Starry Wisdom

Entropic Words from Neilathotep

Sunday, February 17, 2008

On Food and Eating

So i just read Michael Pollan’s latest book, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. And it’s not perfect, but it got me thinking about Community Supported Agriculture, which is something that I’ve thought about before, but it seemed to be a big pain. Well, it turns out that one that looks good has a pickup place about a mile or so away from home. So I signed up for a 4 box (8 week) trial, which also includes a half dozen fresh, pastured eggs per box. I’ll report back after it starts up on more thoughts. But it sounds like it could be yummy.

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Thursday, February 7, 2008

Thing-a-day story

I’ve been doing thing a day this year, and yesterday I decided to write a short story. I use this goofy story idea generator I found ( as the inspiration:

Here is what it came up with for me:

Who: dead chef
What: silent stethoscope
When: 20 minutes from now
Where: sea shore
Why: because of him
How: with great responsibility.

And here is the story I wrote in bits and pieces throughout the day – note that I did this in one pass, no editing or anything:

I guess I might as well start telling you that I am already dead. Not physically,
but mentally, and in the scheme of things, you can no longer count me as amongst
the living. Knowing this makes what I have to do easier to contemplate, but I
still yearn for the life of the living.

Just think, only a few hours ago I was at work, grilling steaks and chicken for
the worthless customers in the dining room. I was carefree, and cavorting with
my staff. Many chef’s in my position are known as disciplinarians, and I was
like that when I was younger and first rose to my current – well, past position.
That job means nothing anymore, and I will never return to it. But I soon
realized that the old adage “you catch more flies with honey” had truth in it.
When I encouraged my cooks instead of punished them, we worked as a team, and
finished service more easily, and with better results. You can see, I am not one
to fear change and going my own way.

Tonight’s service start out easily enough, but then the owner told us that his
uncle from the old country was going to be here for dinner. VIPs are always a
hassle, and I was not excited by this. It being a Friday night, we were already
sure to be rushed. The restaurant was popular, a fact that I was always proud
of, but this generated more work and more expectations. I am fine – was fine –
with that. A job is best worth doing well, after all. Midway through service,
the owner comes in to the kitchen. Normally we have an agreement that he stays
out during service, and lets the kitchen be the sanctuary that it deserves to
be. But I saw that he had his uncle with him – a stooped old man with wisps of
white hair on his head, and an absurdedly long beard hanging off his chin. He
looked up at me with deep eyes, magnified to outrageous size behind his glasses.
He gasped a moment, then approached me.

“You!” he said. He grapped my hand and lifted it up with surprising strength and
speed for one that appeared so old. He placed my palm up against his face and
inhaled deeply. He quickly threw my hand down and said something in his native
tongue, and left the kitchen, again with surprising speed for one so old. The
owner looked at me, somewhat shocked. He shrugged, and walked out the door after
his relative.

I wrote this off mentally as myself doing something culturally insenstive to the
uncle. Perhaps I was supposed to sniff him back. I didn’t know, and I went back
to cooking for the guests. Soon after the owner came back in.

“My uncle wishes to apologize for his behavior. He just was… shocked. He’d
like it if you went and talked to him at his table before he ordered. Is this OK
with you?”

I appreciated that the owner was so polite. He followed the old tradition of the
chef being absolutely in charge of the kitchen. I nodded in affirmation, and I
followed him out to his uncle’s table.

The only man was sitting alone at at two-top near the window. Perhaps not the
best table in the house, but not a bad one, and for a single patron quite
commendable. The owner motioned at me to sit down. I sat down, a weird feeling
for me to this in the middle of service. The owner walked away and went back to
the front podium. I was left with the old man.

“I am sorry for my behavior earlier.” he said, in a thick accent that I could
not identify. “But I have not seen one of your kind in many years. Not since I
moved to the United States.”

“One of my kind?” I replied.

