Reality Check

 Sculpture and photo by Daniel Barragan

Sculpture and photo by Daniel Barragan

I like my ingredients like I like my intelligence. Real. Never artificial.

As a proud Luddite, I may be a bit biased. You should be forewarned that this entire journal entry may be a half-witted attempt at justifying my low-tech existence. At this point, my preference for real (experiences, community, communication, food) has become decidedly suspicious of, if not downright against, artificial (tech) based solutions.  This is partly why it has taken nearly a decade for Mast to create The Mast Journal – a virtual newsletter. The Mast Journal has already proven to be positively gratifying– certainly for me as a creative outlet, and I hope for a few readers out there too. I sometimes think I've got it all figured out, but I know I don't. So, please continue reading.

Demanding all natural, never artificial, organic ingredients, flavors, and colors is paramount to Mast and really everyone’s food decisions these days. So you can imagine my discomfort at any romantic use of the word ‘artificial’ when coupled with ‘intelligence’.  If I don’t want to put artificial ingredients in my belly, why would I want to put artificial intelligence in my brain? Surely this can’t end well.

To recklessly continue the comparison, let’s take a look at why artificial anything is created. There is likely a good intention buried there somewhere. There always is. That good intention is usually based in a genuine desire to give more people consistent access to something (a flavor, a song, a new home), and ends up getting buried in, well, money. It is based in an honest effort to democratize access to good (good food, good music, good design) but can quickly mature into mass production and commoditization (convenient food, convenient music, convenient design).

The good is lost. But the dependence on the source, the almighty algorithm, remains. 

This dependence creates wealth for the owners. It creates an undeniable convenience for us all. A steady stream of customers so inundated by information that they rely on an artificial source to make their decisions. To investors, it is scalable, producing reliable and consistent outcomes. Growing this reliance has an excellent return on investment.  As a customer, the ease of letting a computer curate, or a laboratory recreate even your most simple pleasures is seductive. The artificial is good business.

Let’s take a breath and remember, again, that I’m the last one of your friends that got a cell phone, and am more awkward on social media than your parents. Our ingredient list is radically short and easy to pronounce. I insist on still using the same roasting techniques that we were using when we bartered an oven from Marlow & Sons nearly ten years ago. I’ve even been in recent meetings where people still feel the need to convince me that there is a real opportunity for Mast to have a stronger presence online. I’m the guy that prefers the hunt for vinyl (of course) to the live streaming of digital. I even spent a couple dreamy years in my twenties working behind the counter at an amazing record store in California. And last but not least, I’m the guy that decided to sail our beans from the Dominican Republic to Brooklyn using an actual sail boat. Remember, you were forewarned.

 Loading cocoa beans onto The Black Seal, a 3 masted cargo schooner, in the Dominican Republic

Loading cocoa beans onto The Black Seal, a 3 masted cargo schooner, in the Dominican Republic

Mast is rooted in real. It is completely based on the simple premise that chocolate is real food. It is not a commodity, a concept, or a technical ‘solution’. It is real. Real ingredients. A real experience.

All that said, after an exhausting day, my wife and I have been known to break down and have an entire evening, from food to film, curated by artificial recommendations. A contradiction I know, but I’m still sorting it out.

So, in conclusion:

Artificial ingredients, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors, and artificial colors? No thanks.

Artificial intelligence?  I think I’ll monitor my consumption.

As for living a real life instead of an artificial or digital one? I'll leave you with my top 5 all natural, never artificial, favorite things to do that demand being present in reality:

1.) Bake bread with my kids

2.) Take long hikes (get out of the city)

3.) Work in the garden

4.) Have friends over for dinner

5.) Drink coffee with my wife in the morning

From our family to yours,

Rick Mast

Rick Mast