What we put in our mouths is not just food

In the poem Sabor a legumes, Antonio Gamoneda describes a family that, sitting at the table, enjoys what may be their only hot meal of the day: “I feel / in the crushed silence / something wonderful: / five human beings / understanding life through the same taste” (I always found it to be a magnificent lyrical example to illustrate what, in Marxist terminology, used to be called class consciousness).

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
11 May 2024 Saturday 22:40
3 Reads
What we put in our mouths is not just food

In the poem Sabor a legumes, Antonio Gamoneda describes a family that, sitting at the table, enjoys what may be their only hot meal of the day: “I feel / in the crushed silence / something wonderful: / five human beings / understanding life through the same taste” (I always found it to be a magnificent lyrical example to illustrate what, in Marxist terminology, used to be called class consciousness). In the superb The Morning, José María Valverde presents us with a woman – we imagine the poet's own wife – who returns home with a full basket after shopping at the market.

While the two of them are emptying it, the man considers “the texture of the wine and the fruit” and studies his “lesson of smells” (previously he had given us a luminous, quasi-liturgical enumeration, which, by itself, was already nourishing). And, in the same way that all these foods are going to enter the body of the couple, they themselves – their bodies, their souls – are going to serve as “God's poor breakfast.” They are verses of celebration and joyful believing conscience.

All this comes from the following: Albert Molins (Barcelona, ​​1969), journalist for La Vanguardia, distinguishes between eating and feeding. Animals feed to continue living. We, in addition to doing our own thing, eat (wow we do!). And eating involves an endless number of moral, philosophical, religious, ethical, ecological, economic, etc. issues, which go far beyond achieving, through eating, sufficient energy to face daily life. Think about the foods prohibited by some religions: pork, for Islam or Judaism. In the chapter – capitalized – dedicated to the relationship between food and God, we read: “Any religious precept does not survive if it is an obstacle to the survival of those who have to observe it.”

Yes, Molins uses all kinds of taboos, clichés, and various dogmas. He presents his arguments well: either to point out inconsistencies (those of certain practitioners of veganism, for example), or to highlight the audacity of so many “hedonistic crooks” who believe they are the king of mambo on social networks. . He unmasks the trap of home delivery and recommends that, to the best of our ability, we cook at home.

His book proposes a kind of anthropology of eating. Look at the number of philosophical references that he uses and that help support his ideas: Epicurus, Plato, Paracelsus, Nietzsche, Sartre, Lévi-Strauss, Bourdieu, Derrida, Onfray, Sontag, Weber... They say that with things like eating it's played. It could be added that with things we eat we have something very serious at stake, which implies the viability of the planet and, of course, that of its insatiable inhabitants (humans).

Molins examines certain issues that are at the heart of ethical-moral reflection on food: “The problem is that we have a sick food system and that we are absolutely disconnected from what we eat.” Each chapter explores a binomial of great interest. Let me highlight those dedicated to the relationship between sex and food, on the one hand, and death and food, on the other. Nothing (in)human is foreign to the author: the goodness (and difficulty) of seasonality in our diet, the problem of intensive livestock farming, the disastrous fashion of food technologists, vegan messianism... “Everything "What has to do with eating is a political act." Wow it is!

Molins's is a passionate pen, but, yes, loaded with solid reasons. Her passion is so great that the traditional expression “eat with two cheeks” becomes, on a couple of occasions, “eat with four cheeks”. That's nothing! Enjoy this literary agape: it will not leave you indifferent, I assure you.

Albert Molins Eating without asking permission Rosamerón 272 pages 20.80 euros

PREPARE COOKIES IN A FLUCTUATING WORLD

JULIA GUILLAMON

You will forgive me for this digression when talking about a book that is about cooking, but for a long time I have had the feeling that literature is missing the boat. She has become trapped in poses, language and an image of herself that do not respond to today's world. Not just here: in general. It lacks naturalness and there are many pretensions that hide the lack of imagination and arguments. I don't know if we don't take novels too seriously, in the bad sense of literary seriousness.

Therefore, when direct, fun books appear, connected to life by a network of fine veins, it is truly appreciated. And it is not surprising that they are successful. They may not be works that make you pour streams of gelatinous slime, but they invite you to read, entertain and make you think about the world. It happened with Les calces al sol by Regina Rodríguez Sirvent and it happens with the books of Maria Nicolau (La Garriga, 1982), author of Cuina o barbàrie, the success of which, according to her new book, allowed her to pay the entrance fee to a town house and, now, with Cremo! which goes down the same path of being a widely read book.

To begin with: the novelty and daring of the genre. Cream! They are memoirs written at an age when it is not yet time to write memoirs. Some funny, self-ironic and garish memoirs. Mixed with gracefully written cooking tips, with fine comparisons, unexpected images, without silly poetry. Characters and situations appear in them that novelists usually despise or neutralize with so much literary atmosphere that no one recognizes them. When Maria Nicolau talks about an Extremaduran bar, it is an Extremaduran bar where things happen and interesting people move around. And when she finishes telling what happened to her one time she worked there, she blurts out an explanation about the cookies.

Cookies? It turns out that Nicolau was a sociology student, he was bored to death and one day when he was in class half asleep he thought: cookies! Getting to prepare some memorable cookies seemed like a better idea than retiring while crossing statistics. That's where it all started. The recipes, explained in a way that feels like you can easily make them, are some of the best cookies you can imagine: creamy, airy sablés and cookies, as well as sturdy bottoms and bases for cakes. By the way, in the first chapter the author says that she also cleaned toilets. She fascinates me when, suddenly, you start to find an idea that you have never seen before in writing in each book you read: Eva Baltasar, Sílvia Alcàntara and, now, Maria Nicolau!

If anything can be blamed on Crema! It's just that she's a little dizzy. Nicolau has so much ease, such unique stories have happened to him – he studies at an Opus cooking school, he rides in a car that his father bought from the footballer Pirri's father, he hangs on to the jackets of great chefs and people who know about What's up, he confronts the owners of a restaurant over some blisters of frozen béchamel -, he knows how to explain them so well, in such an accelerated style, that there is the danger of writing in a way he has never wanted to cook: more or less with a formula.

The advantage is that it is not literature: it is something else, and that thing works very effectively. He remembers that he left Fonda Europa because he did not want to cook pieces of the dish: he wanted the “plat sencer” – as Ovidi would have said. She explains when she worked at the Metric restaurant, and says that she felt like a one-woman band. The book conveys the feeling of a work performed by the members of an orchestra in which all the musicians are Maria Nicolau: resigned and rebellious, strategic and scared, determined and eccentric. A popular orchestra that plays very well.

Maria Nicolau Cremo! Column 272 pages 23, 90 euros