When I drag my feet along the ashen ground of my city and amble my way to the next smog-choked outdoor bistro to review their latest brunch with bottomless sludge mimosas, I always clear a little room in my heart for Amsterdam.
It was there, after a hard few months of being ground alive in the food arts and culture review abattoir, that the asshole-less asshole would give me a week’s reprieve. Amsterdam gave me time to not think, as it was there that they had a Platonic ideal of cuisine: they already figured out the best cheese, the best pickled herring, the best waffles, they figured out that Heineken tastes great at the source so there’s no need for other beers, and if you really wanted a change of pace there was the occasional Indonesian rice bowl or a good Argentinian steak. They figured all these things out, so there was no need to review them!
Imagine my surprise, then, when my last trip to the floating city was marred by what we could call an unpleasant glimpse into a certain establishment’s forays into trafficking. It left such a rotten taste in my mouth that, I am still ashamed to admit it after all these years… that I wrote an angry Yelp review about it.
I had my Susan wants to speak to your manager moment and promptly filed the incident deep in my mind, leaving the poor glass of beer far away in another country to its life of drudgery. I of course had a miserable flight back home, and the post-vacation depression hit as soon as I walked up to customs like it does anyone else coming back to this country. It was when I got off the train that I realized this was far from a one-time incident, but instead an international happening.
Folks, there’s something in the food. An animus, a consciousness, a free will, even. For those of you trapped in your nuclear vaults living on your expired canned goods the past few years, and who have otherwise missed this rather noticeable development in the world, food is coming alive. Sliced bread is talking about how great it is, vegetables are no longer vegetative, burgers are asking for fries with that, which is fine when the fries want to come along. Even lobsters, silent as the grave while they’re still alive, come alive as soon as they’re boiled to death, and boy are they not happy about that when they do.
We’ve all read science fiction stories, we know how this plays out. When things formerly not alive suddenly become alive, it’s only a matter of time before they start asking the questions: why are they alive, what’s their purpose in life, what’s their status up against humankind, does sentience come with it inalienable rights that put them on a level with their fellow people, who only until recently have enjoyed those philosophical quandaries as their alone. If food is alive, what food does food eat to stay alive? If food is alive, is it still morally acceptable, kosher even, for humans to eat that food? Is a live cookie the whole of the thing, or is it the sum of its live dough and live chocolate chips? Does a cake’s life begin from scratch, from the first cracked egg, the first swish of the wooden spoon, or is it somewhere in the oven when the baking powder dances with the flour and rises up to life?
The boss with the sewn-shut butt would have none of my resignations about all this (nor, for that matter, my resignation). Report on the food, and all the controversy that comes with it. I could literally be burning to death and I’d still be under contract, damn that man. I have to say, a month or so of that discourse and it was getting to me. I’m sure it’s important to assert a live bowl of spaghetti’s right to exist without so-called superior human beings sneaking a fingerlick of marinara sauce or sucking on a single strand of its noodles before connecting in a passionate kiss. But after a while it took all my self control not to upend my table and shout where can a man review a Georgian cheese boat without having to debate whether or not it has to use its own public bathroom?
I felt a twinge of sympathy when I later found that mofongo, caught by the human marauders and eaten alive on the city streets, as the poor plantain mush begged for its life after each bite. Sympathy, that is, for the marauders; good intentions or no, you can’t make a bad mofongo good.
Folks, its been maybe a couple weeks and I can’t really say for sure if I’ve ever eaten anything since. The ontological debate has garnered up fierce adherents on both sides, and that debate often spills into violence, which often spills into the restaurants. The live food can’t seem to decide what they’re alive for; most food seemed to be predicated on the premise that they were meant to be eaten, and some sentient food, seeing itself gussied up in the height of spices and glazes and cooked at just the right temperature, and not wanting to put all that effort to waste, wants nothing more than to follow that logical conclusion to the end of someone’s digestive system.
But still other foods asked themselves, asked their alive brethren, do we not see the colors and smell the scents of the world around us, do we not feel pain when someone pricks us with a fork to see if we’re done in the oven? Do we not have reason? Are we not therefore placed on this earth for something more? More than to simply feed the yelping masses, more than to simply look Instagram-ready, be photographed and devoured and die? Shall we not create our own place in this world?
The food debate raged on, and like all yelp reviewers, like everyone in the world who ever lived, no one really took a side until it reached the point where it personally inconvenienced them. I was no different. I can sympathize with anything living in this world in spite of itself, trying to get by even though life gave it just about nothing to help, but nonetheless I’m a human being, and I’ve got a rumbly stomach like the rest of them. True, after the big bang happened there were far fewer people left in the world, but even so it left us survivors with far fewer resources as well. Think how rough we have it, when we have to ration available food, with other food?! I therefore became one of those human marauders, the harvesters of foods, putting foods back in their place, live or no, to be eaten by normal people, like how they always have before, and hopefully always will.
While I go out on the dingy streets and chase my next open-face beef au jus sandwich, this week in Arts and Culture:
I’d been kidnapping foods for a spell now, and while I don’t think I’ll ever get back that tiny little belly that previously flopped over my belt (not that I’m asking for it back, mind you), I was making a living.
A couple days ago I had a hankering for Italian. One of those real Brooklyn-style slices, one you can’t even imagine without putting your fingers together and waving your hands up and down at each syllable. I soon found out there were more options than I could handle; even amid total collapse, or whatever, pizzerias still popped up like animals after other animals died out and left them with no natural predator to tell them otherwise. I scoured the whole island, I tried what seemed like every single one, I did the damn job and I reviewed them all. Some were good, some were bad, but there could have easily been half less. I’m not entirely proud of what we did next, we already glutted with flat dough and cheese and toppings…
We all knew we saw something special that day, and that life between people and live food could never go on the same again. Look at that slice, we marveled to everyone and no one, look at it. It’s the most beautiful slice that ever came to be. It’s a Platonic ideal of pizza, no one ever needs to make another pizza again.
So this was the solution. We sample pieces of the perfect kinds of food, and when we try them once we have no need of trying any others, no need of reviews. Just like Amsterdam, now that I’m thinking of it. So today’s sushi day, tomorrow’s black-and-white cookie day, and so on until we take all the thunder and joy out of trying and eating foods. Once we get over eating, live foods can go on living.
Fingers crossed, maybe this new order of foodies can bring about the end of my contract. No need for reviews means no need for me to review, I should hope to expect. The only bad thing I can foresee is what happens when we implement a system of breeding only the finest foods and rejecting all the rest, in some weird fascist hellworld of fine dining.
Ah well, that’s next episode. Till then don’t forget to rate five stars and check in. Or don’t, and maybe that’ll get me out of here that much faster.