A few weeks ago my wife asked aloud, "I don't know why I keep going there?", of a popular restaurant that she had visited once again only to be disappointed again. From my perspective, the restaurant was rather ordinary and their food the product of a production line approach to churning out units rather than a more artisanal passion for food making.
For many people fond of this restaurant, there would be attachments to the rituals and comforts that are the result of routine or family tradition but after several generations of fast food, it is hard to say the product rises beyond the confines of its conformity and mass-production. While the found might be familiar it lacks the originality to do anything other than depreciate with each visit. That may be just as much part of the challenge for the fast food industry as the increased health-consciousness today. It is likely why the small bit of customization from the increasing number of restaurants that have a smidgen of customization are gaining popularity in that sector of the industry.
The mass produced food - whether from a restaurant or the freezer section of the supermarket - is just one artifact of technology and the times we live in or the eating habits that we have adopted to accommodate the current pace of life. Given the rat race we strive to keep up with, we are becoming less conscious or less present during moments of our lives such as meals, conversations or walks through our day. We have become less attached to or conscious of the world that we are moving through and despite the notions of nostalgia that might motivate us to eat certain things in part because of an emotional attachment to a childhood memory it is better to return to the present and attach ourselves to things that make us aware of what is happening at the moment.
On one level that commitment to the moment would be an occasion to put the cell phones and other distractors aside but on another level, it is even more affirming of the moment to be having a meal that has been handmade by someone who is attentive to the food that is being prepared and who it is being served to, whether you are cooking for yourself or enjoying a meal that is being prepared by a cook or chef for you.
One of the key elements of wabi sabi is the consciousness of the moment that you are in. If we are surrounding by things that are enriched by an artisanal dedication that makes the experience of using them that much more enjoyable - whether it is a good meal, a good pen or a cup of tea in our favorite mug - there is a sense of connection. The could be the immediate connection with the inanimate object that we are holding and further conscious of because of the way it feels in our hand or the deeper more intimate attachment with the (possibly unknown and distant) person who created or contributed to those objects that make us more conscious of that moment we are in.
That awareness of the moment is unlikely to occur when chewing on an assembly line hamburger that you have chosen to eat simply because it takes you back to your childhood.