In Protest of Bread: Decivilising Food

A protest sign saying “in protest of bread” in front of a wall composed of bread slices.

I don’t like bread.

Like bricks (bread made of clay) are used to build civilisation’s infrastructure, bread (brick made from grain) is used to build bodies of servants who run this infrastructure. Bread is a staple food of a malnourished and enslaved society, and yet it is praised as some sort of manna, hailed as a symbol of life and sustenance. George Carlin once asked “What was the best thing before sliced bread?” Freedom perhaps. Maybe diverse food that we have evolved for. Could also be the face to face society that we have lost almost entirely.

Food preparation to me seems to have the same basis as tool creation; both have a degree of effort put into it and through this adopt secondary meaning and purpose, which seems to replace their original purpose. Crafting symmetric handaxes occurred, according to Dr. Penny Spikins, because these very handaxes became symbols of trustworthiness.[1] These days we probably look like mentally ill hoarders to any uncivilised being, with how much decorum and other unpractical objects we possess. Entire economies are formed around the production and distribution of such objects that we think we need to possess, even though in reality they are nothing but detrimental to our survival, possessing us instead. This does not just apply to consumer culture under capitalism, but reaches as far back as we have any evidence of material culture whatsoever. Food of course is not safe from this.

“While the Green Revolution helped to tackle world hunger, today we find ourselves with a global food system that in some cases has been designed to deliver calories and cosmetic perfection but not necessarily nutrition,” says a BBC article on the topic of food losing nutritional value.[2] I find it absolutely deranged that “cosmetic perfection” is something we value when it comes to food. Crops have been made to be larger in size to produce a larger quantity of food, but the limitations of the soil have made them less nutritious in turn, worsening the already terrible effects of agricultural diet and sedentary lifestyle, such as significantly more fragile bones.[3]

The way food is prepared, how it looks and what it tastes like has seemingly become more important than what nutritional value we derive from it. In supermarkets fruits with aesthetically unpleasing features like scars, tissue swirls etc. are thrown out not because they’d spoil others, there is nothing wrong with them from a practical standpoint, they are discarded for their lack of uniform visual qualities in relation to other fruits. Every fruit needs to be the same, standardised, as if it was cloned. This erasure of uniqueness is of course emblematic of civilisation; it seeks to turn everything into a homogenous paste, much like dough, the substance it is fuelled by. It is created from grains, that no matter how similar still have some semblance of individual uniqueness, which are ground into dust to make an uncountable substance like water, a collective mass where individuality is erased.

If John Zerzan’s ideas are anything to go by, agriculture started as a religious practice that projected its symbolic nature onto life, coercing it into geometric shapes and standardised it for some spiritual cause.[4] Agriculture is perhaps the clearest point at which civilisation begun due to the emerged requirement for a sedentary lifestyle. The initial standardising tendency was the foundation of everything that followed, including warfare, where soldiers stand in rows like armoured crops, devoid of individuality; buildings also soon begun to be created from standardised pieces like bricks, and were based on standardised designs; food in the same manner started to take on more and more standardised forms through creation of recipes, substances like dough, etc. Recipes are nothing but instructions that take away all the spontaneity in cooking.

As funny as this might sound, smoothies terrify me. After fruits and vegetables are stripped of any differences by meticulous breeding and pruning, they are then blended into a goo, depriving the drinker of all experiences they could have possibly felt while eating those fruits and vegetables — only taste remains. Taste is by far not the only sense utilised when eating, though too many seem to think in this manner. One of my friends keeps complaining about foods having uneven textures, proclaiming he wants them to be as uniform as possible. Either sugar or salt is put into literally everything these days, as if other flavours are completely unwanted.

I once observed very carefully a friend’s cat when she ate a freshly killed mouse. She first bit off the head and chewed it, cracking its skull and the sweet scent of the brain could be sensed everywhere. Crunching was loud and satisfying. It could tell by her facial expressions she had to squeeze her jaws pretty hard for that, and the eventual relaxation after she could finally swallow made me feel second-hand contented. Next was the upper torso of with organs like lungs and heart, chewy it was, but more like a bubble gum and emitting a smell similar to raw beef. Arms and legs of the mouse were devoured next, then the intestines and tail. She only left one green-ish organ on the living room floor and headed out. I was quite mystified by how such a tiny creature could provide such a diverse array of tastes, textures — something prepared food could only provide if made by a very knowledgable chef. Hera (as the cat was called) would not possibly have gotten the same stimulating journey of diverse experience if she’d dropped the mouse into a blender and mulched it into a fucking smoothie.

This in a way resembles how all the environment created by man causes sensory imbalances. People often complain how everything in civilisation seems over-saturated with information (advertisements etc.), but they notice far less often how many things are missing in other sensory domains. In cities, the fully man-made landscapes, the only auditory sensation is a constant hum of vehicles, a dough of sound. Urban smells are often just as plain and constant — how many city-dwellers get a chance to experience something akin to walking through a wild forest, smelling different plants and fungi as they go past them? Chances are not many got it. Even within the visual sensory field itself we face flashing and obnoxious adverts on one hand, only to look away at the deathly concrete desert devoid of detail, composed of unnerving geometric shapes, and interconnected in the most unnatural-looking of ways. Wilderness harmonically flows, cityscapes are broken and shocking misassembled jigsaw puzzles, flowing like cacophonic coughs of someone dying from tuberculosis.

