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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

On food and philosophy

<iting that is in any way creative isn’t a big fixture in the philosophy major at Carleton. It’s the reason I consider columning a little outside my comfort zone; it’s probably the reason I had such existential angst in trying to come up with a theme for this one. I’ve spent much of my academic career over the last two years devotedly confusing myself with issues that I once thought were concrete: Why should we be ethical? What is a human being? Who’s to say, really, that this computer I’m typing on really exists, that I really exist?

After years of this, I have philosophical inquiry coming out my ears. I went through a phase I like to call “philosophical sass” when I came home this summer and worked a summer job where all my co-workers were getting more practical degrees than me. They would say things like “Do you know anything about medicine?” and I would respond with “Do you know if medicine really exists? Prove it.” Such retorts generally wouldn’t get much of a laugh but it would allay the otherwise inevitable question, “what are you going to do with that?”

The point I’m trying to get at is that the study of philosophy does pervade my everyday life, but in a rather distant way. I don’t see examples of what I study everywhere, the way I imagine a psychology student would; it hasn’t convinced me to attach myself to a cause, the way I’ve seen with some IR majors. However, on occasion I do look at an ethical decision in a different way. I’ve wondered to some extent about the virtues of vegetarianism, I have a solid stance on what I think will happen when I die and I’ve examined my own intuitions and prejudices with a closeness that I don’t think I otherwise could have. Beyond these, though, the study of philosophy has also fundamentally endeared me to any part of life about which there are no difficult questions. And this leads me, finally, to the theme of this column: food. It’s as complicated as you want to make it.

It’s satisfying you’re hungry, so you eat. It’s a social activity; you can cook for someone, they can cook for you, or you can both go to the dining hall and eat mediocre Bon Appetit food. It has led to one of the best channels on television. And best of all, you get to stop whatever work you’re doing to make and eat it.

Now that I’ve explained my love of one of the simplest pleasures in life, I’ll take a step back and admit that at times, for me, it’s not that simple. I have as many food intolerances as unanswered philosophical questions; wheat, lactose, and tomatoes, to name a few. Fall term, my first off the full meal plan, was good but not great. There were a lot of salads and, I will admit, protein shakes involved. This year I like to think I can turn over a new leaf. I’ve resolved to eat in more interesting and exciting ways. I’m not saving the world or anything, but who’s to say the meaning of life doesn’t involve discovering and eating really great food?

Before signing out I’d like to provide an excerpt from first week. It was a success, with the discovery of a kind of vegan “cookie dough”: blended chickpeas, maple syrup, almond butter, vanilla extract, and chocolate chips. Making dessert when you can’t have flour isn’t exactly easy, but this one was wonderful.

I have high hopes for the rest of the term. What else is there to do in the depths of winter, really, besides amusing your tastebuds? A New Year’s Resolution to make more interesting food should be easier to keep than, say, something involving weight loss, being more organized, or quitting drinking. If you’re interested, feel free to share my journey.

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