DID YOU EVER LOOK at what’s sitting on your plate and wonder how anyone ever came up with the idea to actually eat that? This morning I was confronted by two beautifully cooked eggs and as the yolks began to run across the plate, it struck me: who on earth — let alone when — decided to actually consume the contents of a rounded shell? And, just how hungry was he? What if you’d never seen or heard of eggs, via, of course, a chicken?
Eating habits, of course, vary from culture to culture. Rover, who has the bad manners to dump in an American backyard, would be quickly snatched up and put on a spit in many other countries. Native Koreans happily down stuff that would make you gag. And it goes on. But if you think about it, everything you have for dinner was at least recommended by someone else and you never gave it second thought: Mom said it was O.K. and you gobbled it up.
Yet short of a vigorous referral, would you ever point to a hapless lobster at the bottom of glass tank and say, “He sure looks like lunch to me,” even though hundreds of years ago some guy was swimming at the floor of the ocean, saw one skittering along the sand and surmised the same thing. So it began, notwithstanding that some experimentation was required to discover that eating certain parts of perhaps the singularly most ugly animal on the planet would kill you.
Or who decided that the truffles that pigs dug up would be equally enjoyed by people (of a much broader menu than mine)?
More on eggs: Who decided that the eggs from a sturgeon would be considered a delicacy (Watch Tom Hanks’ reaction in the film, “Big”)? And more, who determined that it was the eggs from that particular fish, and not, say, those of a catfish? Or that caviar would or should be so godawfully expensive?
For the record, the notion of eating tomatoes is actually fairly recent. For the longest time they were viewed as an exotic flower…until, of course, Luigi needed a sauce for his spaghetti.
There are, of course, people who eat all kinds of flowers. Their beauty notwithstanding, I’ll pass.
Or snails. Ya gotta be nuts. Or French, who hit upon calling the slimy monsters escargot, determining, I’m assuming, that an elegant name would make them easier to go down. My old pal Charley from days gone by used to take those a dozen at a time with nifty tweezers that had little hands on the ends. I could hardly watch him do it.
What folks eat. And now, organic is all the rage. Pick whatever crap you like, just so long as there are no pesticides, herbicides or junkicides involved. But then, as I tell friends, if they tried to emulate what passes between my teeth they’d be appalled. Until I got a little religion here, I frequented what they call the poison rows in the supermarket — the ones with the bright packaging, the ones that go into the microwave oven, where convenience trumps nutritional value.
But finally, there’s the one dish we can all agree on — with the exception of vegetarians, who we know are crazy anyhow — a great steak, which, you should know, does not arrive from filthy cows that plow through a muddy barnyard. Rather it comes to your plate via a carefully cellophane-wrapped plastic tray.
Some things to consider the next time somebody calls out, “Dinner’s ready!”