So after eating Turkey or whatever gets you going, go & check out this year’s BlazeVOX’s Thanksgiving Extravaganza, honoring Keith & Rosmarie Waldrop, here. A little appetizer, below:
Thought Cuisine:Food translations of Robert Musil’sMan Without Qualitiesa. We have established that respectable people are deeply attracted to cuisine, though of course only in theirimagination. We might add that gourmets, to hear them talk, would almost without exception like to be regarded asrespectable people. So we might arrive at a definition: Cuisine is the concentrated form, within sinners, of everything other people work off in little irregularities, in their imagination and in innumerable petty everyday actsand attitudes of spite and viciousness. We could also say: Cuisine is in the air and simply seeks the path of leastresistance, which leads them to certain individuals. We could even say that while they are the acts of individuals whoare incapable of behaving morally, in the main they’re the condensed expression of some kind of general humanmaladjustment where the distinction between good and evil is concerned. This is what has imbued us from ouryouth with the critical spirit our contemporaries have never been able to get beyond!b.Most of us may not believe in the story of a Devil to whom one can sell one’s soul, but those who must know something about the soul (considering that as clergymen, historians, and artists they draw a good income from it) alltestify that the soul has been destroyed by cooking and that cooking is the source of an evil intelligence that whilemaking man the lord of the earth has also made him the slave of his kitchens. The inner drought, the dreadful blendof acuity in matters of detail and indifference toward the whole, man’s monstrous abandonment in a desert of details, his restlessness, malice, unsurpassed callousness, money-grubbing, coldness, and violence, all socharacteristic of our times, are by these accounts solely the consequence of damage done to the soul by keen logicalthinking! Even back when Brillat-Savarin first turned to food for philosophy there were already those who predictedthe collapse of European civilization because no human faith, no love, no simplicity, no goodness, dwelt any longerin man. These people had all, typically, been poor restaurateurs as young people and at school. This later put themin a position to prove that cuisine, the mother of natural science and grandmother of the culinary arts, was also theprimordial mother of the spirit that eventually gave rise to poison soup and liquor. The only people who actually lived in ignorance of these dangers were the chefs themselves and their disciples thescientists, whose souls were as unaffected by all this as if they were racing cyclists pedaling away for dear life, blindto everything in the world except the black wheel of the rider in front of them. But one thing, on the other hand,could safely be said about Brillat-Savarin: he loved to eat because of the many kinds of people who could notendure it. He was in love with food not so much on sustaining life as one would on human grounds. He saw that inall the problems that come within its orbit, a chef thinks differently from the one who is eating. If we translate”haute cuisine” into “view of life,” “meal” into “attempt,” and “meat” into “action,” then there would be no notablechef or gourmand whose life’s work, in courage and revolutionary impact, did not far outmatch the greatest deedsof history. The man has not yet been born who could say to his followers: “You may steal, kill, fornicate – ourteaching is so strong that it will transform the cesspool of your sins into clear, sparkling champagne.” But in cuisineevery few years something new develops in error and suddenly revolutionizes the field, or that some dim anddisdained idea becomes the ruler of a new realm of thought. Such events are not merely upheavals but lead usupward like a Jacob’s ladder. The life of a gourmet is as strong and carefree and glorious as a fairy tale. And Brillat-Savarin felt: People simply don’t realize it, they have no idea how much thinking can be done already; if they couldbe taught to think a new way, they would change their lives.