Thursday, April 18, 2013

He Predicted Food Bloggers in 1967

One of my very favorite books is Robert Farrar Capon's The Supper of the Lamb. I think I've raved about it elsewhere on this blog, so I won't belabor the point now. I pull it out every few months to reference a quote or remind myself of one of his points, and after pulling it out a few days ago, I've decided that I need to re-read the book in its entirety for the first time in a few years.

I hadn't made it past page 3 (although there are two must-read prefaces before the page-counting begins) when I found a new quotable. As an avid reader of food blogs, I couldn't help but feel like these few paragraphs perfectly capture the reason people become food bloggers and those of us who love to celebrate good food but are too lazy to take the pretty pictures (mine never make it off the camera let alone through photoshop) read them.

On discussing his qualifications for writing a book about cooking:

First, I am an amateur. If that strikes you as disappointing, consider how much in error you are, and how the error is entirely of your own devising. At its root lies an objection to cookbooks written by non-professionals (an objection, by the way, which I consider perfectly valid, and congratulate you upon). It does not, however, apply here. Amateur and nonprofessional are not synonyms. The world may or may not need another cookbook, but it needs all the lovers - amateurs - it can get. It is a gorgeous old place, full of clownish graces and beautiful drolleries, and it has enough textures, tastes and smells to keep us intrigued for more time than we have. Unfortunately, however, our response to its loveliness is not always delight: It is, far more often than it should be, boredom. And that is not only odd, it is tragic; for boredom is not neutral - it is the fertilizing principle of unloveliness.
In such a situation, the amateur - the lover, the man who thinks heedlessness is a sin and boredom a heresy - is just the man you need. More than that, whether you think you need him or not, he is a man who is bound by his love, to speak. If he loves Wisdom or the Arts, so much the better for him and for all of us. But if he loves only the way meat browns or onions peel, if he delights simply in the curds of his cheese or the color of his wine, he is, by every one of those enthusiasms, commanded to speak. A silent lover is one who doesn't know his job.
If you feel like it, read on ... but I realize that this quote is lengthy and I myself might not be prone to reading the whole thing in the electronic/blog/short-form in which it is being presented. I will bold my favorite sentences from here on...

Therefore, the man who said "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" was on the right track, even if he seemed a bit weak on the objectivity of beauty. He may well have been a solipsist who doubted the reality of everything outside himself, or one of those skeptics who thinks that no valid judgments are possible - that no knife can in reality be pronounced sharp, nor any custard done to perfection. It doesn't matter. Like Caiaphas, he spoke better than he knew. The real world which he doubts is indeed the mother of loveliness, the womb and matrix in which it is conceived and nurtured; but the loving eye which he celebrates is the father of it. The graces of the world are the looks of a woman in love; without the woman they could not be there at all; but without her lover, they would not quicken into loveliness.

There, then, is the role of the amateur: to look the world back to grace. There, too, is the necessity of his work: His tribe must be in short supply; his job has gone begging. The world looks as if it has been left in the custody of a pack of trolls. Indeed, the whole distinction between art and trash, between food and garbage, depends on the presence or absence of the loving eye. Turn a statue over to a boor, and his boredom will break it to bits - witness the ruined monuments of antiquity. On the other hand, turn a shack over to a lover; for all its poverty, its lights and shadows warm a little, and its numbed surfaces prickle with feeling.

Or, conclusively, peel an orange. Do it lovingly - in perfect quarters like little boats, or in staggered exfoliations like a flat map of the round world, or in one long spiral, as my grandfather used to do. Nothing is more likely to become garbage than orange rind; but for as long as anyone looks at it in delight, it stands a million triumphant miles from the trash heap.

That, you know, is why the world exists at all. It remains outside the cosmic garbage can of nothingness, not because it is such a solemn necessity that nobody can get rid of it, but because it is the orange peel hung on God's chandelier, the wishbone in His kitchen closet. He likes it; therefore, it stays. The whole marvelous collection of stones, skins, feathers, and string exists because at least one lover has never quite taken His eye off it, because the Dominus vivificans has his delight with the sons of men.

The Supper of the Lamb, p 3-5

1 comment:

Annette said...

Aww, this book will forever be a grand memory of a beautiful young woman who took the time to mark all her favorite portions and give it to me for Christmas. This woman who would someday be my daughter-in-law (read daughter-in-love) and who has brought such a delightful joy of food and all it means to me! My fav of that quote? "turn a statue over to a boor---turn a shack over to a lover..." I have always wanted to be the lover that could turn a house into a home and turn a meager sampling of food into a loving meal!