On Living Like a European
The hunger artist begins his play in the world, shaking things up, by acting out his need to satisfy hunger. (Wait a second, this hunger artist is a woman, so I’m going to be referring to myself in the feminine third person from here on out.) So this hunger artist is hungry, right? And she acts to satisfy that need, right? Hungry for what? You might well ask this question, and she can only answer, for life. This trickster needs to be a hedonist, decadent, well ....European.
The originator of the Slow Food movement is Italian- Carlo Petrini, to be exact- and that’s alright by me. The point of Slow Food as it began in 1986 was ostensibly about the protest against McDonald’s, but it formed and grew and took shape and attracted a slew of other Europeans (and some South Americans, who also live like hunger artists) who came up with a manifesto in defense of the quality of Slow Food. I mean, this is seriously more than a good idea; it’s a mantra for living:
“May suitable doses of guaranteed sensual pleasure and slow, long-lasting enjoyment preserve us from the contagion of the multitude who mistake frenzy for efficiency. This is what real culture is all about: developing taste rather than demeaning it.” (Slow Food: The Case for Taste by Carlo Petrini; 2001, Columbia University Press)
Sensual pleasure? Check! Long-lasting enjoyment? Check, check! Developing taste? You betcha! I mean, linguistically speaking, the definition of “hedonism” is the theory of ethics in which pleasure is regarded as the chief good or the proper aim. If preparing food in the Slow way, for the sensual pleasure of doing so (The smells! The colors! The tastes! The communal activity!), is considered the chief good and proper aim, then sign me up. And frankly, this European mentality is pretty much what most New Orleanians bring whenever they act to satisfy their hunger too.
Nobody in America does food like we do food (and yes, the gauntlet has been thrown) because we are an essentially European city. Everything we do is communal anyway, from living arrangements to the perpetually incestuous music scene, and as the saying around town goes, “Beautiful people don’t hurry.” We make food together, we eat it together, we sit around in torpor together afterward, and then we do it all again tomorrow. Truly decadent.