THE FIRST BOOK THAT ACTUALLY got me thinking about food as something other than tasty fuel with which to stuff my face was Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin’s 1825 work, The Physiology of Taste; or, Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy. Part travelogue, part autobiography, part science text, Physiology deals with such pleasant problems as how to cook a fish that’s too big for the oven; the exacting method of digestion; why restaurateurs do what they do; how to survive a revolution; how to lose weight; and how to make the perfect cup of hot chocolate or coffee.
VISITORS TO THE METAPHORAGER MAY notice that it’s formatted in two columns — the wide right-hand one with posts, the narrow left one with other stuff. In the spirit of “obnoxious self-aggrandizement,” here’s a quick top-down guide to the “other stuff”:
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Today: Don’t crave someone else’s stuff.
Explanation: One of modern life’s biggest distractions is feeling materially inadequate, especially in a gotta-have-it society like our own. Why dwell on your deficiencies? As Pirkei Avot says, “Who is rich? One who is contented with his lot.”
Exercise: Take a moment (or two) to be happy with and grateful for what you have, no matter how much or how little that is — let it be enough.
When I worked for the Sonoma Index-Tribune between 1998 and 2003 (and for the Sonoma Sun in 2008), I wore a pager that one of the departmental chiefs had loaned me for the duration. It was the same make and model worn by the firefighters themselves (professional and volunteer), and would beep three times before broadcasting the appropriate jurisdiction’s “tone-out” (a two-note musical chime, unique to the responding department[s]) and an abbreviated situation report along the lines of: “Sonoma; possible structure fire; Andrieux Street cross of Broadway; time out, 1400.”
– Definition: adj. marked by lack of definite plan, regularity, or purpose
– Used in a sentence: Except for my relatively brief writing career, my life has been a desultory yet full one.
– Why: I think it characterizes much of our post-Y2K (remember that?) popular culture. In the late 1990s, we had a nice fin-de-siecle sort of desperation. But ever since the Great Odometer rolled over, meh.
IT’S THE WAY HIS PROSE wraps me up like an amorous and itchy octopus. It’s the slow building of his narratives. It’s his quaint and dark sense of humor. It’s his search for literary identity (“There are my ‘Poe pieces’ and my ‘Dunsany pieces’ — but alas — where are my Lovecraft pieces?”). It’s his backward politics, which he eventually awoke from. (It’s also that he awoke from his antisemitism.) It’s his sense of atmosphere. It’s his malign genius. It’s the joy he took in corresponding with budding horror writers. It’s his love of cats. It’s his love of cheese (“How can anybody not like CHEESE?”).
MAY THE ARBITRARY DIVISION OF Earth’s orbit into 365.25 units find you better off now than you were last time we reached this point on the circle’s rim — and not nearly as good as you will be next time.
N. B.: Starting today, The Metaphorager will be switching from a daily to a semi/thrice-weekly publishing schedule (new stuff Monday and Thursday, something archival Saturday night or Sunday morning). I was so jazzed about regaining my “voice” last July that I began valuing quantity over quality — a rookie move, I know, but a seductive one. Thank you for reading this far, and here’s to a wordy 2019!