Friday, May 14, 2010

Cooking, Clothes, and the Quest for Fantasy

Last month, the Manolo posted about the release of his friend Linda Howard's new book, The Thoughtful Dresser. I haven't read it, though it sounds like a lovely book, but I've been meaning to post a link to the Manolo's post because it included two points that I think are really good ones.

Point one: "The quest for the perfect item of clothing, the perfect pair of shoes, is exactly congruent with the search for the divine. They are one and the same, expressing as they both do the innate human desire for the transcendent."

Point two: "Far from being the frivolous frivolity, the shopping for and wearing of clothing brings pleasure, brings joy, brings wholly human satisfaction, which moreover has the power to repair and restore one’s soul."

Both of these ring true to me with respect to shopping for clothes and shoes (my closet bears this out). But replace the clothing references with mentions of food and cooking, and they're also true. The search for the perfect restaurant meal, the creation of a perfect dinner party, even the creation of a perfect Tuesday night dinner - these can be transcendental (I've written about this before - here and here and here).

Oh, often they're not. Tuesday night dinner is usually just Tuesday night dinner - just like shopping for t-shirts at Target is usually just t-shirts at Target. And the restaurant meal and dinner party have the capacity to be frivolous, just like clothes shopping does. It's up to the chef/eater/shopper to make the activity one that transcends the ordinary.

It's not hard to do that - to turn an ordinary activity into something special. It's mostly a matter of savoring details and connecting the cooking or eating or shopping to the fantasies and desires we all have - to our own quests for the divine. Of course, just because it's not hard doesn't mean it's practical to do every day. Every Target trip could be full of fantasy and pleasure, but it probably shouldn't. Even fantasy can start to feel ordinary.

But that doesn't take away from Manolo's points, or from the extension of those points to cooking and eating. After all, desiring the transcendent is a human trait and it's part of what makes every day more beautiful.

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