Coweye Burgers and Plastic Malts

Do hemorrhoids dream of deceptive meat?
"So to sum up, there is a small bit of the macrocosm inside us, inside the microcosm; and this small bit equals the whole universal mind. The microcosm contains the macrocosm, another concept not thinkable in formal logic. God within me sees God outside; the two commune with each other. The two link up through the mediating flesh or body. So he or it, whatever, is made visible here on this world, at this time. Meanwhile, Satan is up at the McDonald's stand, ordering coweye burgers and plastic malts, thinking to keep his power. A few more years of coweye burgers and plastic malts, and he'll have had it." --Philip K. Dick, Exegesis (2011) Read More...

Dinner with Caligula

The mind-boggling extravagance of feasts hosted by Roman emperors depended on an equally mind-boggling maldistribution of wealth
The mind-boggling extravagance of feasts hosted by Roman emperors depended on an equally mind-boggling maldistribution of wealth In the year 39 CE, Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, then just two years into his reign, built a bridge across the Bay of Baiae near Naples. (more…) Read More...

A Contrary Image of Steaming Excrement

Let it move you
"The ladies in hats glanced, ate, and spoke simultaneously. An unappetizing, much caricatured, yet innocent picture. In view of so much simultaneous and continuous gluttony, an outside observer, Scherbaum for instance with his preconceived opinion, was bound to infer a corresponding process: simultaneous and continuous bowel movements; for this obsessive abundance of apple strudel, almond crescents, cream kisses, and cheesecake could only be counterbalanced by contrary image, by steaming excrement. I rose to new heights. 'You're right, Phillip. Colossal priggishness ... Monumentally repulsive ... And yet, we mustn't forget, it's only a partial aspect.' "Scherbaum said: 'There they sit.' "I said: 'It's worry that makes them stuff.' "Scherbaum: 'I know. They paste cake over everything.' "I: 'As long as they eat cake, they're happy.' "We stared for awhile at the mechanism of the loading and unloading cake forks and registered… Read More...

Hunger as an Instrument of Social Control

Under conditions of capitalism, it may be that you are what you don't eat
Under conditions of capitalism, it may be that you are what you don't eat This month will see more than half a million adults lose their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Lower jobless numbers have prompted the federal government to discontinue waivers that states need in order to extend this aid to long-term unemployed. In Pennsylvania and Arizona, for example, childless, able-bodied people aged 18 to 49 will now get a mere three months’ assistance. In Alabama and elsewhere in the South, hard-luck cases may expect three weeks’ help every three years. After that, nothing. The idea is, apparently, that if you can't lock down one of the part-time, low-wage jobs the current economic "recovery" has created, you'd do well simply to starve. (more…) Read More...

Bread and Marginalism

Without a political revolution, you're toast
"Without food, clothing and shelter, man would most certainly die; no shadow of doubt about it. And since no service can be rendered to man that is more valuable than to prevent him from dying, is it possible, as a matter of actual fact, for any kind of labor to be worthy of greater compensation than that which is devoted to the production of food, clothing and shelter? If you were without all these things and had been without them even two weeks, is there any thing on this earth for which you would give more, even if you had all the wealth of Wall street, than something to eat, something to wear and a place to sleep?" --From Socialism Made Plain: Why the Few are Rich and the Many Poor (1904) Read More...

Cooperative Kitchens of Yesteryear

Socialism in one country may be a difficult undertaking, but socialism in many American country towns was as easy as pie -- and just as appetizing
Socialism in one country may be a difficult undertaking, but socialism in many American country towns was as easy as pie — and just as appetizing My schedule having become busier, making dinner is now a chore. Before, I’d found a certain serenity in chopping carrots and slicing tomatoes after a day of brainwork. Now, vegetables oppress me, especially as my CSA share has been unusually full of late. Against them I mobilize food processor and pressure cooker. Yet these implements must be hauled from the cupboard, assembled, disassembled, and cleaned. Then there’s the cooking, eating, and cleaning up. (more…) Read More...

Belly Up

Advice you can stomach
"It is very strange, this domination of our intellect by our digestive organs. We cannot work, we cannot think, unless our stomach wills so. It dictates to us our emotions, our passions. After eggs and bacon, it says, 'Work!' After beefsteak and porter, it says, 'Sleep!' After a cups of tea (two spoonfuls for each cup, and don't let it stand more than three minutes), it says to the brain, 'Now, rise, and show your strength. Be eloquent, and deep, and tender; see, with a clear eye, into Nature and into life; spread out your white wings of quivering thought, and soar, a god-like spirit, over the whirling world beneath you, up through long lanes of flaming stars to the gates of eternity!' "After hot muffins, it says, 'Be dull and soulless, like a beast of the field -- a… Read More...

