Delicious Tagliatelle With Love At The Origin Of The Universe

A personal outlook on waste, globalization, and societal values. A broad reflection on consumerism and environmental impact with a philosophical exploration of unity and diversity inspired by one of Italo Calvino's short stories.

February 22, 2024 04:05 EDT
Dear FO° Reader,

Yesterday I went for a stroll and tried my best to practice walking meditation. I intended to focus on breathing, movement and balance shifts — right foot to left and slightly forward, keeping momentum. Yet my monkey mind kept wandering around, noticing a piece of crumbled paper on the path, then another smashed and muddied thing that made me think of a foam cup from a noodle food truck. From noodles to tagliatelle the difference is a few millimeters of width or a few thousand miles, from East Asia to Italy. That’s how the mind gets lost. 

Onur26120 /

As I practiced walking meditation, my heightened awareness of the environment led me to ponder the issue of waste and food production. The thought of waste, of how to get rid of waste, of how much food is wasted in Western countries — the so-called developed countries. Is this a great example of development? In the USA, more than 30% of edible produce is wasted every year. I’m sure Switzerland is not far behind.

People are disgusted when they hear about supermarkets pouring bleach on thrown-away food so the homeless cannot claim them. Farmers are now in protest everywhere, as they get paid ridiculously low  amounts for their very hard and demanding work — so they prefer to let tomatoes rot on the field, rather than selling them underpriced. Is it the fault of globalization? Or is it what Italian politician Fausto Bertinotti explained the other day on the television channel La7 — “a widespread tendency, intensifying in the last few decades, to devalue and deprecate work and to favor profit, at all cost, even if it costs the health and ultimately the lives of the workers”?

I’d better go back to my meditation.

Crunching leaves and pine needles and dirt with my steps, I did my best to get back to internal sensation and breathing. Counting while breathing did help for a few minutes. But the idea of warm tagliatelle kept coming back in various variations that had nothing to do with gourmandise or hunger or even with the Goldberg variations of Bach’s cello suites. My very mundane repertoire includes tomato sauce, gorgonzola sauce, salmon and lemon zest, chestnut and mushroom, an array of curiosities.

My mind wandered back via food to waste.

Where is humanity going with waste, globalization and the deprecation of labor? Even worse, the deprecation of fruit of our labor, food? There are even people mad at environmental movements because they infringe in their freedom. Freedom to do what? To keep polluting? To keep producing 100 billion garments per year while we clearly don’t need that many? Not even a fraction. And we dump T-shirts into the deep ses so as not to endanger the market price. That’s also an insult to those who worked to make those dumped garments, to those who scorched their hands to pluck cotton.

neenawat khenyothaa /

This global phenomenon of waste and the devaluation of work intersects with our daily lives, influencing consumer behaviors and preferences. For instance, when discussing fast fashion with youngsters, I often find myself highlighting the implications of globalization. Youngsters in my entourage tend to want to order from those large transnational websites that sell T-shirts shipped from Singapore for $3, no shipping fees; stick-on nails for $1.80; a corset for $7.

I do my best to explain to them that if I want make a T-shirt myself, I have to pay for the fabric and the thread, I have to pay for the machine, and I have to pay to learn how to make a T-shirt. It took time and dedication. It takes me two hours when everything is well organized, so I can well imagine a workshop that makes 50 T-shirts in an hours. They would still need four or five people to work all the various stations, flatten and cut the fabric, move the parts to the sewing machine, assemble the parts and do the finishing in the right order. There are big books on garment construction. And masterclasses in high-end finishing for high end garments. I love all these activities, but if you want to make them profitable, you have to heavily industrialize and put pressure on the workers. 

The curse of fast-fashion is quite telling as to where humanity is going, most likely straight into a wall and then who knows. As for the origins of the universe, no matter how many billions are spent on new hadrons by CERN to search infinitesimal particles, or waves, or space-ship telescopes are flung out of orbit to study far away stars, we already know how the universe began. A woman who had much love in her, suggested she could make tagliatelle for everyone.

Homemade tagliatelle

Tutto in un punto — All at One Point

Tutto in un punto is the title of a short story by Italian writer Italo Calvino, in the Cosmicomiche collection, reflecting on the interconnectedness of humanity and the universe. This tale encapsulates the essence of unity and diversity, serving as a poignant allegory for our discussion on waste, globalization and the human experience. And, as I try to convince everyone who crosses my path to read these short stories, you get a taste of at least one. In all the Cosmicomics, Calvino takes a segment of natural history and turns it into an amusing short story with characters and drama. There are family disputes and problems with neighbors. Can you imagine having a family of immigrants in the same infinitesimal space of one dot, like the singularity before the Big Bang?

The story begins like this. I warmly suggest you find in a library or bookstore and read in full.
       Naturally, we were all there, — old Qfwfq said, — where else could we have been? Nobody knew then that there could be space. Or time either: what use did we have for time, packed in there like sardines?
       I say “packed like sardines,” using a literary image: in reality there wasn’t even space to pack us into. Every point of each of us coincided with every point of each of the others in a single point, which was where we all were. In fact, we didn’t even bother one another, except for personality differences, because when space doesn’t exist, having somebody unpleasant like Mr. Pbert Pberd underfoot all the time is the most irritating thing.
      How many of us were there? Oh, I was never able to figure that out, not even
approximately. To make a count, we would have had to move apart, at least a little, and instead we all occupied that same point. (…) 

My perspective on the moral of this particular story?  

We are all on one planet, one earth, yet our voices are diverse and varied and we learned how to count each one of us, and the animals, and the plants, and everything. Still, we can’t get along on many things. Maybe it’s ok not to get along on everything.

At Fair Observer, we make space; we hold space so every voice can be heard. Every perspective can have its spot on our platform.

And if you don’t like tagliatelle, you can have something else. 

Buon appetito!

Roberta Campani
Communications and Outreach
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