Sunday, April 7, 2013


this months poetrysciencetalk reminded me what a joy it is speaking the language of food. Each month at these events I reach out to the presenter hoping to jumpstart a dialogue about the menu. I'm looking to iron out the specifics of what I might cook, but also by talking menu I hope, in a kind of 'ingredient shorthand' to have a larger conversation that reflects our personalities and illuminates where our viewpoints merge. We all know sharing food creates bridges and I like to think these bridges are also built talking about food. All one need do is mention an ingredient and suddenly you're placed like a map-pin at a particular vantage point on the time/space continuum.     

This months erudite pst speaker proposed to "look at the future of art, science, politics, medicine, and psychiatry in the emergent practices of Schizoanalysis, Orgonomy, Theosophy, Psychedelia, and Autopoesis and present a vision of possible utopian political-economic communities."   I knew I was in over my head... like what!!? Where in this was inspiration for supper?  Fortunately in his 'presentation description' the speaker mentioned Hegel, Nietzsche, and German Romanticism, which I latched onto and sent an email proposing slow-cooked traditional German: Sauerbraten, sweet-n-sour cabbage and herbed spatzel.  
But "No," he replied, "how 'bout something futuristic or sci-fi instead?" 
Which got me thinking: molecular gastronomy, Frankenfood and highly processed simulacra (cheezzzefood anyone?) In a brief volley of current buzz words: pharmaceuticals, fermentation, DIY, we pieced together an outline: the future, hippy commune, macrobiotic, Japan, California, psychedelic... 
Still even this needed coloring-in. I suggested dumpster diving and Mad Max and he countered with Barbarella- which gave me enough to begin.

Next I had the pleasure of sitting down with a food writer friend for a conversation figuring what the future might hold. We grappled with trends and ingredients to cobble an idea for a meal, a poem intertwining anxiety with hope: spiraling allergens, sodium alginate, probiotic smoothies, bacon decadence, shrink-wrap.
kelp noodles for the wild mushroom miso 

Spirulina tabs: highly nutrient-dense algae

Often I'm answered with a shrug when I try to engage a non-food person in foodspeak. Its not that they don't want to respond, its that its unfamiliar to think that food is encoded with layered iconographic meanings. Whereas they hear 'green papaya pad thai' (one of the dishes I served) and think "I like pad thai, I hate cilantro," or "green papaya?" I think about immigration waves, the economic disparities of manual labor (my fingers blistered during the hours spent hand cutting papaya shreds) and dietary roller-coasters where lower carb. gluten free green papaya is celebrated as an invention in swank trendsetting Brooklyn restaurants even though A. green papaya has been consumed all over Southeast Asia for centuries and B. pad thai is traditionally made with rice noodles which are gluten free anyway.

I was criticized by one of the pst co-founders who'd been cc'd on the original Sauerbraten email. True, he's a meddler, and also maybe he tastes sour grapes at how much fun I have conversing with the presenters, but he also just doesn't speak food. He read my list of selections as a fait accompli, accusing me of leaving the presenter out of the process. Too bad he couldn't hear the list I'd emailed as me humming a few bars enticing the presenter to hum along until we found a tune to sing together.
The menu included probiotic cocoa, avocado, and coconut milk smoothies,
bacon pecan brownies, and individually wrapped sticks of ginseng chewing gum.
Folks loved the meal. But they always do, each time more than the next. They are a remarkably non-critical appreciative audience happy at being fed (which is not to say they are placid or unthinking- the pst crowd is an amazingly esotericly intelligent and engaged group!) They enjoy hearing my brief pre-supper spiels describing each months menu in part because they are fascinated hearing foodspeak where food as signifier is expressively edible.

1 comment:

  1. The kelp noodles made me think of the kelp forest of the Pacific. Your post makes me wonder if what you notice is part of something larger pertaining the changing not only of our language but of how we speak, how we construct the world through speech. To be continued (right?)