“Ahh yes, you are still fresh, you do not yet know. Perhaps you might have never
known, but it is too late for this now, is it not.” He put his palms down on the
table in front of him and sighed deeply.

“In my country there is the legend of the revnant. A man who walks amongst the
living, but has no soul, like the dead. He is often considered to be a monster
by the commoners. However, the true story is much more complex. Without the
soul, and its checks and balances the body is free to operate on its own. Often,
this results in the monsters you hear about, raping and murdering, until their
body follows their soul on to the afterlife. But it is not always this way, and
sometimes they can turn in to great heroes, able to do fantastic deeds before
their body and soul are one again, in the next life.”

I was surprised at how eloquent his English was, despite the thick accent. “What
does this have to do with me?”

“You have no soul. I am positive. How you have continued to operate in your
current capacity, I do not know. Nor do I know how long ago your soul departed,
but if I had to quess, I would say within the last 24 hours. You are an empty

“I’m not sure I follow you.”

“You were not raised as we were, to see the truth in the world. Your world is
all about science and observations. Well, my world is also about observations,
but perhaps I just see more. It matters not, you don’t have to believe me, soon
you will be dead, and your body will be at rest, as your soul will be. I have a
single request of you, however. I must insist that you not cook any food that I
eat tonight. It would ruin my purity to eat food touched by a revnant. Can you
humor an old man in his request?”

Of course I thought this was a load of mumbo jumbo, but I had respect for the
old man and his courage to say something as absurd as that. So I agreed to let
my sous-chef cook his meal, and returned to the kitchen.

Through the service I pondered what the old man said. I didn’t feel any
different, so he must be full of it. Then I remembered the stethescope sitting
in the office which I shared with the owner. I decided to test myself, and prove
that I was still alive, as soon as we were done with service that evening.

It was a long wait, and my mind was fixated on hearing my heart, affirming my
life. Eventually the last patron had left, and I left the kitchen in charge of
the rest of the staff for cleaning, and entered the office, ostensibly to do the
nightly kitchen accounting. I opened the desk and took out the old brass
appointed stethescope. I am not sure why we had it, but it must have been the
owners. He might have been a doctor before buying the restaurant, but I never
thought to ask. I put the earpieces on my head and put the end on my heart and
heard nothing. Complete silence. Astounded, I did what I thought I should have
done earlier and put my finger on my wrist and felt for my pulse. Nothing. I
pinched my arm, for I must have been dreaming. But it hurt. And I was still
breathing. So what was going on here. Was the old man right?

I walked out of the restaurant through the back door, intending to get a drink
and go home. I headed towards my normal bar, and then the next thing I realized
I was on an unknown street. Laying below me on the ground was a man I didn’t
know, surrounded by a pool of blood, shining dimly in the street light. I jumped
back, aghast, and saw blood on my own hands. What had happened? I noticed that I
was holding a knife, a paring knife, from my own knife roll. But I had left that
at work. There was no movement from the man at my feet, and my first thought was
to go call for help. However as soon as I thought that I found myself rolling
him over, and seeing his throat, slashed open and hanging there, in front of me.
What had I done? I then noticed the gun laying next to him. I picked it up and
put it in my belt.

“He must have attacked me, and I fought back” I thought, trying to rationalize
my circumstances. But that didn’t explain why I had a knife with me, or why I
didn’t remember it. I realized that perhaps the old man was right. I was no
longer myself, I was a revnant, and I was capable of great horror. Perhaps the
man that I had obviously killed deserved to die, but that wasn’t up to me to
decide. I knew then what I had to do. I skipped the bar and walked to the shore.

I sat on a rock and listened to the waves crash. I figured as long as I could
concentrate on the waves, I could remain myself. I would sit through one last
sunrise, then use the gun to end it. I would not become a monster, any more than
I have already been. I would do the responsible thing and bring my body and soul

I looked at my watch, 6:15 am. I figured I had another 20 minutes before the sun
would rise over the ocean, and I would end it all with a bullet from the gun I
had taken from the dead man on the street.

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