Jon Garvie in The Times of London:
Future social historians will note the extraordinary centrality of food to national discourse on both sides of the Atlantic. Celebrity chefs and lifestyle experts attempt to reform bad habits. Doctors debate the health benefits and risks of modish diets, from raw greens to bone marrow. Class warriors deplore as snobbish dismissals of cheap battery-farm chickens. And the gulping majority grow obstinately fat on salty, sugary, pre-packaged slop, swelling the coffers of the multinationals and delivering fiscal nightmares to those who must foot the bill. But, despite this glut of media coverage, the provenance of most food is little known or understood. Whether at Tesco or farmers’ markets, consumers must take vendors’ avowals of freshness on trust. Few question exactly what knowledge a sell-by date imparts. Societies rely instead on myths, as Freidberg’s double-edged subtitle implies. The numinous meaning of freshness, as with all cults, is apprehended only vaguely by its followers.
Ancient cultures used preservative methods, such as salting and pickling, in order to extend the durability of produce for domestic use. Refrigeration delivered a paradigm shift by removing the site of production from the sight of consumers. The idea of freshness emerged to fill the conceptual ellipsis that resulted.