In eating, fullness is often confused with satisfaction, copiousness wrongly equated with value, sweetness mistaken for deliciousness, and visual stunts on the plate taken as good cooking. Some restaurants seem to build their business plans on these false assumptions, and I do my best to avoid them.
In living, the drama of life is often confused with life itself. Surely each of us is a duped at some point, but the trickery is often self inflicted: We inflate routine and natural sadness to the size of tragedy, we think of pleasantries as real joy, and we mistake our own misery for universal truth. In short, we give ourselves the ol’ Razzle Dazzle.
It’s understandable, to some degree, this desire to punctuate the run on sentence of existence with one’s own exclamation points. The day-to-day business of human living is remarkable in its uneventfulness, and downright boring much of the time. Still, though, I think life on Earth presents enough real joy and real tragedy without us adding our own imagined melodramas.
Eating is a daily necessity, on the list of things we do every day that we could collectively call “living”. On that list, eating and loving are surely the most important tasks (and they are tasks, make no mistake). But although it is a requirement, largely routinized, eating isn’t necessarily part of the daily grind. In fact it is often very special. To share a meal with friends or to participate in a ritual meal adds value and meaning to life, even if the Thanksgiving table is fraught with family tensions. To mindfully enjoy good food, whether haute cuisine or humble, can be a heady, utterly satisfying experience. Wine helps.
Whatever you eat, though, it doesn’t last: All food ends up in precisely the same place.
The pleasure of a meal is fleeting. The best ones live on in memories, but are impossible to recreate. You could try, but I think you’d only be left with disappointment, and maybe an extra chin or two.
So to get to the point:
I’m beginning to think that the most significant moments in life are not the full ones, but the empty ones. A feast may sustain us in a very literal, metabolic way, but we cannot sustain the feast. Friends, lovers and family feed us too, but those relationships, like dinner, all come to an end. The question, then, is what is left when the table is cleared, the bottle emptied, the guests gone home, and I am home alone again in my little apartment? What sustains me then?
The answer, I think, is hunger.