So, it’s just that I got to thinking. Yes, yes, I know, that raises all kinds of cautionary bells and whistles a goin’ doesn’t it? She’s thinking AGAIN!
But, seriously, we do have an unholy alliance with food. You have to agree with that certainly. I mean, it’s a necessary thing, like oxygen and water. We really can’t do without it. But we don’t obsess about oxygen do we? We breath. Occasionally we wrinkle our nose or smell deeply, but other than that, we pretty much ignore the whole thing.
Water? Well, we are starting to obsess a bit about that I grant you. One of the great scams of all time is the retail sale of H2O, most of it bottled from the local tap and sold as “sweet artesian nectar” or “mountain fresh” or some such rot. Just give me some good old well water with some iron I can chew and I’m happy. (It plays hell with the pipes so you are better off actually with that sissy city water all cleaned up and tasteless!)
Back to food. I assume we started off eating it as did all the other critters–raw and as is. Then somebody happened upon a burnt carcass and was wowed by the “cooked” flavor, and somebody else got some wild grass mixed with the root of something, and said “ain’t that an interesting flavor” and, well, it happened.
What happened? The professional talented expert palate was announced. Yes, we became experts at food and taste. And things have never been the same.
Fat people were unknown among Neanderthals, I’m certain. They were probably unknown for millennia thereafter. Ever seen a fat Bedouin? Huh? You don’t see fat Africans either until you sashay into the cities of the modern era. Nope. Why?
Because food was a means to an end. There were other things to do, like surviving. We had to have a house, and we had to hunt, and we had to gather, and well, you get the idea here. Eating was something we did so we could do the rest.
Until haute cuisine came along. When we started settling down and raising crops and raising domesticated animals and such, we had leisure and we got lazy and we started to eat for sport. For fun, for enjoyment.
And all hell broke loose. A woman became worth more than another because she could cook a mean yak or bake an exceptionally tasty haggis (frankly I don’t know how haggis is prepared–correct me if I’m wrong). Women started entering their pies into things called “fairs” and getting ribbons and bragging rights. A man or two divorced and remarried solely on the basis of a well-prepared pot roast.
The fall of civilization (to the degree that it’s surely headed there) can be traced no doubt to that first burnt hyena carcass scavenged on the Savannah of Africa. Think about it.
Of course, women being primo cooks didn’t last long before men stuck their noses into the mix, and well, nothing is more haute than the gourmand male chef. In fact, you’d think that women didn’t start the whole thing in the first place by the way that true cheffery seems to be a male-dominated profession.
Men just can’t wait to get their hands on a big knife (phallic symbol?) and a sharpening rod and sling away, chopping furiously at onion and celery, whipping (see the sadism there?) with whisk, and flipping pans on fire-enveloped stove tops.
And from men, we got the term “plating” , with dots and dashes of sauce, two green beans, and a fingerling potato all draped over a one ounce seared bit of caribou steak. Yeah, that is what you pay $230.00 plus gratuity for.
Course, on the other hand, we traipse our way, roll, and crawl, to Burger King for Whoppers (never Big Macs–they truly suck), and Popeye’s Chicken to soothe the savage beastie of our hunger, both physical and emotional.
For somewhere in all this we became attached emotionally to our food. We would take it to bed if we could, and frankly some of us do, as the crumbs attached to your butt in the morning attest. We fight with it, we bathe in it, we play all manner of games with it. We spend all night and day figuring out ways to change it and make it other than it is. We make clothes out of it, and we make pictures with it (macaroni pictures from your kids ring a bell?).
We think about it, we write about it. We seek it in the most unlikely places. We eat fish roe and lobster tamale, we suck down snails and pork entrails. We eat brains, and eggs, and everything but the squeak of nearly anything that says alive! My God we even eat KFC’s gravy which is best described as smelly glue.
We eat fruit loops and Limburger cheese (which is as close to packaging a fart as can be found anywhere). We stuff it, thin it, emulsify it, dry it, hydrate it, stretch it, bake it, fry it, braise it, boil it. If all else fails we eat it raw.
And, that which keeps us alive, kills us too. Now that’s irony. Somehow I don’t think it’s what God had in mind. Anybody got a bagel and cream cheese?