Gopnik on eating

” … gastronomy is the great adventure of desire. Its subject is simple: the table is the place where a need becomes a want. Something we have to do — eat — becomes something we care to do — dine — and then something we care to do becomes something we try to do with…

Turkey

“What a shocking fraud the turkey is. In life, preposterous, insulting — that foolish noise they make. In death, unpalatable — practically no taste except a dry fibrous flavour reminiscent of a mixture of warmed up plaster-of-paris and horsehair. The texture is like wet sawdust and the whole vast feathered swindle has the piquancy of…

In defence of the epicure

“The epicure is not a man who thinks of, and lives for, his belly alone; he is not a sensualist for whom dinner is merely an elaborate prelude to sexual passion; he is not a hedonist who sees life as a succession of pleasurable sensations obtained by hook, crook, or levitation … He is simply…

Raymond Tallis on hunger

“The complex history of humanity and of our individual lives is most essentially the history of our hungers, and our endeavours to satisfy them. Our accidental and accident-prone lives begin not with a cry of joy, or surprise at our existence, but of need. From our first breath to our last we are enclosed in…

A monk and a pig

The 18th century Frenchman Grimod de La Reynière is said to be the father of modern food journalism. He certainly told a good story. He had one about the “subtle Capuchin”, a monk with a quick but less-than-subtle wit. He was taunted by a group of youthful rascals who provided a spit-roasted suckling pig, warning that whatever…

Johnson on his belly

“Some people… have a foolish way of not minding, or pretending not to mind, what they eat. For my part, I mind my belly very studiously, and very carefully; for I look upon it that he that does not mind his belly will hardly mind anything else.” Dr Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) was an English poet, essayist,…

Memory in the kitchen

In the most recent issue of the wonderful Bread Wine & Thou is a beautifully written piece by Melbourne writer Ramona Barry. In it she recounts her journey with cancer and its impact upon her family’s life at the table.  It is an extraordinarily moving piece, and there is really nothing to do but go…

Food: the time of our lives

This morning I had breakfast. At midday or thereabouts I’ll have lunch, and then tonight, once home from work, I’ll make dinner for the family. In between there’ll be breaks for coffee, and then, if I am as undisciplined as usual, a late evening raid on the refrigerator.  No doubt, what I eat and drink from…

Gopnik on taste

‘None of us can escape the web of competitive, cyclical, counterintuitive, imitative relations that shape the social role of taste. There is no privileged space from which we can look down and say, Your tastes are trends, my tastes are truths. All taste effects depend on contexts. The smell in our nose changes the taste…

Cicero in favour of dinner parties

“Really Paetus, I implore you to spend time in honest, pleasant and friendly company. … I am not thinking of the physical pleasure, but of community life and habit, and of mental recreation, of which familiar conversation is the most effective agent; and conversation is at its most agreeable at dinner parties. In this respect…

Visser on food and civilisation

“Food is ‘everyday’ — it has to be, or we would not survive for long. But food is never just something to eat. It is something to find or hunt or cultivate first of all; for most of human history we have spent a much longer portion of our lives worrying about food, and plotting,…

McDonald’s and religious ritual?

I’m no fan of Macca’s. Frankly, I would rather go without than line up for a Big Mac. But with close to a thousand outlets around Australia, I’m sure management is not overly concerned with my indifference. What’s more, my son has worked at a local franchise for the past couple of years. Likely he’s…

Poole’s ‘You Aren’t What You Eat’

Not long ago I read Stephen Poole’s biting little book You Aren’t What You Eat: Fed Up with Gastroculture. In the final chapter I scrawled in the margins ‘I am drenched with sarcasm’. Truly, it drips from every page. Still, despite the lasting damp, Poole’s critique should be heard. Poole takes aim at the current cultural obsessions with…

Southern Fare III

With my beloved far away in rural Texas, I’ve been re-reading Michael Lee West’s Consuming Passions, a delightfully written memoir of food and family in the South. It makes me wish even more I was there with her. West’s personal observations about gender in the kitchens of her Tennessee childhood illustrate how much has changed in…

Barbecue: Heaven in the South

I’ve confessed already, I’m a lover of meat.  Given my natural preference for the finer things, it’s a crass confession.  But there it is. One of my enduring memories of Texas, the home state of my beloved, is of the great Southern tradition of barbecue.  Not the backyard variety of charred sausages, sauce and bad coleslaw…

In Praise of Meat

Last night we had lamb for dinner. It was a small, rolled cut stuffed with a combination of breadcrumbs, walnuts and dried fruits, fresh herbs and generous handfuls of onion and garlic. It was delicious. I love the smell of lamb roasting in the oven. It comes with powerful associations … not so much memories as feelings….