Do Ya Feel Mah Pain, Asked The Potato

What is consciousness … We find it difficult to sympathise with the emotions of a potato; so do we with those of an oyster. Neither of these things makes a noise on being boiled or opened, and noise appeals to us more strongly than anything else, because we make so much about our own sufferings. Since, then, they do not annoy us by any expression of pain we call them emotionless; and so qua mankind they are; but mankind is not everybody.

– from the chapter The Book Of The Machines in “Erewhon” by Samuel Butler

Culture, Musings

But I Love Lamb And Redcurrant Jelly!

When you and I, for instance, realize how many innocent beasts have had to suffer in cattle-cars and slaughter-pens and lay down their lives that we might grow up, all fattened and clad, to sit together here in comfort … it does, indeed, put our relation to the universe in a more solemn light.

– William James


Going Nuts

I have found myself lately consuming a large jar of assorted nuts for dinner and being quite satisfied. Absurdly or nut(!), there’s a faint feeling of naughtiness that this must be wrong, after all, nuts are not food and I should be eating something substantial like steak or chicken or fish. I put this partly to my upbringing where having a distended gut after a meal was sought; and partly to the fear of fat in nuts. Looks like the game so far is: 1 to Nuts, and nought to Fear. Now I just have to give up candied nuts for surely that road, sweet as a nut, is fraught with peril.,0,2424457.story?page=2&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A%20latimes%2Fmostviewed%20%28L.A.%20Times%20-%20Most%20Viewed%20Stories%29&utm_source=feedburner&track=rss


The Cat Was Fat

When you’re hungry you could eat a horse*. Not a foal and not a colt but a stallion. And that might not be so evil a thought if it is true that horse meat has more protein and less fat than lean beef. The French and Canadians, I’ve heard, enjoy this delicacy. The lower fat content is particularly appealing especially since fat became the enemy of humankind. There, indeed, was a time when corpulence signified well-being. A distended belly proclaimed to your fellow humans that you had enough lard not just for the next few hours but for the oncoming winter. Both slobs and the rich could be overweight but the rich, as always, were different. They had transcended the rat race. They were fat cats. To be rich and porcine was cool.

But somewhere in the 20th century we lost our thing for fat. Or maybe the grease was too slippery to hold on to. People were not just fat they were in a brand new category called obese. Fat became a thing of abuse. “Yo mama’s fat” was the ultimate insult. “Yo mama’s so fat when I laid her I rolled over twice and I was still in the middle”.

This evening I was scanning the shelves of Marks and Spencer for dinner. My belly was cooperating. Fat called out to me. “Oh, come on, you could eat a horse”. I bypassed the fresh Scottish salmon and stopped in front of the Indian section. Chicken tikka masala and pilau rice. 600 calories and 27g of fat. Each gram of fat has nine calories. Do the math. The percentage figures they quote on food wrappers are deceit incarnate. They quote the weight percentage of fat. What you need is the calorie percentage. That’s always worse. Much worse. Then I stopped in front of the cookies section (“These are not just any cookies. These are M&S cookies”). I bow before their Pistachio and Almond cookies. Each packet has ten biscuits and each cookie has 100 calories and 7g of fat. Each gram of fat has nine calories. But I was hungry, so it’s ok. I knew I was in trouble when I stopped in front of the honey roasted cashew nuts. Thankfully, my self-respect reasserted itself and I fled.

Various scenarios played in my head as I walked home with my haul. I could start eating the biscuits now, on the street, afterall, I needed energy to walk. Hunger and self-control dueled for bragging rights. I reached the corner of Theberton Street as a Ford Ka turned into Gibson Square and crawled to a stop. That’s funny. I couldn’t see a car in front of the Ka nor pedestrians crossing the street. It was then my my eye caught what had arrested the driver. It was a beautiful feline with the kind of fur many Mesdames would kill for. It ambled with stately nonchalance across the street and it was too obvious why. Even if it had wanted to it couldn’t run. The cat was fat.

*Speaking figuratively.