I listened to Jim Leff's interview on NPR last night, and got to thinking about the passion and commitment of chowhounding. Chowhound touches some very deep needs and yearnings in my life, and I got to thinking about why it is so important. I wrote this. It doesn't answer the question but perhaps it provides some clues. Despite today's date and despite the silly title it is very serious.
I was eight years old. I was visiting my grandma's house. She got some oranges, sliced them, and slowly carefully squeezed the juice into a glass, gave the glass to me. I had had my share of orange juice in my young life, all from cans and cartons and bottles, so I politely said thank you and with very little enthusiasm took a sip. WOW! It was BETTER! That was my very first Chowhound experience.
Fast forward. Things change. One of my friends got drunk and went out and got a tattoo, a scantily clad lady waving a banner that said "No values" All of my friends were desperately searching for values, causes, something to believe in. Everything seemed fixed and certain when I was a child, but now, nothing did, nothing at all. And yet from time to time I caught glimpses of this certainty, of a world of shared and common values, when I visited parts of New York, far from Manhattan, where ties of family, custom and village reigned supreme. Usually, the people there were from far-off places -- China, Colombia, Bangladesh, usually the place I found them was a restaurant, and usually the food was pretty darn good. I wrote accounts of my restaurant journeys. Having found glimpses and snippets of joy, I wanted to share them with my friends. There was a lesson to be learned from these experiences, and I wanted to share it.
The reaction was not what I expected. "Joy! Joy in food!" they scoffed and laughed and sneered. "Posturing and ego games, far better to seek the truth in austere meditation than waste time chasing such illusions!" And yet, thinking back on that day in grandma's house, I realize that, far from being illusion, what I had latched onto was, epistemologically speaking, the one true certain thing. Descartes, who was on the same quest, found that the only thing he could be sure existed were thoughts, sense-perceptions; he felt them, and so they were real and so perhaps was he. Cogito ergo sum. But we chowhounds have carried this one step farther. For us, goodness and beauty are real, and we know it with the same certainty Descartes found in his thoughts. Because dammit that fresh squeezed orange juice was BETTER! Denying that would be like denying the sunrise