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More adventurous than the average bear

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

What is patriotism but love of the good things we ate in our childhood?

"What is patriotism but love of the good things we ate in our childhood? I have said elsewhere that the loyalty to Uncle Sam is the loyalty to doughnuts and ham and sweet potatoes and the loyalty to the German Vaterland is the loyalty to Pfannkuchen and Christmas Stollen. As for international understanding, I feel that macaroni has done more for our appreciation of Italy than Mussolini... in food, as in death, we feel the essential brotherhood of mankind...

The Chinese have no prudery about food, or about eating it with gusto. When a Chinese drinks a mouthful of good soup, he gives a hearty smack. Of course, that would be bad table manners in the West. On the other hand, I strongly suspect that Western table manners, compelling us to sip our soup noiselessly and eat our food quietly with the least expression of enjoyment, are the true reason for the arrested development of the art of cuisine. Why do the Westerners talk so softly and look so miserable and decent and respectable at their meals.? Most Americans haven't got the good sense to take a chicken drumstick in their hand and chew it clean, but continue to pretend to play at it with a knife and fork, feeling utterly miserable and afraid to say a thing about it. This is criminal when the chicken is really good. As for the so-called table manners, I feel sure that the child gets his first initiation into the sorrows of this life when his mother forbids him to smack his lips. Such is human psychology that if we don't express our joy, we soon cease to feel it even, and then follow dyspepsia, melancholia, neurasthenia and all the mental ailments peculiar to the adult life. One ought to imitate the French and sigh an "Ah!" when the waiter brings a good veal cutlet, and makes a sheer animal grunt like "Ummm!" after tasting the first mouthful. What shame is there in enjoying one's food, what shame in having a normal, healthy appetite? No, the Chinese are different. They have bad table manners, but great enjoyment of a feast.

In fact, I believe the reason why the Chinese failed to develop botany and zoology is that, the Chinese scholar cannot stare coldly and unemotionally at a fish without immediately thinking of how it tastes in the mouth and wanting to eat it. The reason I don't trust Chinese surgeons is that I am afraid that when a Chinese surgeon cuts up my liver in search of a gall-stone, he may forget about the stone and put my liver in a frying pan. For I see a Chinese cannot look at a porcupine without immediately thinking of ways and means of cooking and eating its flesh without being poisoned. Not to be poisoned is for the Chinese the only practical, important aspect of it. The taste of the porcupine meat is supremely important, if it should add one more flavor known to our palate. The bristles of the porcupine don't interest us. How they arose, what is their func- tion and how they are connected with the porcupine's skin and endowed with the power of sticking up at the sight of an enemy are questions that seem to the Chinese eminently idle...

Food, then, is one of the very few soUd joys of human life. It is a happy fact that this instinct of hunger is less hedged about with taboos and a social code than the other instinct of sex, and that generally speaking, no question of morality arises in connection with food. There is much less prudery about food than there is about sex. It is a happy condition of affairs that philosophers, poets, merchants and artists can join together at a dinner, and without a blush perform the function of feeding themselves in open public"

--- The Importance of Living / Lin Yutang
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