How Early Cookbooks Sparked a Lifestyle Revolution

The discreet charms of the bourgeoisie owe something to the attractions of life as conjured by cookbook authors
The discreet charms of the bourgeoisie owe something to the attractions of life as conjured by cookbook authors Each year I vow to buy fewer books, especially cookbooks. And yet each week I find myself bringing home two or three new ones. I find them -- or rather they find me -- in the usual places: yard sales, flea markets, used bookstores, Goodwill. Earlier this summer I had to stop myself from saving some volumes of Time Life's Foods of the World series, which I already own, from a “free pile” outside the Peaks Island branch of the Portland public library. They were eventually pulped, no doubt. What is it about cookbooks that makes them so irresistible? (more…) Read More...

Il n’y a pas de hors d’oeuvre

Dinner parties, deconstructed
"23 November 2004 A digression ('I need not apologize for the digression -- it has been my plan throughout this work'). Plutarch could never forgive Herodotus, the father of history, for suggesting that the Egyptians could be better hosts than the Greeks. 'The host must hurry [l'hote doit se hater],' Derrida says on 17 January 1996 in his lectures on hospitality ... Hospitality is always a matter of urgency, always a question of speeds. The unexpected guests arrive and there is always a rush of activity: a hurried welcoming at the door, a quick cleaning up, a surreptitious rearranging or putting back into order, a preparing of food and drink. But even when the guest is expected, has been expected for a long time, there is a sense of urgency. The guests arrive -- always too early or too late,… Read More...

It Ought to Be Called Vice Cream

The scoop on how a familiar frozen treat once got respectable folk all hot under the collar
The scoop on how a familiar frozen treat once got respectable folk all hot under the collar Summer has arrived in Maine and I've dug out my ice cream maker. This ice cream maker was a gift. And like many gifts, it's also somewhat of a curse. It coaxes me into making ice cream every two or three days. This means I must also eat a pint of ice cream every two or three days. I try to make my ice cream healthier than usual, using stevia instead of sugar and coconut milk instead of cream. Still, it feels like an almost criminal indulgence. (more…) Read More...

The Eructator of Ice Cream

Bildungsroman meets brain freeze
"And they would go across the Square to the cool depth of the drugstore, stand before the onyx splendor of the fountain, under the revolving wooden fans, and drink chill gaseous beverages, limeade so cold it made the head ache, or foaming ice-cream soda, which returned sharp delicious belches down his tender nostrils." --Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel (1929) Read More...

Breakfast in Bedlam

Asylum inmates of yesteryear were none too crazy about the food served them
Asylum inmates of yesteryear were none too crazy about the food served them What did the insane eat? In Bram Stoker's Dracula we find the lunatic Renfield dining on flies and spiders. Ken Kesey describes attendants bringing "identical trays of muddy-looking food" to asylum patients in his One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. And in her memoir of her time in a psychiatric ward, Girl, Interrupted, Susanna Kaysen recalls "cutting old tough beef with a plastic knife, then scooping it onto a plastic fork." (more…) Read More...

Digestive Track

Meals on the go are good in theory
"A travelling incarceration. Immobile inside the train, seeing immobile things slip by. What is happening? Nothing is moving inside or outside the train. "The unchanging traveller is pigeonholed, numbered, and regulated in the grid of the railway car, which is a perfect actualization of the rational utopia. Control and food move from pigeonhole to pigeonhole: 'Tickets, please ...' 'Sandwiches? Beer? Coffee? ...' Only the restrooms offer an escape from the closed system. They are a lovers' phantasm, a way out for the ill, an escapade for children ('Wee-wee!') -- a little space of irrationality, like love affairs and sewers in the Utopias of earlier times."--Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life (1980) Read More...

A Short History of the Dining Room (Part 2)

The turn of the last century saw the dining room go from a haven in a heartless world to a fueling station for factory work
The turn of the last century saw the dining room go from a haven in a heartless world to a fueling station for factory work To read part 1, click here. One summer day in 1894 Walter Post took out a line of credit. The Northern Pacific railroad clerk wanted to spruce up the six-room house he shared with his young wife, Ulilla (neé Carl and known fondly as “Lillie”). To Schuneman and Evans, the department store extending him the loan, he pledged repayment in 60 days’ time. (more…) Read More...

Lost in the Supermarket

In store, circular
"I was let off near a supermarket. It was dark. I was standing comfortably enough, looking at the neon lights, but I needed a direction, the hint of some discernible habit, a movement of some kind. A place to stand but at the same time to appear busy. I have no memories, only vague symbols of separations: an overturned kitchen table, a ripped bed sheet, a broken battleship abandoned at the bottom of a bathtub. I went into the supermarket. The aisles were crowded with evening shoppers. There was Muzak. I slid into the warm colors and the clicks of the cash registers. I tried to remember near the frozen foods, I am trying to remember, what it was I had to remember, but I had forgotten what I had gone in for, what it is exactly I have to… Read More...