Saturday, January 13, 2007

What is the Perfect Food? Or.. To Hell with Apples

What is the Perfect Food? Or.. To Hell with Apples

Life in the Garden of Eden was incomplete and much less than perfect. How is this so, because it didn’t include nature’s perfect treat. As hard as it is to credit that some omnipotent being created an oasis of such complexity and perfection that it would be a place that no mortal would ever want to leave, we humans found the exit after not too long. It is interesting to consider what the Garden of Eden was and the way it is described in the bible and by commentators ever since. Quite frankly it is a place that only a scholar or religious fanatic would find to be perfect.

Once can read long and hard and fail to find any discussion of the eroticism of the Garden. No clothing was around, so lingerie wasn’t an option. The animals spoke to the humans so there was likely no privacy. There doesn’t appear to have been any living structure, beds, bathing apparatus, places to relieve oneself, toilet paper, internet, other people to talk to. God seems to have been a rather active parent in the process, checking on Adam and Eve(was this before they came out with their line of adult toy products?) telling them what they could do… anything except what he told them not to do. Obviously God wasn’t a very experienced parent as any parent in these days knows that the surest way to have your child do something is to insist and demand that he not do it(and there’s a big punishment if he disobeys).

As a foodie you wonder what they had to eat. One would imagine no meat was served since the animals apparently talked to you. Hard to see Adam sidling up to Elsie the Cow and saying… hey Elsie I’d really like a big juicy ribeye, mind if I slaughter you and barbecue up a piece of you? And, even if they did, how wasteful.. how much of a side of beef could two folks eat before it went bad. And, I didn’t see anything about Viking Stoves or SubZero Refrigerators or even Fisher & Paykel dishwashers, not to mention Cuisinarts or even decent knives and pots and pans. And a decent Weber grill.. I’ve read and reread the relevant parts of Genesis and I can tell you they just don’t mention it. I don’t even recall fire being part of the deal.

So, Adam and Eve were probably non-cooking Vegans eating raw veggies and fruit to their heart’s delight(apart from that apple tree) and were almost certainly completely regular. I don’t see any mention of salt and pepper or chili peppers or even garlic. I can tell you that given that ultra-bland tableaux I’d have followed old Adam and Eve out of that Garden as fast as I could. Come on, even if they had grapes and did up some wine how good could the local Cabernet Eden Vintage Year 1 have been? Was 1 a good year for Cabs, Pinot Noir, Merlot? And it doesn’t sound like they even had any glass for the bottles or glasses.

But yet, the religionists proclaim the perfection of the Garden of Eden and consider all these points to be irrelevant because there was total happiness in the Garden of Eden. Seems to me that Adam and Eve were just ignorant of all the good stuff they were missing out on, like kids who go to Kindergarten and discover that other kids watch cartoons, have PS2 games and can stay up past 7:30pm.

So, having moved beyond this fake theological arena of perfection I pondered whether there was or is a perfect food. And, one need not look much further in the Bible to find God’s second effort at perfection in the culinary areas. Manna from heaven. Massaging the old grey cells a bit drags the memories of what it was from the old memory banks. It fell every night and in the morning one went out and collected a day’s worth of the stuff and brought it back to tents.

You’ll recall that this was during that rather bizarre interlude in Exodus(the original, and not the Leon Uris remake which must have included a midnight ship’s buffet), where the Jews leave Egypt with the Egyptians hot on their tails until the Red Sea grabs the Egyptians and drowns them. Then the Jews, some million or so folks, wander aimlessly about the Sinai Peninsula, a very small desert surrounded by water, for 40 years waiting for all the brave souls who left Egypt to die off before finding the one spot in the Middle East with no oil. Now either God or whoever made up this story had a problem, a desert won’t feed 1,000 people for one year, that desert certainly won’t feed a million people for 40 years. So, a miracle(or deus ex machina, or some other literary device) is necessary to sustain these literally wandering Jews while cooling their heels in the hot desert sun.

