I’ve been reading Kurt Vonnegut. I’ve specifically been reading, Deadeye Dick, the satirical tale of Rudy Waltz, who, as a child, commits accidental manslaughter, the obliteration of a town by the detonation of a neutron bomb and the wry observations of the unrelenting allotment of life’s disasters.
Amidst the social commentary and death and life and other little happenings, Vonnegut peppers his story intermittently with recipes. The preface describes these recipe asides as “musical interludes for the salivary glands,” and their effect is close to genius. Some of the recipes include, “How to make Mary Hoobler’s barbecue sauce,” “Eggs a la Rudy Waltz (age thirteen),” and “Haitian Banana Soup.”
Eggs a la Rudy Waltz go something like this…
“Egg a la Rudy Waltz (age thirteen): Chop cook and drain two cups of spinach. Blend with two tablesoons butter, a teaspoon of salt, and a pinch of nutmeg. Heat and put into three oven-proof bowls or cups.
Put a poached egg on top and each one, and sprinkle with grated cheese. Bake for five minutes at 375 degrees.
Serves three: the papa bear, the mama bear and the baby bear who cooked it – and who will clean up afterwards.”
Like a new innovative form of punctuation, the recipes suggest comical pauses throughout the central character’s journey. Juxtaposing a murder, as well as life’s more simple tragedies, such as Rudy pursuing pharmacy rather than a passion for writing, literary snack-time feels absurd, sarcastic and, at times, inappropriate. That is why they’re so completely brilliant. Like any meal, not only do they have the keen ability to act as distinguishing markers in our lives, but they allow us the opportunity to sit a while, reflect, and momentarily break away from a tiring day.
On account that I am not a literary scholar, nor do I hold the profoundly satirical intellect to presume what Vonnegut had intended, I will not make any psychic projections. What I do know, is that in the face of whatever life presents, like Rudy Waltz, I hope there will be something flavorful to nourish me along the way. Perhaps, it is not so absurd, nor inappropriate, to contemplate food in the face of tragedy. In fact, no matter what might be happening, if you’re feeling haggard, or if life’s got you down, perhaps the best solution is to go make a sandwich. After all, we must eat.