Posts Tagged ‘Food Philosophy’


Hi, I’m Barry Fig. It’s been a wonderful New Years and I’ve had a great time.  Even though they forced me to wear this outfit.

I just wanted to say a few words, dudes. I used to be a human being too. But somewhere along the way while I was trying to make the world’s biggest cheese doodle, something happened and here I am.  A dog. And now a dog dressed up like a flying pig.

I tried to hang around with everyone at the New Year’s party but they pretty much kept throwing me bits of chicken from their plates and making coo-coo noises at me. I wanted to talk, dudes. I needed some serious communication to happen.

Nobody realized a thing that was sort of important. I’m not just here for the food. Food is great, but it’s only a part of it all. Chicken alone, no matter how great it is, just doesn’t cut it.

I used to like to cook, when I was a real dude. One day this chick showed me a poem that really pissed me off because it was sort of anti-cooking. I couldn’t stand her after that. Even though her legs . . . well, nevermind, dudes.

Here’s the start of the poem.  It must be wearing pink that made me remember it today.

All over America women are burning dinners.

It’s lambchops in Peoria; it’s haddock

in Providence; it’s steak in Chicago;

tofu delight in Big Sur; red

rice and beans in Dallas.

All over America women are burning

food they’re supposed to bring with calico

smile on platters glittering like wax.

It really pissed me off when this chick told me this poem because, well . . . it was like a slap in the face. I like to eat. I like to be cooked for. I can’t imagine anyone not loving to cook for me. Or, I guess – I couldn’t at the time, dudes. It didn’t make sense.

But wearing this pink costume and begging for scraps, and getting the scraps which were pretty damn delicious but nevermind it simply wasn’t what I wanted I wanted to be taken seriously – this poem came to my mind, guys.

What I’m saying is, take me seriously, even though I’m cute and wearing fluffy pink stuff. Talk to me like I was real, like I was one of you.

I’m not just here for the food.
Barry Fig

The poem What’s that smell in the kitchen by Marge Piercy can be found in its entirety here on Google books as excerpt from Arlene Voski Akavian’s book Through the Kitchen Window.

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Finding a vocabulary for meaning, within the subject of food, is not as easy as making a souffle. Food as food as food is one thing – the collection of words for the physical sensation of eating is a wide one (and a wonderfully extravagant one at its best!). If there is doubt in anyone’s mind as to this fact, a quick roll through MFK Fisher should dull the edges of disbelief.

But there is more than eating, there is more than taste. There is more than texture and color and science and heat and there is even more than the finest meal one ever ate. There is also (believe it or not!) more than the finest meal one ever cooked.

What on earth is this thing?


Food has meaning, and that is where mystery comes in the door.

‘Meaning’ is a flitty thing, a thing that soars and moans, grinds and bites, soothes and delineates. ‘Meaning’ stands real over time. It is rarely erasable. It is the proverbial worm in the apple while remaining as the private port in a storm.

How to take the meaning out of the box to look at it, is the question.

Trying to do this can feel like having numbed fingers and blind eyes while trying to open an ostrich egg with the slightest crack on its rough hardened shell. Fumbling away, pulling at the edges, no tools to use but knowing that if only it could be opened then voila! You are on your way to making your own sort of ostrich egg souffle. This souffle might not be to everyone’s taste when done but it would certainly be a wonderfully messy experiment – a fine way to pass the day.

Symbols represent meaning, though they do not pin it down exactly. They do, however, shape it into a slightly more manageable form.

The downside is that writing about symbols occurs mostly in academia and the reading of it feels as if one is becoming immured in some horrid deadly musty place where your eyes become heavy, a place where a nap is quickly required if you want to live even a moment longer, a place where if you don’t escape quickly enough you might be subject to having a conniption which would leave you febrile, weak and unintelligible for the rest of all time co-mingling and stuck forever in the Land of Academic Writing.

Here is an essay on Food and Meaning for those curious to read about it – it is academic but one can still emerge unscathed if you go in with a cautious eye and a nose ready for trouble. It actually is amazingly good.

