Dis-moi ce qui tu manges, et je te dirai ce que tu es.
Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.
Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, Physiologie du goût, 1825
What do you want for dinner?" asked Cedar, as they stumbled finally up from the shore in the gathering gloom. "We ought to have dinner, don't you think?"
"We should, I guess," admitted Annie, adding practically, "Can you handle it?"
"Oh yeah. Anything but pork."
"Don't even think about it."
"Yeah," he mused into reminiscent (or was it imaginative?) fantasy, "A nice bowl of fresh, crunchy, Kellogg's cornflakes. That would do nicely just about now."
"But you never touch them at home." Granola was already de rigueur among le tout Santa Cruz, if a touch déclassé among the macro-biotic and vegan sets, who shunned milk. As for cornflakes ... aside from the ingredients, the packaging was there to scorn, and the advertising, and the connotations, and ... well, Annie was shocked.
"But I could."
Live free and die.
"Try the railroad station." Annie's guiding principle of laisser-faire, or 'do your own thing' as it was generally known at the time, trumped any personal inclinations (always excepting the absolute extremes, like the livers of tortured geese or the flesh of abused baby calves). She was quite willing to be helpful. She didn't have to eat the stuff.
But why not? The great Mr John Harvey Kellogg was a convinced vegetarian, indeed a health-food nut of the first water. He is said to have developed his famous cereal in 1876 for reasons of both health and religion: he claimed that, as part of a balanced diet (can't you hear the pitch now?) his corn flakes would help to (wait for it) lower that hard-to-manage sex drive. Hmm. Try that one on MTV. On second thoughts, Annie's instincts may have been sound.
"But there isn't one." A railroad station, he meant. "Anyway, when they do have them, the milk's warm and the cereal's soggy."
Cedar was right, as Annie knew, but that won him no sympathy. If only she had understood the full complexity of the situation. It was true that, presumably under British guidance, Dr Kellogg's brilliant innovation had become a staple of the Indian Railway's menus. Careful of their variegated clientele, the authorities maintained separate establishments for vegetarians and carnivores, and tried to ensure that English children, Hindu saddhus and Muslim grandmothers had equal access to their dietary preferences. Alas, the prevailing conditions of technology and weather conspired to enforce certain adjustments, not all for the better.
Many of your average dopers, awakened by hash or habit or even hunger to a desire for instant culinary gratification, reverted as by instinct to childhood. Seeing one of the first names they ever learned to recognize, with that flowery K, that distinctive, almost calligraphic, typeface seeing it printed, on an actual menu, albeit in some undistinguished text font they couldn't help themselves. They demanded the fulfillment of a childhood dream: Cornflakes for dinner. In a real restaurant, with the part of Mom played by a waiter in livery. The vision came alive and stayed, even after the soggy, warm reality intruded. It tapped into a primæval longing that, once aroused, lurked in the system like malaria. Outbreaks might recur with little or no warning. Time was the only cure, together with removal to more temperate climes where the desire could be sated quickly and, in all but the worst cases, definitively, by consumption of a single bowl, with a sufficiency of sugar and cold milk.
(Pause for a public-service announcement. Travelers are advised that purchase of the Giant or Family-sized package is usually unnecessary and is not recommended as a first step in treatment; the urge to do so, prompted by the vision of apparently unlimited supplies, is best suppressed. The variety package usually contains plenty of good stuff and the rest can easily be palmed off on small children who know no better. This announcement has been provided by the management of this story as a public service to our readers. Fade back to plot.)
Annie's incomprehension notwithstanding, Cedar was trying to grasp something normal in the middle of the bizarre, and if his psyche was temporarily so twisted that his concept of normal was reduced to an image from television, which is really what was going on, well, he'd come down soon enough. Meantime, he'd hold on by trying to push patterns he knew over the strange reality he was confronted with.
Whatever rush had come from the afternoon acid had dissolved into a generalized sense of energy and well-being. Under these circumstances, eating was partly habit, partly a way of passing the time till moonrise, and partly the result of a commonsense call from the superego for fuel. Artificial energy, it insisted, is a supplement, not a replacement, and the evening's expedition promised to require solid provisioning. Regrettably, even after the helpful encouragement of a pre-prandial blast of Afghani black, the body was not entirely willing to cooperate with the suggestions of the mind. They settled in the end for a taste of the blandest dahl available, with a couple of chapattis, a banana and several cups of tea. This would have to do.
"What is matter?" quoted Cedar, and answered himself, "Never mind." Annie smiled; she'd heard it before. "What is mind?" he continued, "No matter." Annie smiled louder. It was, after all, a good one.
Philosophers and hippies have more in common than members of either clan usually care to admit.
Not enough gourmet chefs in the lot of them.