They said they knew they were in America because when they lifted the milk carton, it landed on the counter with a thud. The jug was too heavy, not like what you’d find in Italy, where milk is measured out in smaller, arm friendly cartons. Each country has a food product or category they enjoy buying in bulk. Americans love their jars of peanut butter and boxes of cereal; these are some of the products that make up our everyday bounty.
Every country has an everyday bounty that’s invisible to its inhabitants. This invisibility means the product size is interpreted as normal, not plenty. Within each country and city, there exist ample variations in size that are invisible to one sub-culture and extravagant to another.
Could you imagine buying a large package of cheese like a Norwegian?
Or perhaps you’d like a box of Yorkshire tea with 240 tea bags?
Sometimes this bounty manifests itself as plenty of options, like in the pasta aisle at an Italian grocery store.
Their biscuit aisle is also impressive.
This is to say nothing of the various styles and brands of espresso on offer.
Then again, in Sweden coffee is bought in bricks nearly twice the size of those in Italy. The options are less, but that doesn’t mean the bounty has diminished.
American milk cartons may be large, but I’d argue that the cereal section is a more astonishing display of plenty.
While Americans debate which cereal to have for breakfast, the French do the same with yogurt.
Nearby, the Belgians are buying family sized jars of Speculoos spread.
Could you imagine navigating this seaweed selection in Japan? The knowledge required to make the appropriate choice doesn’t exist in the standard Western cooking dialogue.
Regardless of the culture in which we exist, regardless of where we choose to buy our groceries, each space and society has an invisible abundance. This abundance may be enjoyed or lamented. In the context of a specific cultural dialogue, this plenty is seen as a given. To go without it, to be removed from it, wouldn’t be seen as moderation, but as lack. What’s your invisible abundance?