"I am not one who was born in the custody of wisdom. I am one who is fond of olden times and intense in quest of the sacred knowing of the ancients." Gustave Courbet

30 June 2011


"Did you ever notice how we never allow ourselves to be actually hungry?" said Russell Chatham, a burly painter of some note. We were eating a prehunt breakfast, parked beside Oleson's buffalo paddock outside Traverse City, Michigan. All the boy buffalo were chasing each other around, hell-bent on sex, their red wangers bobbing in the air. "Those guys are a tad confused, Chatham added, eyeing the corked bottle of wine, at which we both coughed, thinking that ten in the morning isn't too early for a sip of red wine with a sandwich. Way up here in the northland there's a fine Italian delicatessen, Folgarelli's, and Chatham was having a hot Italian sausage with marinara sauce and melted mozzarella, while my choice was a simple prosciutto, mortadella, Genoa salami, and provolone on an Italian roll.

Throughout the day we mulled over the not-exactly-metaphysical question of why we never, for more than a moment, allowed ourselves to be hungry. Could this possibly be why we were both seriously overweight? But only a fool jumps to negative conclusions about food, especially before dinner. Cuisine minceur notwithstanding, the quality of food diminishes sharply in proportion to negative thinking about ingredients and, simply put, the amount to be prepared. There is no substitute for Badia a Coltibuono olive oil. Period. Or the use of salt pork in the cooking of southwest France. Three ounces of chablis are far less interesting and beneficial than a magnum of Bordeaux. I have mentioned before that we are in the middle of yet another of the recurrent sweeps across our nation of the "less is more" bullies. When any of these arrive in my yard, I toss a head of iceberg lettuce and some dog biscuits off the porch.

Let's all stop for a moment in our busy day and return to some eternal verities. It's quite a mystery, albeit largely unacknowledged, to be alive, and, quite simply, in order to remain alive you must keep eating. My notion, scarely original, is that if you eat badly you are very probably living badly. You tend to eat badly when you become inattentive to all but the immediate economic necessities, real or imagined, and food becomes an abstraction; you merely "fill up" in the manner that you fill a car with gasoline, no matter that some fey grease-slinger has put raspberry puree on your pen-raised venison. You are still a nitwit bent over a trough.

- Jim Harrison, "Hunger, Real and Unreal"

For this and more of the the best food writing you'll read, look here and here.

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