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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Hem, Hem: A Literary Essay about, You Guessed It... FOOD

Forgotten Fruit


The falling fruits,
Through the still night, forsake the parent-bough,
That, in the first grey glances of the dawn,
Looks wild, and wonders at the wintry waste.
–James Thompson

It was on a recent ward temple trip that I realized that no species of food has lately been so much multiplied as the extent of pizza restaurants. Once again, the committee for the planning and accomplishment of activities forwent the possible intricacies and new delights of an extended taste pallet, instead choosing the always-safe marinara reds, limp greens and crusty browns of an always appreciated, never novel restaurant choice. Again, our limited perspective was reinforced by the mores of ease.

The college experience is an Eden of forgotten fruit. Sustenance, sleep, studying and socializing are the four necessities at college, but it is widely believed that the industrious scholar can only really focus on two or three of these objectives at a time. Nourishment’s nutrition and diversity are the first martyrs to the college cause—not only is it more time consuming to plan and create healthy meals, it’s also considered more expensive. As students count pennies and minutes, cheap chow and mindless meals are first endured, then pitied, then embraced.

Oft times, a student’s only contact with the sweet flesh of an earth-grown item is through the straw of a Jamba Juice cup. Even Emerson had a passing relationship with the vegetable, however odd (it nods to me, and I nod to them??). Though unexcited eaters are perhaps not aware of their denial of the body’s relationship with the intellect, the consequences are fixed: both mental and spiritual capacity to create and invent are crippled by a dull diet.

What good are the mental powers given man if our senses are degraded to the point at which we cannot tell Splenda from the healing dew of honey? Ease, price, the quickness of preparation—each specter with a pleasant face denies poor students the joys of taste and the rapture of real food. Months of Easy Ramen, burnt eggs and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on store-bought bread do more than bore the body senseless; they stunt the common college student’s taste buds from a spring of growth to lifeless winter. Ah, smooth is the descent and easy the way to a damnation of taste’s progression!

What hope have we to awake slumbering students from their sleep of snacking sameness? What chance can we cherish to save students from their troubles of tide-me-over tedium? What actions must we take to alert and divert these wanderers from their paths of repetitive rations, minute-meals and green-less groceries?
Few who chew comfortably on their Hamburger Helper think what others undergo who have perhaps been as tenderly educated and have as acute sensations as themselves—but who are incapable of enjoying the same easy pleasures because of allergies, sensitivities or other disruptions of the digestive system. Could it be that these seemingly cursed consumers are blessed with the teachings of the school of experience—an institution which teaches by first exposing the student to everything they do not know?

A knowledge of good food must be bought dear by knowing ill baked goods. Only when we have experienced the absolute dark can we begin to recognize day again—and to appreciate the intricacies of light instead of stumbling around, blinded, in a bright haze of tasteless and empty foodstuffs. Desperation is the mother of all experimentation and nutritional expansion, for really, what well-fed fellow would ever look at a cow and decide to drink whatever came from …it?

For this reason, my tongue may envy the Ho-Ho thoughtlessly sucked down by some oblivious passerby, but my intellect is untouched. Though seemingly innocent Little Debby’s baked confections bestow delicious sugar rushes and delights to the purchasing student, the ease of acquisition cheapens the joy acquired from negotiations with this she-devil—and as Faustus warns, she shows herself to certainly be a hot ho (ho).

Ah, but we may well say that all the schools of cuisine are already catalogued carefully into numberless cookbooks and food magazines; nothing remains to be learned about the subject. So quothe the followers of Ptolemy and the priests before Martin Luther or Joseph Smith—the heavens are still open!

Menus are not dead. They live and change under the hands of those who would dare to experience their pages. Those who have much leisure to cook will always be enlarging the stock of recipes. Creativity surely has its costs: predictability, comfort, ease, even reason, logic, sanity and previous epistemologies—but the price is worth the product, and, more crucially, is much less than the cost of inaction.

Milton’s blossoming ambrosial fruit surely pales in comparison with my fresh banana pancakes—a product of invention, desperation, need, creativity, time and the willingness to laugh in the face of danger.

Repeated experiences may be the stuff that creates wisdom, but new experiences give new knowledge—which, when allowed to develop and evolve, becomes wisdom. Those who forget the pasta are condemned to reheat it. As a newly politically correct Cookie Monster rapped in the nineties, “Me promise that when you eat varied menu, you get more out of every meal— You need balanced diet, come on and try it, not believe how great you'll feel! Word up.”

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