So, bada bing bada boom … manna. It’s the latest greatest thing from the god almighty. No work, no cooking, no cleaning, just grab and serve. Rice a Roni wishes it thought of this. But what did this stuff look like? Did it come in colors, sizes, different shapes, textures? Not a lot of discussion of what this stuff was other than that you were supposed to get up in the morning and take an omer’s worth. If you took more than you needed of it by the next morning it was gone and you had to get more. Ahh, but the key was the taste… it tasted, supposedly like whatever you wanted it to taste like. Perhaps the exquisite sushi and sashimi of Masa’s or the incredibly redolent aroma of a crispy turkey skin guarding the mother lode of stuffing, or even the amazingly sweet taste of midsummer watermelon? It doesn’t say. But, what were these folks used to eating.. well, all we know is they had been slaves in dusty Egypt, had this thing for lamb and had eaten the unleavened bread in their haste to flee Egypt. For those of you who do the Matzoh thing, imagine 40 years of eating the stuff. And lamb is cool, but there has to be more to life than that… and there’s no reason to believe that people were that creative in what they wanted to eat if they weren’t creative enough to walk out of this little desert that contained them for 40 years. It’s not like the manna came with a card that described the specials tastes of the day.. a lovely pan fried sea bass with black bean sauce and a porcini risotto.

Well, I think you get the point. This manna stuff sounds like the creation of someone to whom food wasn’t a big thing. They were more interested in trumpets and praying and stone tablets and wandering around for 40 years in a sand box. Or, it was the work of someone looking back on the story of the 40 years in the desert and having told the story kept getting the response.. so Mr. Smart Guy, what did they all eat for 40 years, sand? Manna, a magical food from god, could be whatever you wanted it to be.

Hmmmm, sounds like a copout to me. Did it just taste like the food, or did also have its aroma, texture, mouthfeel, and did it look like the food you wanted(or just a mound of mush). And, since all these folks who left Egypt died off in the desert, how were the people born in the dessert supposed to know what they liked in real life if they’d never eaten anything but this manna stuff. Not a very good thing, I think. Faith is a great smoother over, but frankly the story has always struck me as a weak one.

So, where am I going with this.

Good question.

The answer is that as December rolled around and turned into January one of my favorite times of the year for eating a food began. That food, one definitely not found in the Garden of Eden(or available as a taste of Manna), was coming into the beginning of its season.

Whereas many foods require extensive preparation, treatment, handling, cooking, cleaning and pampering to tease the most out of it, this treat is truly Nature’s perfect food. It comes with its own container, needs no refrigeration or cooking and doesn’t need to be kept clean or washed. Once the container is opened the food is designed for easy service and even sharing. One can eat at one’s own pace, not being concerned that the food will cool or warm up or spoil as it sits there. If you want to eat it over time or even eat a portion of it and come back to it later(if you have the willpower to do so), it’s not a problem. No cutlery or plates are needed to eat it. And, once you’re done, there’s no garbage that you can’t just drop outside wherever you are. It has a delightful odor and eating it with your fingers will lightly scent your hands in a pleasant fashion. While not a beverage it is both filling and refreshing.

The food, you’ve probably guessed is not an apple. No, it is a Navel Orange. Not just any orange, but a navel orange. Unlike Eve in the Garden this Orange has a navel. In this case, the navel is actually a second orange(usually not edible, though in some cases you can see and eat a miniature second orange within the first) which has any seeds, so that you need not worry about any pits or seeds when you eat the orange. The Navel Orange has a smooth protective skin which with a little effort can be pierced with your nails and then peeled back easily with your fingers so that the completely edible innards are yours for eating.

Looking at the peeled Navel Orange one sees that the tightly clustered segments are individually wrapped and can usually be separated without damaging the segment walls. Inside the segment walls(which are quite edible unlike the grapefruit’s segment walls which are much hardier and less enjoyable. If one carefully opens up the segment walls you will see within it a tightly clustered collection of little juice tubes which again keep the juice from oozing out. All in all as perfect a food as Nature with man’s assistance has been able to produce.

So, anyone else have another candidate for the most perfect food?


Blogger Charlotte said...

There is no perfect food, no more than there is a perfect colour, perfect word or perfect sound.

I would doubt the palate of anyone who asserts otherwise.

Now, what to persue is the perfect meal for the appropriate time. I wouldn't assert to have this perfected this art, though it is the goal, isn't it?

To explain what I mean... when you're 5 years old and come in from building that snowman, if someone offered your frozen fingers a navel organge, you'd throw it right back at them. The perfect food on a cold afternoon is a cup of hot chocolate, or perhaps a bowl of chicken soup.

Dial it up to adult hood, your perfect meal depends on your time of day (the perfect breakfast won't be the perfect dinner!), your planned activities (if you're going out dancing, you're not going to spend 3 hours eating beef), and simply individual tastes. No one wants the same thing two nights in a row!

30/1/07 10:24 AM  

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