Earlier this week, I peeled and grated more than 5 pounds of potatoes (and a few onions). I grated them by hand, on a vintage potato grater.
Today, in preparation for tomorrow night’s Passover Seder, I made the charoset, a “chutney” type condiment of apples, nuts, cinnamon, and wine that is meant to evoke the mud used by the ancient Hebrews when they made bricks as slaves in Egypt. Making the charoset has my “seder job” for years, and I always do it by hand, using a wooden chopping bowl and a single-blade mezaluna chopper.
As it happens, today I also received a card in the mail from my friend Sean Carpenter, a realtor in Ohio. Sean is one of the best examples I know of people who regularly send physical cards.
What these three events have in common is that they are all examples of analog processes that could be done more efficiently through technology.
From start to finish, grating the potatoes took about 90 minutes (including peeling). It probably could have taken half the time if I had used a food processor.
I could probably have made the charoset in about 15 minutes using a food processor, instead of the hour that it took me.
And it would certainly be more efficient for Sean to check in by email, text message, or phone call — and he would have gotten the benefit of an immediate response. (In fairness, he does use those methods as well.)
Technology can improve the process for all of these things, and many other examples I could give here, but it wouldn’t be the same experience. Something would be missing.
My mom’s potato kugel doesn’t come out the same when the potatoes are grated by machine; the food processor makes them watery.
For me, making the charoset is not just about “getting it done.” Part of the purpose in making it is to appreciate the experience. I have a ritual around doing it. Everything from laying out the ingredients to how I chop them and blend them is infused with intention.
And I’m guessing that my friend Sean has a ritual around writing his cards. On the receiving end, I know receiving the card through the mail lands different for me than his text messages do — there’s a sense of excitement.
I’m all for being efficient and shaving time off of tasks where necessary, but there’s something to be said for the analog methods, especially in a world that is moving ever faster.
You might already feel strapped for time, and wonder why you should spend an hour doing something by hand when you can do it in 15 minutes using a machine.
Sometimes it’s the experience of it that you’re after.
And also what I’ve found — counter-intuitive as it may be — is that doing things the slow way makes me feel like I have more time, not less.