Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Variety is the spice of lunch

There was so much food there now, and , knowing much more was coming, Evan didn't know where to begin.
Fortunately, the setting of the table helped a lot., for all the flatware was arranged in such a matter as to clue him in to which item should be eaten first.
A small pincer like device - I see - that can be used for plucking the flesh of this ... claw?
And the two thin silver chopsticks - they must be for picking up those salmon eggs - or whatever roe they actually are.
A hammer and set of chisels with successively fine points?
At the top of the plate was a small pair of reading glasses, which he put on and , sure enough, he could see that some of the food was so tiny he might have missed it. It looked like tiny berries, but they may have been popped blowflies for all he knew.
Salt and pepper were not on the table - instead six bottles with differing colored powders and liquids were placed nearby, and Evan noticed that there was a different set at the next table. The bright green - was that some kind of ground pepper or was it a seaweed? The deep red - paprika? - or the brown - ox blood? In any case, each combination looked to make for an unusual flavor!
The air itself was going through courses, as the smell went from cardamom to sesame, to a hickory smoke and - yes - even tobacco.
The napkins had been laid in a series , one per course, and each in a different fabric and color. A set of tiny cups made of different metals held aromatic liquids, some to drink, some to dip food in, some just to be there to neutralize the one it was placed in back of.

With a ringing of the dinner bell, our host helped ease the proceedings with a short introduction to the meal.

"As you may well recall, I returned last month from a "round the world trip" that took me five years and three months to complete, and I crossed the globe many times and went to all continents to find the rarest and most exotic foods.
Never has a single meal had all its ingredients taken all fresh within 12 hours - from the five continents, and many other places beside."

"We start as the Blue whales do, with a bowl of plankton, chilled with a light sea salt. We end as the bats do, with freshly
caught mosquitos from our own special bug zappers. And in the course of tonight's repast, we taste the outsides - hair, feathers, skins and leaves - and work our way to the bones and entrails, the eggs and sperm, the contents of a ruminants four stomachs and I even say, the four stages of a frog's metamorphosis. Liquid, solid and gaseous delights are to be presented in a gustatory poem of the senses. You may not be able to partake of all these exotica - the cryptozoans from Antarctica's Dry Valleys may prove too difficult to scrap off of the ventiformed rocks they are concealed in, and the interiors of a sea urchin's spines may not prove worthy of the effort to avoid the poison - yet I am sure that for each of you, at least one of these courses will prove a revelation and a reorientation of your idea of what is fit to eat. Feel free to pass on your untested food to a neighbor, who may better enjoy it."

"There is no better way to feel connected with the earth than to partake of it, as it is done not only by far-flung tribes of men, but by the animals they live with and the many forms of life which man takes no account of. "

While this was going on, a pressurized tank was being wheeled in, with a spouting black smoker and, surrounding this simulated hydrothermal vent, were teams of tall wormlike creatures and blind shrimp. How are we expected to eat animals that do not share our basic chemistry, that do not even use sunlight as an energy source? This is insane!

The plankton that started us off was given in whale-sized proportion. Many of the meats seemed purposely uncooked,
waiting for us to either eat it raw or to don the fireproof gloves and thrust it into the earth ovens which had been built in the center of the room. In fact, in the dim light, I could now see that some rabbits and voles were loose in the room, and I suppose we were expected to catch and kill them ourselves, explaining the tiny traps and nooses that also lay in our settings.

Over by the far wall were pens of brooding fowl, some of them only slightly smaller than an albatross. From these birds issued a stream of eggs, and also the same was provided by a simulated beach where loggerhead sea turtles had lain their eggs.
Yes, I even could make out a gravid platypus.

It was going to be a long, challenging night, but a free meal is a hard thing to pass up.

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