chapter ii

chapter ii


Food for Thought

Did you watch Top Chef last night? I thought it was the best episode yet. The quick fire challenge was so fun and different my heart was actually beating in suspense. What a fun concept to have a culinary relay race, and how skilled they were at putting everything together! And how my mouth watered looking at that buttery sablefish...
As for Restaurant Wars, I was surprised that building from the foundation of "Revolt" would put you in the winner's spot when "Mission" seemed like such a better concept, but maybe it's the San Antonio in me. And of course the desire for Kevin to win. And I must say that while I have sympathized with the contestants that Robin is annoying I will have to give her credit for being positive. You know? It counts for something. She knows she's skating on thin ice but at least she did well last night. Even after Michael seemed to take a bit of credit for her dessert,

she was still happy for him to win. I mean, I don't think that she's that interesting but she seems happy to be there and there's something a bit exciting about that.

It's funny how the topic of food has just blown up in the past few years. It just seems like one of those signs of modernity- of being advanced or sophisticated so much that we would have the ability,skills, and resources to uphold such a thriving industry. But, what's even more interesting is how far back you can date things like cookbooks, food writing, luxury documentation, etc. As far from modernity as the fourth century BC with a poem titled "The Life of Luxury" by the Greek Archestratus, preserved by Atheneaus in his composition "Philosophers at Dinner" from 200 AD. What is unique about "The Life of Luxury" is that it is written in verse rather than prose, which was an option at this time in Greece.

"This raises questions about his audience and the purpose of this poem. It was almost certainly not a hands-on cookery book but a volume to be enjoyed at a rich man's banquet and symposium."

"He provides a pleasing contrast, and urbanely focuses on the very activity that the audience was enjoying. As they bit into their olive relishes, or took a mouthful of tuna, the hexameters celebrated the best kind of tuna that could be found and the best way in which it could be prepared." (Archestratus- Life of Luxury)

While amphoras and kraters obviously indicate the significance of banquet gatherings as places where people did lots of drinking and story telling, they are more about the entertainment element of the banquet.
( ET2b-Amphora.jpg)

This rather, is a poem about the people actually preparing and making this event happen, almost a glimpse behind the scenes. In a sense it seems that careful construction of a poem about the preparation of acquiring, cooking, and enjoying food is a sign of respect and recognition of the inherent art in such a practice. The way a cook edits ingredients and plays with flavors may be the way a poet works through a poem. And in the fourth century BC, the people preparing food were basically servants, so it seems his decision to use verse elevates cooking to more than a task or chore.
Essentially, that is the s'more theme. That things may work the way they are but that the desire to improve something, to make it beautiful, or delicious in this case, is a worthwhile cause.

Archestratus Resource

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