Kevin Tucker put it best when he wrote: “Technology flattens our world by reducing our reliance on senses while over stimulating particular sensory input. Our brains are, to put it simply, overworked and underwhelmed.”[5]

The ever-persisting Dough Principle is firmly taking over every aspect of our lives, and if we wish to rewild ourselves and our surroundings for a future worth living we need to learn to recognise it and avoid it. According to the Dough Principle you ought not to be a free wild creature, but a domesticated clone eating same portions of the same food, living in the same house as everyone else, in one of the many identical cities, live according to the same blueprint, experience the exact same things as everyone else, and so on, and so on...

Bread is often used as a symbol of work, of power, of hunger, of civilisation itself. I’m not the one who made bread into a symbol of civilisation, but it sure is fitting. A plethora of morons think of a return to simpler living as leading heavily romanticised peasant lives, planting grain in golden fields under an eternal sunset with their twenty healthy children; they have no clue that such a lifestyle is part of the same trajectory we are currently on. Loafs of bread are what empires grew for, what wilderness was destroyed for, what countless animals (including people) suffered for immensely.

They say we are what we eat, and it seems that there is much more to this statement than just the personal element. A society is what it subsists on.

In my rewilding journey I gave a lot of thought to what it really means to eat. A popular online film maker and primitive survivalist, Chad Zuber, has consumed not-so-delicious wild meals on many occasions, arguing that he eats to be fed, not for the taste; I find this mindset to be far superior to the mentality of the modern sugar-salt-fiend. For me the process of consuming food is an adventure just as much as obtaining it is. If something is bitter, fibrous, too chewy, slightly rotten or mouldy, eating it is not off the table — it’s a challenge. Like we can enjoy the generally unpleasant feeling of riding a rollercoaster, we could learn to enjoy the somewhat unpleasant astringent taste of the blackthorn fruits. There is a deep sense of fulfilment to be found in eating something unsavoury, knowing you’ll be full and energised afterwards. Expressing disgust with vocalisations and expressions is sometimes enough to get myself to swallow something I find really foul.

Something I noticed when I started consuming bugs is that once I forced myself over the initial visual disgust instilled in me by the hypercivilised Western culture, I grew to love them. Ant bites I receive on occasion are a small price to pay for the eating experience. Contrary to what you might expect ants of the same species, and of the same colony diverge immensely in their taste, some being more spicy than others, some sweeter, some more tart. This is precisely the opposite of cultivated food.

The cowardly and embittered far-right polemicist Paul Joseph Watson has been frantically screeching about how he will not eat bugs, after some higher profile discussion about the subject took place. He views it as being very dehumanising and emasculating. On the other hand he views eating steaks and grilling as very manly and awesome. It could just be me, but no act is quite as humanising, masculine, and macho as pushing a shopping cart around your local Tesco looking for chunks of meat wrapped in plastic. Not that I’m attempting to elevate the action of leaning on an ant hill to reach ants as something hardcore and badass, but it probably comes much closer to the concept of traditional masculinity than whatever Watson holds up as the ideal. Paul’s a great example of someone who views food through an almost entirely symbolic lens: “meat = hunting, hunting = manly, therefore I’m manly” is what his thought process probably looks like, completely ignoring that:

  1. There was no hunting involved, as the animal was raised in a (factory) farm.
  2. He was not involved in any of the processes besides maybe preparing the meal.

Food needs to be thoroughly washed of the symbolic we project onto it, and seen for what it is on a material level. After reading this some might think that I hate bread for its symbolic associations — incorrect. I took bread as an example of a pattern that’s deeply ingrained in civilised life. This piece is written to make the reader think of how civilisation ruins everything, including food and a large part of our worldly experience with it. Zerzan mentions the standardising tendency as being one of the core elements of the civilising monstrosity, but the depths into which it actually reaches are truly shocking — it feels like nothing is truly safe.

Of course my dislike of bread has a larger background than what I wrote here. I primarily avoid bread and pasta because they make me feel nauseous, though their boring plainness doesn’t exactly help with making me like them either.

The one thing I’d take from this bundle of thought I just presented is that when one sees the Dough Principle in action, they should run in the other direction if they value their independence and wildness. It’s roots go very deep and uprooting it will not be easy, though we should still try regardless.

Notes

[1] University of York. “‘Trust’ Provides Answer to Handaxe Enigma.” Phys.Org, 21 Nov. 2012, https://phys.org/news/2012–11-handaxe-enigma.html.

[2] Lovell, Rachel, and William Park (editor). “How Modern Food Can Regain Its Nutrients.” BBC, 2022, https://www.bbc.com/future/bespoke/follow-the-food/why-modern-food-lost-its-nutrients.

[3] “Hunter-Gatherer Past Shows Our Fragile Bones Result from Inactivity since Invention of Farming.” ScienceDaily, 22 Dec. 2014, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141222165033.htm.

[4] Zerzan, John. Elements Of Refusal. 2nd ed., pp. 73–87, Columbia, MO, USA, CAL Press, 1999.

[5] Tucker, Kevin, et al. “The Soffocating Void: Domestication and Pathological Distraction.” Black and Green Review No 1, Spring 2015, Denver, PA, USA, Black and Green Press, 2015, p. 17.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Kazimir Kharza

Kazimir Kharza

A lazy video creator and blogger. Anarcho-primitivist. Big hater of civilisation, even bigger enjoyer of nature.