Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Your Basic Lunch Food


The Wesfoodie spends most days at a place where the only reasonably accessible food is in a corporate cafeteria at an adjacent building. So I have spent a fair amount of time together with various sandwiches and chip combinations. Cafeteria food is not something very many of us think about all too often; it is like a white painted wall or short neatly parted hair for men, totally normative. It is so standard as to go unnoticed as culturally significant. It is the basis from which all other things deviate. One does not remark that a wall is white – we take notice only of a wall that differs from the norm – a red painted wall, a polka dotted wall, a mud wall – and regard the painted white wall as neutral. Same with the neatly parted hair and chicken salad sandwich.

One could safely say that chicken salad is a basic. But, as for all things, its normative value is illusory. On closer inspection its neutrality collapses and something much more complex, vivid and disjunctive appears. After all, we are talking about a chopped up creature originating from the Indian jungle boiled in a substance older than life on earth, mixed together with an emulsion of oil and the creature’s own eggs first whipped up in France two centuries ago and usually dotted with little chunks of an ancient Greek holy plant (celery). Put that together on a roll with some pickles and chips and for $3.95 you have yourself: The Lunch Counter Special.


Now the Wesfoodie does not too much like the idea of eating “chopped up creature” boiled in primordial liquids no matter how accurate that may be. There’s something very comforting about going and getting your basic sandwich for lunch and eating it without much ado. As Caravaggio and Woody Allen knew, illusions aren’t all bad all of the time. Sometimes we just need the eggs, or it could be chicken salad. Whichever comes along first. But would it kill someone to add a little curry?

2 comments:

Sir Tuttlesby said...

Sir, I must disagree with your assessent. Chicken Salad has been, and always will be, well-within the bounds of the normative, despite the attempts of deconstructionists like yourself.

Indeed, such a concoction (the chicken salad, not yourself)is a veritable microcosm of the commoners palette. One conjures a railroad worker or "cabbie", his mouth salivating at the thought of biting into his beloved poultry and "mayo". Chicken is the poor man's spam and "Mayo" of course, is for those whose taste buds have not developed beyond the Crustacean Era.

Anonymous said...

I see you are still under the charm of the last Doug Henning show you attended. The illusion of chicken salad's normative value is strong.

I wonder what sauces were to be had in the Crustacean Era. Must have been a slurpin' blast.