Semi-Daily Journal Archive

The Blogspot archive of the weblog of J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics and Chair of the PEIS major at U.C. Berkeley, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Grapes

Miserable Donuts is awed by the existence of ripe grapes in the supermarket:

Miserable Donuts: A Philosophical-Logistical Rant: You are an average person in an average area of America, say, Northern Illinois. You find that you want some grapes. What do you do? You go down to the store and get some, right? Nothing complicated, nothing special, nothing remarkable - or is it?

The grape has been around a long time and, naturally, wine making was the primary use of grapes. For millennia, if you wanted to eat a grape; you had to pick one right at harvest (and not be executed for stealing from a monastery or some aristocrat's vineyards, heh heh). At certain times, the elite could get hothouse grapes, perhaps in limited quantities and at limited times.

Now? You can just go to the nearest grocery store and pick up something that the Holy Roman Emperor himself could not have had grace his table, for most of the year, during anytime in the Middle Ages.

And you can do it darn near any day of the year. For very little money. So what you say? Have you considered what it takes to get that grape to you? Where it comes from? Oh, and I simply use the grape as an example... this is even more spectacular when you consider something exotic like a pineapple or banana.Grapes can come from very far away foreign places that are hard to fathom... like California (OK, I kid!). Seriously, the grape example is best considered using the nation of Chile.

That grape you are going to munch on as a snack, or that is going to garnish something at a restaurant, had a heck of a journey - and it took some fairly sophisticated technology to get it here. Journeys that once made the "names" at Lloyd's sweat blood, are handled by ships that are beyond anything that could have been imagined back in the 17th and 18th Century.

Sophisticated logistical hubs and procedures are in place to make the receiving of this cargo barely warrant a yawn. Where Shakespeare portrayed the vast rise or fall in fortune that a single ship "coming in" can bring, - the ships bringing in produce today don't warrant even a single line in your local paper. Of course, to be sure that some people are watching and they are interested.I lived among grape growers in a poor part of the world....

Their crop was quickly consumed or turned into raisins (note I have failed to mention the very small and discrete brandy making that may or may not still go on there). "Sorry, no grapes today... or tomorrow".

When the grapes are gone, it's wait until next year. Not so here in Average America.

So what prompted this paean to grapes/rant about commerce? I caught myself at the store this past weekend thinking the selections had been a bit picked over... then it hit me that my complaint was a haughty and shabby thing. Especially when you look at what a near miracle it is to even have something like a table grape available.

We live in great days - and this is one little example of what and how they are brought about.

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