Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Never be too eager

Rule #1 of the finding and losing economy: wish, don't plan.

Sometimes you decide that today, you're going to find your dinner. You check one sandwich shop and find nothing, but instead of relenting, you insist: you know there is food out there, good food, carefully packed, hiding in black bin liners and is going to waste. What was an evening stroll, a break from the tedium of sitting in front of the computer, becomes a mission. You visit your favourite skipping places one after the other, Cafe branches and sushi takeaways, and find only disappointment. Here you arrive too early and there too late. Finally you realize: you have become too confident, too determined, too calculated. You take off your imaginary hat and buy some chips.

Skipping doesn't go well with planning. When you plan, you shut your eyes to whatever the street has to offer. Skipping works best when you wish for things, in a casual way. Like, wouldn't it be great to find a small gas oven. And then, two days later, you find one. It happens all the time.

The idea that your diet is not for you to decide is of course strange . In our society, food, like most things, is presumed to be a matter of consumer choice. When eating out, you decide: Vietnamese or Turkish, a soup or a sandwich. People plan dinner according to what they would like to eat; they then go to the shop and buy the ingredients. The unavailability of an item is met with a slight disbelief. The relation between seasons and food seems a faint childhood memory, and is used by the supermarkets exactly in this way; nostalgia is a great marketing tool. But these 'seasonal vegetable' signs only confirm that a relation between nature and food is an exception, not the rule.

Finding your food involves a different approach. Like a hunter-gatherer, you set out for an adventure. You might find plenty, or nothing. You may be in the mood for aubergines, but you come back with a sack of peppers. Seasons do not exist in the bins more than they exist in the shops; but at least you have no illusion of 'choice'. The power to choose is, no doubt, a privilege, which is not easy to give up. But it does not compare with the sweet taste of the unexpected, like the container of Parmesan cheese I found the other week.

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