Reads, Writes, Eats and Cooks
If we all just ate for mere nourishment there would be no need for the culinary crafts, no need for critics, no need for gourmet groceries or special tools, television shows, recipe books, blogs, festivals….candy or ice-cream. Yummy food embodies choice and ability, as well as decadence and gluttony. We can’t but want to share a delicious meal with our loved ones. Who among us hasn’t reached across the table with a loaded fork and said “try this”? Ironically, we can only share the experience of a delicious bite if we are willing to part with it. The structure of shared taste is grounded in limiting self-interest. Sharing at the table can be an ethically beautiful moment. Sure, there is the compulsion for aesthetic gastronomic agreement that aims to solicit common identity. If you like the food on my plate, you accept my taste and by extension me. Related to this compulsive search for commonality, I suspect the multi-dish restaurant experience of sharing is a 20th century phenomena in contrast to the the rustic biblical images of breaking a shared loaf of bread together. Sharing has become complex and discursive. It is not merely chewing the same meal or reaching from the same plate but rather pondering our shared and divergent experiences of “yummy” at the very same table. Sharing food from another’s plate implies a level of intimacy. Many people don’t welcome the intrusion into their plate and or taste (this makes me think of an episode of Modern Family). This weekend I’ve been reading Carolyn Korsmeyer’s Making Sense of Taste: Food and Philosophy. Her book offers a wonderful philosophical history about the meaning of food and warns against overly romantic notions of the shared table. After all, poison and cannibalism are instances when food is weaponized. Still, I think, as African American culinary chef and historian, Micheal Twitty reminds us, “yummy” retains its enslaved African American roots of cajoling young children to “yum-yum”…. to eat. I remember my youngest, when learning how to feed herself would always offer a cold wet, baby drool laden noodle with her uncertain little hand to me, her dad or her sister. While I may not have always wanted to accept the wet noodle, I still appreciate the gesture. I’m sure you have pictures of your kids feeding you, as you have fed them. Beautiful primal and human moment, isn’t it?