eat and night Profissonel 2019/2020/2030

The Gastronomic Default

Leaving Epicurus aside for the moment, and relying on minimal observations, what might foodies believe? If they started thinking at the table, where might it lead? What might diners at the Meal at Yport decide about the world, or at least what might those who identify with the dappled tableau work out? Experience would probably teach attentive diners that good food in good company can be immensely satisfying. They can feel at one with the world. This is what life is all about, they might reflect, even if only rhetorically. They might also learn the benefits of moderation, given that over-indulgence brings discomfort. In confronting the stomach’s definite limit, they might contrast this with the endless fantasies of more figurative forms of greed, especially for wealth and power. Such prandial discoveries are at least plausible. Quickly tiring of dining alone, gourmands would come to treasure companionship. Not only is friendship both pleasant and necessary, but it is typically maintained at the table. We often make and keep friends by sharing meals. There is no great loss, and much good humor, in serving others first, in looking after your neighbor. Hosts can positively glow with generosity. That is, on a social level, foodies seek out companionship and manage it using unstarched guidelines, a sensible etiquette that adds up to a view of ethics. Supplying the table necessitates social mechanisms, too, so that not only potluck dinners demonstrate that the ostensibly selfish needs of the stomach are most effectively served communally. At some ontological level, observant gourmets might be humbled by nature – by white peaches, by champagne, and, more generally, by season, terroir, and careful cultivation. Reflecting that the roast turkey (or whatever awaits on the Yport table) was only recently gobbling, they might detect a gobble-and-be-gobbled world. Nature is not so much dog-eat-dog, but layered and interdependent. In this metabolic universe, the sunlight makes the wheat grow, and the seed turn into bread, while the poultry finds missed and spilled grain, before being sacrificed, and so on. Thoughtful diners might decide that ecological cycles conserve matter, which supports some idea about the indestructibility of primary particles. Diners might also sniff out, literally by olfactory means, some notion of atoms. Epicurus, the Foodies’ Philosopher 2 Attentive diners have probably already found themselves learning through observation, satisfaction, and conversation rather than through ideologies and dogmas, and are not overawed by political and religious authority, preferring reclusive reassurances. Through their gardening, purchasing, cooking, and sharing, serious foodies have developed a workable understanding of the world, a broad set of findings, encompassing much, and all connected through the table. This somewhat systematic set of viewpoints, which might be termed the foodie or epicurean default, would be relatively culturally independent, given that every individual confronts the same demands of hunger, collectively met within the one metabolic universe, and teaching elementary ideas about moderation, the golden rule, and so on. These table-top tenets mesh noticeably with those of Epicurus and also of many other meal-oriented commentators before and since. Accordingly, in praise of gastronomic simplicity, Epicurus wrote to an unknown recipient: “Send me some preserved cheese, that when I like I may have a feast.”11 Being satisfied by a piece of cheese has been said to prove that Epicurus was not an epicure. On the contrary, the same request has been recorded by any number of unquestioned foodies. The inventor of ‘aristology’ (study of dining), Thomas Walker, wrote in his weekly London newspaper, The Original, in 1835: “Some good bread and cheese, and a jug of ale, comfortably set before me, and heartily given, are heaven on earth.” As a more recent example, the culinary theologian Robert Farrar Capon praised “the plainest things in the world, prepared with care and relished for what they are.” A good cheese, he wrote in The Supper of the Lamb in 1969, might “recall man to the humbleness of his grandeur and the greatness of his low estate . . . May you be spared long enough to know at least one long evening of old friends, dark bread, good wine, and strong cheese.” The various types of belly worshippers have been vilified in much the same ways. Epicurus defended his own epicurean tendencies in the “Letter to Menoeceus”: When, therefore, we maintain that pleasure is the end, we do not mean the pleasures of profligates and those that consist in sensuality, as is supposed by some who are either ignorant or disagree with us or do not understand, . . . For it is not continuous drinkings and revellings

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