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June 20, 2003

I couldn't have said it better myself

Although perhaps it's a little dismaying to learn that Joseph Conrad, author of one of my favorite novels, had some crackpot ideas, including that Native Americans engaged in various acts of raiding and headhunting because their wives were in desperate need of some home ec classes, this beautiful essay by Julian Barnes is exactly the sort of thing I was trying to get at with my food as medicine post the other day.

An example:

Philip Larkin believed "Poetry is an affair of sanity", as opposed to what he called (after a phrase from Evelyn Waugh) the "very mad, very holy" school. Cooking too is an affair of sanity - even literally so. Stella Bowen once knew a poet in Montparnasse who had suffered a nervous breakdown and been incarcerated in a clinic. After his release, he lived in a room overlooking the street, opposite a boulangerie. The poet dated his recovery from the moment when, gazing out of his window, he saw a woman going in to buy bread. He felt, he told Bowen, "unutterably envious of the interest she was taking in the choosing of a loaf".

That's what it's about. You choose a loaf. You are reckless with the butter. You reduce the kitchen to chaos. You try not to waste scraps. You feed your friends and family. You sit around a table engaged in the irreducible social act of sharing food with others. For all the cavils and caveats, Conrad was right. It is a moral act. It is an affair of sanity. Let him have the last word. "The intimate influence of conscientious cookery," he wrote, "promotes the serenity of mind, the graciousness of thought, and that indulgent view of our neighbour's failings which is the only genuine form of optimism. Those are its titles to our reverence."

Sigh. To write with such eloquence would make me very happy indeed.

Posted by paulette at June 20, 2003 02:03 PM | TrackBack
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