Throughout the “Dining Out” portion of Secret Ingredients I noticed multiple occurring themes; the obvious one being going out to eat at various restaurants but others as well such as: France, war, health, and the one that interested me the most: appetite. I think it is the one that caught my attention because there were so many points of view on it.
The very first piece “All You Can Eat for Five Bucks,” demonstrates the most vivid images of gluttonous consumption. The idea that you pay five dollars and fill yourself until you never want to be full again is absolutely fascinating. It’s even offensive to not leave full: “’If you’re able to hold a little more when you start home, you haven’t been to a banquet that they called a beefsteak’” (Mitchell 5). This sentiment is shared similarly in the piece “A Really Big Lunch” where a man throws a fifty course dinner merely because it was his fiftieth birthday (Harrison 93). It really started making me question the mentalities of upper class America. Is this how the well-off are supposed to live? Filling, and over filling, themselves just because they can? Do I do that? And I think the question to that last one is unfortunately yes; presented with a bunch of food I will eat until I am full, never thinking about the people who don’t have enough to eat while I stretch my pants out two more sizes.
However, other pieces through the work had a more noble approach to eating. When M. Point cooks for you what he wants you to eat, he doesn’t overfill. When Joseph Wechsberg writes about his encounter with M. Point in “The Finest Butter and Lots of Time” he reflects that he felt “contentedly well fed; the memory of it alone seems almost enough to sustain life” (27). This would be the kind of eating that I would deem as a humanitarian-friendly pattern. To eat just until one is full, and using only the best kinds of foods to fill oneself sounds like perfect eating to me.
Another idea that interested me was the idea of food and writing that was presented in a couple of the pieces. A.J. Liebling claims that “the primary requisite for writing well about food is a good appetite. Without this, it is impossible to accumulate…enough experience of eating to have anything worth setting down” (30). And Adam Gopnik writes about a chef he experiences that “Cooking for him was a form of writing” (72). This idea is one I’ve seen before in previous readings but the idea that no writer can write well without the proper concept of food is innovative, at least in my mind. I always think that food is a separate entity, a separate section of life; however when that idea gets challenged, I am inclined to say that these authors are right.
I think what I have gleamed from these readings is the idea that appetite is good, and for me, gluttony is disgusting. However, the people who do get to eat thirty seven course meals get to write about their experience so people who are unable to eat that much will get to live vicariously through them, so everyone has their purpose. Food and writing are becoming more and more connected for me that one depends on the other. You can’t write without food, and food is something that can inspire you to write.