In Ruth Reichl’s first novel, Delicious!, the protagonist coyly alludes to a secret gingerbread recipe. At the end of the book, she shares it. Reichl joins a large, diverse party of writers who’ve referenced gingerbread in a non-cookbooks. There’s Chaucer ( “royal spicery/ Of gingerbread that was full fine/ Cumin and licorice, I opine…”), Shakespeare (“…had I but one penny in the world, thou should’st have… Read More
How we feed our hungers and what we feed them with, is rooted in every part of human life.
History, agriculture, environment; ethnicity, class; community and family, celebration and famine, health and disease, religion and ritual, ethics and economics, migration and science: look to food and you’ll find these and countless other connections between what we eat and who we are.
Look to Deep Feast, and you’ll find provocative discussion about this. Almost anything could be on the table we’ll share here.
Does Deep Feast contain recipes? Sure, you’ll find some here. What about ooh-and-ahh photographs of, say, pear-cherry upside-down cake, or illustrated pictorials of step-by-step how-tos, like, say, how to make, and put up, green tomato mincemeat? Sure, you’ll find some of that here, too.
But there are good recipes and gorgeous photographs on many, many other food and cooking blogs (indeed, we explore, and link to, some of them here).
Deep Feast, though, is “writing the world through food.”
Deep Feast’s food writing includes, but transcends, the recipe.
In every bite we eat — whether it’s a wedge of skillet-sizzled buttermilk cornbread with beans and a green onion on the side, a Big Mac, or local artisanal sheep’s milk cheese on a homemade oatmeal cracker with a crisp Northern Spy apple from your own orchard — we take in not just (hopefully) nourishment and pleasure, but connection with our world.
In every bite we eat, we sign, over and over, a usually unrecognized contract. That contract inheres in inhabiting a body on earth: you eat, and are, eventually, eaten. Ashes or flesh and bones return to that same earth, to become sustenance for other creatures who will also, in their turn, eat and be eaten.
In every bite we eat, we confirm the story of life: both an individual life and life itself. This story is told over and over again. Meal by meal, bite by bite, plate by plate. This story is always particular and universal. This story is many stories — some of which we explore in Deep Feast.
For this is where the narrative of humanity begins: food, shelter, and story. Our forbears killed the mammoths (food), dragged them back to the cave (shelter), and then painted what they had done on the ceiling (story).
It’s this last act that makes us human. All other animals, after all, also seek food and shelter. But we Homo sapiens also feel that third component, and with deep urgency: to narrate, whether through art, oral storytelling, or writing, what happened to us. To explore why; to discover who we are. In this exploration, though we may serve food, food serves us, and serves us generously.
We need the arc of beginning, middle, and end, because, as human beings, we are aware that we had a beginning, live (and eat) somewhere in the middle, and will meet an end. Because we are aware of our mortality, we are, as anthropologist Roy A. Rappaport wrote, “meaning-making animals.”
Let’s make meaning together.
Let’s make dinner. Let's talk, as we gather around a table as big as the world.
Let’s celebrate, together, the Deep Feast: life itself, the whole world, bite by bite.
“Um, Bill, so it turns out I have to be in Nashville this winter, for a month or so,” I said to my old friend, who lives alone (contentedly), in a small house in that city. “I was wondering, could I possibly stay with you?” “You know I love you… ” said Bill. He, and I, let the words hang. We… Read More
This is the second of four poundcake-centric posts. Poundcake and the usual: life, death, love. This is also the one with the actual recipe. If a poundcake recipe is so good that Maurice Sendak (see related post) is willing to give you the rights to quote of anything he wrote, in perpetuity, why, even if thirty years had passed since… Read More
Janus, the Roman god who gave January its name, was two-faced. Not in the saying-mean-things-behind-someone’s back way: rather, he had two faces on either side of his handsome head. Thus, he could look forward, into the future, and backwards, into the past. Notice, though, he had no face for “now”, which is — moment to moment, second by second —… Read More
I’ve never been much for New Year’s resolutions. But when it comes to hosting a nice, relaxed New Year’s Day brunch, that’s a whole different kettle of black-eyed peas. To the first point, resolutions. To me, the two most sacred phrases in our language are begin again and start over. So the idea that an entire culture would set aside… Read More