Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Commensality Chez Kaufman


In the interest of his thesis
commensality
that refusing to tuck into whatever your host chooses to offer you makes you a philistine because you don’t respect their food culture Daniel Kaufman offers the example of the Chinese man who offered an American visiting the country cicadas to eat. Though he was a little disgusted by the idea of eating insects he accepted the treat as a matter of good manners. This is the interpretation we are offered. I find it questionable given that even the Hong Kong Chinese refer to Northern Chinese as ‘locust eaters’ as a pejorative. The Chinese host therefore was well aware that not everyone is partial to crispy critters. Why did he do it? Was it going to be a good story, how the gweilo forced them down? And mime it.

Would this acceptance of anything your host offers apply to the eating of broccoli? One might say: put it on my plate if you wish but I will not eat it. Would that be a reproach to your family’s judgment of its healthful properties and have a chilling effect on commensality chez Kaufman. There would be the unspoken thought that there was one amongst us who does not love his broccoli that mother prepared with love and chapped fingers from the washing in cold water. This is not to be borne.
This would have the effect that cynics claim is the basis of dietary restriction as in Judaism and Hinduism namely the restriction of commensality to the in group.

I am glad to see that virtually no one goes along with Kaufman’s daft commensality culture. When I was a lad - story time - I was in London’s Soho and spotted a little cafe with hot salt beef sandwiches. I went in and ordered one and asked for a glass of milk to go with it. We don’t serve milk at lunchtime was the answer I got. Milk, I said, milk, thinking that I was not understood. We don’t serve it at lunch. Baffled I took the sandwich to my table. It was delicious. Now that I know that one mustn’t seethe the calf in its mother’s milk I wouldn’t ask. I wouldn’t even ask chez Kaufman.

“Lo, when the wall is fallen shall it not be said unto you where is the daubing wherewith you have daubed it”. Ezekiel 13:12

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