I often think about luxury and necessity these days. Ask questions such as, what is necessary and what is luxury? How does time affect the classification of the two? Can a necessity become luxury and vice-versa? Or is it the move only one way, from luxury to necessity?
What made me think this way you ask, or maybe you do not but I will tell you any way. I have been consistently eating roasted sunflower seeds this week, I cannot get myself to stop. So the way you eat sunflower seeds is by taking each seed, splitting the shell in half with your teeth and you then eat the small seeds that are inside the shells. You can technically eat the whole thing, but the shells are not as tasty as the seed inside, I actually think they ruin the taste.
In all honesty, I do not remember eating sunflower seeds as an adult. I remember my father eating them when I was much younger but, that is as far as my interaction with these little seeds go.
So, how did I get from sunflower seeds to thinking about luxury and necessity? Well, that is easy, I wondered: How does one discover how to eat sunflower seeds that way? In my head, how did the evolution of a person or a group of people discovering sunflower seeds for the first in the world to eating them the way we do today: roast, split shells and eat the inside.
Honestly, sunflower is just one of the many daily consumable around me that makes me think about luxury and necessity. Coffee and qolo are easy ones. Think about it, coffee was discovered thanks to Kaldi’s goats. Legend has it that he noticed his goats dance and be hyper whenever they ate the little red seeds, and so one day he decided to try it himself. Now we have gone from Kaldi chewing on the coffee grain to how we consume it today: taking the coffee out of its shell, washing and roasting, grinding, putting it in hot water and then consuming. Now, depending on where you are from, you could add salt, butter, berbere or even tena adam (Rue) to enhance your coffee experience.
Let me give you another example if the ones above were not enough, picture a beautiful plate of kitfo. How did we evolve to eating meat that way? I can imagine that in the history of humankind, eating meat was a discovery. Evolving from killing an animal, eating it, then choosing which parts of the mean are the “best” ones and then spicing and dicing it, these are a lot of steps.
The way I look at it, necessity does not allow for processes, or if it does, it allows for very little process. Luxury is all about process, it is a serious of elaborate processes and the more luxurious to more elaborate the process. What I keep thinking about is at first, we discover the bare thing and its benefits. Let’s say some food, as in the hierarchy of needs food and water are on top. For food items, we usually end up being reliant on the food item as a source. For example with regards to meat, you get meat by killing an animal and then you start by eating it raw, and the more the meat you have and the less you have to worry about when you will find the next animal to kill, i.e. you have established a reserve/stock you are ready to experiment. So you move from eating it raw, to cooking it, roasting it, boiling it and what not.
I often hear people saying that necessity is the mother of all inventions, by that same token absence of necessity, i.e. abundance, is the mother of luxury…