Food Choice, Symbolism, and Identity by Michael Owen Jones

Sadly, there are only fifteen pages here of the entirety of the piece. I’m not sure how long the whole thing is – but even as a single mouthful the piece is quite meaty. It’s a good start to a vocabulary of  meaning (and the symbols which represent it) within Food.

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The Fast Food Feminist posted a collection of links to sugar plum recipes last year around this time – along with some philosophic musings.

Here is the post:

Sugar: Many Ways of Sweetness

Photo Flickr-Phil Gyford

Are there different ways to be “sweet”? Women are defined in general presumption to be like the rhyme “sugar and spice and everything nice” (whether we wish to be or not)(personally I have no problem with the sugar or spice part but that word “nice” does tend to grate on my nerves)(nice nice nice blech)(reminds me of how guys sometimes look at a girl and say “Smile!” to her. Pah. Smile yourself, my friend.)

Does sugar have more than one flavor or bite?

I decided to look to sugarplums for wisdom.

Sugarplums are thought of as a Christmas sweet – though many people have never seen or tasted one. What are they?

Fast Food Feminist put on her detective hat to find out.
Food Reference.com tells us that sugarplums were originally sugar coated coriander, rather like the sugar coated seeds which many know from the end of a meal at an Indian restaurant. In olden times these were called “comfits”. Comforting things.

tells us that Queen Isabella and Benjamin Franklin loved sugarplums. I’m not sure whether that fact will make me run out to chow down on some, though the examples shown are well-rounded and solidly bourgeois and even look as if one alone might make a delicious meal.
has a different take on the sugarplum, saying they may have been actual plums preserved in sugar. I wish sugar could preserve me, too, but so far there is no proof that this could occur.

website has an excellent recipe for sugarplums made in the Victorian fashion (always so jolly, you know) that includes crystallized ginger, which I personally adore. It’s pretty fast to make, too.

Those who prefer the intellectual gourmandism of Saveur Magazine
will likely swear by the recipe provided in their forums.

There is a blogger named Sugarplum
who this year did not make sugarplums at all but who instead provided sweetness in life through cranberry-pistachio bark, a recipe I too know and love, as much for its fastness as for its foodie-ness and imagined femininity though of course one does have to imagine a bit to guess at that.
knows sugarplums as wild plums to be gathered from the fertile earth, then to be carefully laid out, sugared and dried. A simple feast, an earthy thing of honor.

The women who write in the Traditional Witches Forum
speak of the same ingredients and technique for sugarplums as Saveur does. Which brings to mind the question: Does a rose by any other name smell as sweet?

Playing on the sweetness and light of sugarplums,
gives us a recipe for Sugarplum Tofu with Udon. Another way of sweetness, this one with a corporate relations link at the top of the page.

Sugarplums are many things, of differing varieties.

Therefore sugar apparently is as you like it, if we follow the wisdom of sugarplums.

There have been a few changes since last year: Whole Foods changed the title of their recipe to not include the word ‘sugarplum’ but rather just ‘plum’. I wonder why. Was the word ‘sugarplum’ just a bit too perky for Whole Paycheck Foods? Oh well. Likely we’ll never know.

And the link to the sugarplum recipe from Diary of a Kentucky Cook is now here.

Sugarplums always start their rounds this time of year – the visions of them created by the well-known poem, dancing round in our heads – is so warming, so old fashioned, so slow food. But sugarplums are fast food.

They are so easily made in the home kitchen today. Most recipes are just chop stir shape for the most part.

It’s funny to think of sugarplums being fast food.

Now if I had to grow the ingredients that went into them, or if I had to dry or shell things, or chop down sugarcane or even peel and distill the stuff to make sugar, then to my mind sugarplums would be slow food.

Actually I’m sort of glad that sugarplums are fast food. I don’t have a whole lot of time around the holidays and no wish to wear an apron (or chefs coat for that matter) for two or three weeks straight.

So I will dream of fast food tonight.

Sugarplums. They dance in my head, and rather quickly too!

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If you have not yet read Ferran Adria’s

philosophy on food for yourself but merely heard bits and pieces you can find the whole at elbulli.com (which is quite an enterprise of a site with a serious corporate air about it).

It is titled ‘Synthesis of elBulli cuisine’.

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