in our world today. It’s not something that I regularly practice in any of my other classes, nor is it something I specifically set aside time for at home. The industrialized food contemplation using raisins was truly a surreal experience. Perhaps it was so bizarre because it was the first one of the class and the first one in my academic life. Or maybe it was so bizarre because we were given a raisin…in the dark…and told to put it in our mouths without chewing it. Nonetheless, I felt a deep sense of appreciation and understanding of where that raisin came from and how it got to me after the contemplation was over.
I’ve realized that contemplation is more about appreciation and understanding in relation to your own personal life. I spend hours each day sitting and listening to lecturers give their own knowledge, opinions, and ideas, but rarely allow myself time to reflect upon what that information means to me. Contemplative practices are helpful in enhancing my relationship with world food politics because I am able to pull all of the global and large-scale information together and tie it into my very small and personal life.
During the raisin contemplative practice, I remembered my childhood where I used to eat a small red box of Sun-Maid raisins every day for snack. It wasn’t until Professor Litfin said, “imagine all of the hands that have worked for you to be able to eat this single raisin” did I truly appreciate the complex world food system that exists today. And that I exist at the very end of the raisin (and global) commodity chain.
But what is a raisin to me? Previously, a raisin was a sweet snack that I could buy in bulk from Costco. Now I look at raisins and I see the pounds of fertilizer, gallons of water, and weeks of manual labor that goes into each individual grape/raisin. It gives me a great sense of appreciation for those who work so hard to supply the food that I eat. And throughout the days and weeks following that first raisin contemplation, I’ve found myself thinking more about the food I put in my mouth. I’ve found myself wondering; is this fairly traded? Were peatlands burned to produce the palm oil in this? What country is this cocoa from? Everything is connected, and as a consumer I embody the entire production chain before me. Contemplative practices allow me to step back and truly connect our world to my own life. Before this class I considered myself separate from the world food political system, but I am learning more about my place and my role in the world through contemplative practices.