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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Thoughts on Things: Ms. Joy and Mr. Payne Eat from Eath Other's Plate

I'll have a bit more of that polenta, if you don't mind, Mr. Payne.


No problem, Ms. Joy. It's quite delicious. The menu described it as "Apache polenta," quite a mingling of cultures. You'll notice, as you take a bite, that to the polenta the cook has added both grilled onion and grilled poblanos, giving it a southwestern flavor. And, of course, polenta itself is Italian.


You do go on, Mr. Payne. Sometimes for longer than one wants to hear.


Just a bit longer, my dear, for I wanted to point out that the corn used for polenta is actually itself a New World product, thus this form of polenta is not really traditionally Italian. The original Italian polenta was made from chestnut flour or buckwheat flour. There. Now I've finished my lecture. You help yourself to a bite of this interesting dish, which seems to be cross-cultural but is actually, as I have shown, mono-cultural—that is, completely New World. 


Ms. Joy takes a bite of the Apache Polenta from Mr. Payne's plate.


Um-m-m. Oh yes, it's quite good. I do like the poblano flavor here. But, Mr. Payne, must you always always elucidate? Do you feel you need to enlighten me with every single bite?


When you eat from my plate, Ms. Joy, you partake of more than just my food. By asking to dine with me and to share what I eat, you are in effect asking that I share with you a part of myself. So that's what I've been doing.


And I thank you for it, truly I do. It's just that sometimes (not always, of course) I find your explanations and enlightenings just a tiny bit long-winded. Appropriate for the classroom, perhaps, but hardly what I want to listen to as I eat.


And may I ask, Ms. Joy, what it is that you would like to listen to as you eat? But before we talk about that, what is it that you like to eat? What is that mixture on your plate, for example?


Ah. You've forgotten what I ordered, have you? I don't know whether it would be to your taste. But it suits me so well. It's a mixture of tropical fruits, and I ordered it because it felt just right for this hot day. Would you like to try a bite from my plate?


Thank you, my dear. I don't mind if I do. M-mm. Interesting. I never have much liked that silly star-fruit, myself. It makes up in appearance what it lacks in flavor, so I find it makes a better objet d'art than a food item. But here's a piece of mango. Oh yes indeed, that suits you. Ms. Joy. Mango is indeed a joyous taste. Of course, you know that in this country we see only two or three varieties of mango, while there are actually scores of varieties grown around the world. While this particular mango is quite good, one can't help but wonder whether another type of mango might actually be better suited to your tropical salad.


You know, Mr. Payne, I'm beginning to see just how well your name suits you. You do tend to be—well, yes, a pain. May I suggest that we enjoy our meal and not analyze it to death? Do you parse all of your life in such detail?


Indeed I do, Ms. Joy. Parsing life gives me great pleasure, if Mr. Payne can be said to enjoy pleasure. The more I can divide life up into tiny little compartments, minuscule shades of meaning, then the more likely it is that I will find the almost-hidden, nearly-forgotten shards of pain. It is important to reveal their pain to people so they can wallow in it. Without me, they might be able to overlook it.


And that's a most disgusting sentiment, Mr. Payne. As "Joy" incarnate, I feel it is my duty to expand experience for people. The more sensation they can bring to an experience, the more likely it is that they will be able to transcend or to forget their pain. I find this a loftier goal than yours.


Each to his own taste, Ms. Joy. You do your thing and I'll do mine. Whose approach will be more popular? I'm quite sure mine will be. No one is actually looking for "joy," no matter what they say. People want to feel their pain, dwell on it, hold it, bring it out and fondle it. Your happy-happy attitude is counter to what I have seen of human desire.


People change, Mr. Payne. Whole societies change. People need joy. And, whether or not you admit it, joy can obliterate pain. In fact, I'm sorely tempted to do that right now. But no, instead of obliterating you, I'll just have another bite of your Apache Polenta.


No hard feelings, m'dear, I hope. Help yourself. And if you don't mind, I'll try a bit more of your rather disappointing but still interesting tropical fruit salad.


Having realized that they will never come to agreement, Mr. Payne and Ms. Joy continue to eat from each other's plate.


Copyright 2007 Ann Tudor

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