Meditation 11

Gourmandism is an impassioned, considered, and habitual preference for whatever pleases the taste.It is the enemy of overindulgence; any man who eats too much or grows drunk risks being expelled from its army of disciples.
Gourmandism includes the love of delicacies, which is nothing more than a ramification of this passion for light elegant dishes of little real sustenance, such as jams, pastries, and so on.  This is a modification introduced into the scheme of things for the benefit of the ladies, and of such men as are like them.

No matter how gourmandism is considered, it deserves praise and encouragement.
Physically, it is the result as well as the proof of the perfect state of health of our digestive organs.
Moreally, it is an implicit obedience of the rules of the Creator, who, having ordered us to eat in order to live, invites us to do so with appetite, encourages us with flavor, and rewards us with pleasure.

If gourmandism, according to the late great Brillant-Savarin is the perfect state of health of our digestive organs, he apparently never spent a week in Emilia-Romagna.

But his view on gourmet eating is one that is unique and also one that we seem to rarely think about any more.  Because food has become such a commodified subject of talk, politics, passion, power, money, etc. we tend to just forget about pleasure in eating.  Having been back here in the US for about a week now, I realize a few things that I have taken for granted in Italy, but which I am happy to return to in a few weeks.  First, when we talk about right to good food, which it truly is in Italy, we do not speak of America.  For in America, the right to good food does not exist, at least not in the Italian way.  For here in Vermont, I’ve come to see that good food is a privilege.  It is not a right that all should eat good, clean and fair, but actually a result of ones own personal choices: income, sacrifices, adaptability.  Here I’ve learned that market forces are at work, even in the world of hippie-dom.  Why else would the local diner offer organic grass-fed beef for their hamburger, and proudly advertise it on the front of the door?  Each person has to make choices about what to eat, and we do so with sometimes very little in mind, or in our pockets.  Eating like a student in Italy is something like eating as if I work on Wall Street in America.
So, when I ask myself if people here have access to good food, I say maybe not.  People in Italy, mostly, yes.  In a local supermarket in Bra, I can find local vegetables, dairy and wine.  At a local supermarket here in Vermont, I can find local apples, dairy and wine, but at a cost that is more than I am willing to pay all the time.  Access is denied to many.  Italy, access is given to more people because of several things, not the least of which is government subsidies, but that isn’t all.  A drive for more money isn’t on the mind of my local greens seller at the Saturday market in Bra.  She tells us how she barely makes any money at selling winter lettuce, and can’t afford to have any other employees because of labour laws and the smaller scale she works on.  But still, she sells her greens, almost organic, for 1Euro/kg.

I sometimes feel deceived by the lack of access in America.  By the perceived pretentious attitude that looms over all of the good, clean and fair food, and requires one to either buy into that, or, be excluded from it.  I’m not up on the newest, best place for sushi in NYC, I’m not inclined to be fastidious on my purchases, but I am a person who respects quality and the hard work of producers.  Here and in Italy.  I only wish attitudes could be more similar, and that I could, at some point, feel like myself in the US, eating these things without being put into a box, or identified with certain ideals, groups or personal beliefs.

Thus, the distinctive quality of food consists in its ability to submit to animal assimilation.


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