Today hardly anyone remembers past famines not only in Spain but also in Europe in not so remote times. It is even claimed that, in some times, cannibalism was practiced. Be that as it may, the theme of hunger dominates in the picaresque novel, a great reference in Castilian literature of the Golden Age, and the post-war novel. It is enough to look at the Barcelonan Nada and enter with the always hungry Andrea in the dilapidated kitchen of the apartment on Aribau Street, where she sips the rest of an anemic broth. Even accompany Carpanta on her infinite escapades, to try to satisfy a hunger that is no less infinite. Name that the creator of the character, the great José Escobar, took with exquisite linguistic precision from the RAE dictionary, since carpanta is defined as “violent hunger”.
Today that violent hunger – that the character of the TBO, or better of the comic, as we now call the comics of the past, perfectly embodies because there were many post-war hungry – seems only to be a thing of third world countries or of those to which, as it happens in some places in the Ukraine, supplies do not reach them because of the war. NGOs and soup kitchens alleviate the hunger that a part of the population suffers in our country, something that we sometimes forget. The successive crises, from 2008 and those caused by the pandemic, have left many, the weakest, especially women and immigrants, in poverty.
Even with these caveats, the need to fill the stomach in any way is not a top priority on the European continent for the vast majority of citizens who fill it daily and also do so by ensuring that their food is good, tasty and are well seasoned. Perhaps that is why we no longer usually refer to hunger, but to appetite. One word, the latter, more common today perhaps because we consider it more refined. Having an appetite sounds, apparently, better than being hungry. In the menus of some restaurants, we are offered appetizers or starters "to whet the appetite". It would sound careless if it were changed to “open the hunger”. Hunger connotes misery or at least precariousness and assimilates us to the other beasts of the earth, those that kill only out of hunger and not like humans, who kill for other much more miserable causes.
This being the case, it is not surprising that the MasterChef television program has been running for ten seasons, has even procreated MasterChef Junior and continues with excellent acceptance rates. Nor should we be surprised that the sixtieth birthday of a chef, Ferran Adrià, creator of the exquisite El Bulli, was front page news in La Vanguardia on Sunday, May 8, nor that in the Magazine his photo occupied the cover and part of the inside pages with a stupendous interview, “Ferrán Adrià, the gaze of genius”, by Cristina Jolonch, accompanied by more magnificent photos by Pedro Madueño, to which, on the other hand, we are accustomed. Today the great chefs are much more well known, cheered and famous than the writers, who, as Auden said, no longer have a place in the city, since feeding the stomach seems more important than feeding the brain.
While I am writing the article, a book arrives that I cannot help but recommend. Its author is the poet Ramón García Mateos and its title Eat, drink and tell. Collect recipes and stories. Both are extraordinarily paired between its pages to the pleasure of the stomach and brain.