MFK Fisher and How I Ain’t Shit. (and Benjamin, Again)

it is a pie, man. for dinner.

Once at least in the lifetime of every human, whether he be brute or trembling daffodil, comes a moment of complete gastronomic satisfaction.
It is, I am sure, as much a matter of spirit as of body. Everything is right, nothing jars. There is a kind of harmony, with every sensation and emotion melted into one chord of well-being.
Oddly enough, it is hard for people to describe these moments. They have sunk beatifically into the past, or have been ignored or forgotten in the harsh rush of the present. Sometimes they are too keen to be bandied in conversation, too delicate to be pinioned by our insufficient mouthings.
Occasionally, in a moment of wide-flung inebriation or the taut introspection of search for things past, a person hits upon his peak of gastronomic emotion. He remembers it with shock, almost, and with a nostalgic clarity that calls tears to his inward-looking eyes.

-from “The Pale Yellow Glove,” Serve It Forth. 1937.

~

today i thought that i had been stood up, but as it turns out we were sitting, perturbed and alone, in our respective dumpling restaurants a mere 1 1/2 blocks  from one another.
~
in his “Fresh Figs” (see Food As Destroyer) Walter Benjamin states that “Gourmandizing means above all else to devour one thing to the last crumb. There is no doubt that it enters more deeply into what you eat than mere enjoyment.” (re)reading it a lot of late, i have found myself increasingly possessed by a niggling doubt about the proper usage of “gourmandize.” see, i know that i once learned about the Gastronomic Hierarchy (i assume from On Food and Cooking, but for the love of poop i can find nothing of the sort in the index), and was pretty sure that there was less of a voracity to the gourmand, but could not in any case recall the specifics, despite working goinfre and goulu into my vocabulary as often as possible.*
it turns out i was wrong:

The Gastronomic Hierarchy

Gastronome (one with a serious interest in gastronomy)
Gourmet (a connoisseur of food and drink)
Friande (epicure)
Gourmande (one who enjoys eating)
Goulu (glutton)
Goinfre (greedy-guts)


which admittedly is only somewhat helpful, given the tautology of the meaning of gastronome, the equally non-self-explanatory definition for friande (epicurean being defined by the OED as “devoted to the pursuit of pleasure; hence, luxurious, sensual, gluttonous. now chiefly: devoted to refined and tasteful sensuous enjoyment.” we’re getting somewhere with refined and tasteful, finally), and the imprecision, however charming, of the term “greedy-guts” (more on this here, though similarly unauthoritative)

the problem, if there is one, which there isn’t, because none of this matters in any way at all, is that Benjamin just prior to this passage uses gluttony in such a way as to suggest identity/interchangeability with gourmandizing, thus defeating the point of the distinction. but then, translated as it was from German, we don’t really know whether these were the terms Benjamin employed originally (not out of the question), or themselves a furbelow of translation.

however, we really have no reason to grant less authority and poetic license to Benjamin than to Schott’s Food & Drink Miscellany (and whatever French d-bag came up with the taxonomy in the first place), from where the above was gleaned, right?

oh fuck, that was boring. sorry.

*while simultaneously wondering about the possibilities of rendering passé composé/adjectivized the former; ie: goinfré,  and the seemingly already past-tense of the latter, suggesting a perhaps antiquated verb form gouloir. which could only mean…to glut? unfortunately neither Larousse nor nor l’internet turn up anything by way of definition, although i did find gouloir twice on dating websites (“Amour. Estime. Gouloir.” what?), so i am left to speculate, idly, as per usual.

dear The French, where are you when i need you? and why when i do not, are you always singing karaoke SO LOUD across the street?

3 Responses

  1. [...] notorious epicures, gourmets and gourmands; others perhaps recognizable only to those of like mind, the goinfres, goulus, or plain old great eaters – those, in any case, devoted in their own ways to the pleasurable embellishments [...]

  2. [...] it was. i am inclined to think it had something to do with the prevalence of G words involved in eating, specifically eating to excess (see also this, this, and this), although they seem to derive [...]

  3. [...] in what would prove to be its entirety. and i remember an argument with a German translator about Benjamin and proviral genetics (respectively) for which i was woefully [...]

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