Monday, September 8
We hung out in Selleck Hall for a while last night. The Czechs were cooking, and by the time everyone showed up there must have been twenty people in the room. I only counted seven nationalities, but I feel like I must be forgetting someone. The food was good.
(Stating the obvious: It's common to heap scorn on American food, even for people who eat the stuff regularly and seem to enjoy it. Of course there are sufficient reasons, if you take a narrow view of what constitutes "American food":
They are entirely capable of excellence, but percentage-wise hamburgers and french fries deserve the contempt. So does the bread most people seem to eat, the processed lunchmeat, and the vast assemblage of frozen, powdered, pulped, and overpackaged mediocrities that too many of us somehow live on. There are few things more insipid than what pass for vegetables in the freezer section of your average supermarket, or most of the substances masquerading as cheese here.
And then there's the chain eatery / McDonald's / convenience store obsession with ever more ridiculous portions, the ascendancy of the rigorously formulaic themed franchise, the obsession with any one of a dozen badly understood schemes for "healthy" eating, and all the bad beer. None of this defines American food in any absolute sense, but it sure hell serves to disguise its better elements1.)
I grew up in a family with a deep-seated love of food, a constant awareness of and concern for it, almost a liturgical or sacramental kind of relationship to the stuff. Not necessarily in some mystical sense but in the way it always marked the cycle of the year, the highs and lows of life, the way church calendars used to. I guess you can argue about how healthy this is, or how much of it is overcompensation (how many generations are any of us really removed from constant worry about hunger?) but it makes up my basic experience and it still startles me a little whenever I stumble across something different.
That said, it is only lately that I'm getting the idea of how worthwhile it is to prepare good food and share it. I guess it has always been in the background, but it took me this long to notice.