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The travels of food

May 5th, 2010 · No Comments

Like the tuna, I’m going across the seas, to a new nation whose Prime Minister is the Che Guevara of our time, a charismatic guerrilla poet reluctantly coaxed into power from time to time by his people who aspires instead to tend his garden. Now Alain de Botton is a good writer.  Consider, for example The Art of Travel. His latest work, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work (Hamish Hamilton, 2009) does not really live up to its title, but is brilliant in parts.  Why a photographic essay on the less than 60 hour journey of a tuna caught in the Maldives on its way from Indonesia to Somalia, to the Bristol dinner table of Linda Drummond, accompanied all the way by de Botton, is in a book called The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work is an interesting question, but I am glad it was:

‘The tuna has never been this far out of the water, has never seen light this bright, but he knows instinctively that he will drown in so much air.  The fishermen need him to stop flooding his arteries with blood in panic, or he will darken, and therefore ruin, the appearance of his flesh against a dinner plate.  So the captain’s brother swiftly wrestles him between his rubber boots and raises aloft a large, blunt mallet, resembling the archetypal club of a prehistoric man, carved from the trunk of a coconut tree.  He brings it down heavily.  The tuna’s eyes jerk out of their sockets.  His tail convulses.  His jaw opens and closes, as ours might do, but no scream emerges.  The mallet strikes again.  … The fisherman is himself enraged now, striking the beast vengefully, cursing the dying creature in Dhivehi: ‘Nagoobablba, nagoobablba, hey aruvaalaanan (‘Bitch, bitch, you’ve had it now’).  This is the first tuna he has caught in eight days, and there are six children waiting at home.’

A little similar is Dutch conceptual artist Christien Meindert’s Pig 05049, which follows the transformation of a single pig into many different and surprising things.  I got onto it via this article, which says this, amongst other things:

‘The bladder becomes the skin of a tambourine. Haemoglobin goes into cigarette filters, and is added to ham to enhance its appearance. From pig’s bone fat we get antifreeze, floor wax, toothpaste, crayons, anti-wrinkle cream, make-up foundation, and hair conditioner.  And even bullets. Gelatine from pig bones helps move gunpowder into shell casings.’

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Tags: Travel