Charlotte's Web

Charlotte's Web: Our Connection with Food College

In the American children’s classic Charlotte’s Web, the spring pig Wilbur learns that his purpose on the farm is to be raised up and killed for pork in the coming months. Distraught at his fate, Wilbur seeks deliverance from anyone who can help. Charlotte, a cunning but loving barnyard spider, offers to help Wilbur escape the dinner table. She uses her web to give Wilbur a new place on the farm; not only is he tasty, but also Terrific, Radiant, and Humble. Charlotte makes Wilbur out to be Some Pig with her web, and the humans in the story come to agree with her. The pig is not only delivered from the dinner table, but is also awarded a medal at the county fair for his outstanding character (White, 1952).

The story of Charlotte’s Web is a tender children’s fable, and a work of fiction. However, there is a surprising reality captured in Charlotte’s sticky strands. The complex food web we live in today has also dissociated us from the places, both geographical and existential, that our food comes from. We struggle to find where we fit in the world, in part because we have forgotten where the things we consume fit in the world. The dissociation of people from their food is not only silly (as in the story mentioned above), but also...

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