Department of Hmmh?

Department of Hmmh?

I read a fair amount. As a result, I inevitably come across Written Things That Make Me Go Hmmh?1 Here are three of my favorite finds over the past while:

#1: From an ad in The New Yorker: a reviewer’s quote of a new book:

A high-octane, thinking-man’s account of one guy’s quest to find meaning in life by cooking a grass-fed steer.

I scratched my head on that one for a while. Is this a thing that we’re doing now: cooking a steak and searching for life’s meaning in the act? Intrigued and slightly fearful that I’d missed the existentialist memo, I read on.

The book in question is called “Year of the Cow.” I will admit right now that I have not read it. The publisher’s description reveals that this is the story of Jared Stone, who, in an effort to better know and understand what he and his family are eating, buys a butchered, grass-fed cow. And then eats it.

That’s right: ol’ Jared bought some meat, then he cooked it and ate it. Try and wrap your mind around that.

The product description continues, titillating with the lures that Jared “becomes more mindful of his diet” and “makes changes to his lifestyle,” all of which sounds like drivel of the most insipid, bourgeois, entitled, and self-absorbed kind. But then I read that Jared “bravely confronts challenges he never expected,” and I stopped and re-evaluated my annoyances.

I trembled to imagine the many trials brave Jared and his family must have confronted: after all, who in humankind prior to us has ever dared consume the enigmatic cow?? Consider the difficulties they courageously confronted when deciding whether to cook the rib-eye medium-rare instead of medium?? A moment too long on the grill and the entire experiment is a bust—dear readers, shudder with me at the thought.

And so, to my list of inspired humans who have dared to bravely confront the challenges that stand between them and their dreams—the Che Guevara’s, the Martin Luther King’s, the Harriet Tubman’s, the Lenin’s and McCartney’s—I now proudly add Jared and his intrepid family.

Returning to the quote: To whom does this sound like “high-octane” reading material? Even with promises of “the ethnography of cattle” —just chew on that alluring cud—it’s difficult to imagine this capturing the attention of anyone not seeking a cure for their sustained insomnia.

I think the more curious question is: Is it even high-octane living, this act of buying and eating a cow? After all, with the exception of scale this sounds a lot like what I already did several times today. And I didn’t even take a single Instagram shot or blog about it.

Yet. (Watch out Pioneer Woman—I got my eye on you.)

And so I conclude: That a man bought and ate a cow fails to wow me. That a man talked his way into selling a book based upon this premise… well, that’s just damn impressive. So good for you, Jared, you brave, brave soul.

#2: The following comes from a NY Times article about breakfast sandwiches:

Trying to improve the breakfast sandwich by spending more on the bacon is like telling a fireman who just dragged four children out of a burning house to change his shirt before he goes on the evening news.

I first read this line nearly a month ago and still haven’t figured out what the hell it’s supposed to mean. It’s possible that the analogy suffers a touch from overstatement—that is, jumping from breakfast sandwiches to firemen rescuing children from flaming houses is anything but obvious to me. But then I’ve never been much of a foodie.

The best I can conclude is that it’s a Zen Koan: mysteriously unsolvable, but sufficiently intriguing to keep me returning time and again in search of comprehension.

#3: My favorite of all, found within the crispy, vanilla-flavored curves of a fortune cookie, in plain, simple and direct English:

Learn Chinese

  1. Dear attentive readers: if you pay close attention there’s one phrase in this blog post that might make you go Hmmh?? I’m not talking about the usual typos and poor grammar. The first to find it and let me know gets their praises sung in print. Or, at least here on my blog. I promise to sing loudly to make up for insignificance of the location. []

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