While researching an essay for another class, I came upon a miscellaneous document by Joseph Conrad that connects quite well with Jane Bennett’s “Edible Matter” chapter. The essay, which is actually the introduction of his wife Jessie’s cook book, describes the the art of “good cooking” as a “moral agent” (146). And, in a very edible matter-esque description, Conrad describes good food as:
“[t]he intimate influence of conscientious cooking by rendering easy the process of digestion promotoes the serenity of mind, the graciousness of though, and that indulgent view of our neighbors’ failings which is the only genuine form of optimism. Those are its titles to our reverence” (147).
This description truly made me think of how food is part of a massive assemblage that ultimately manifests its effects in myriad ways, but most importantly, it can influence how we feel.
Moreover, Conrad —in utilizing rather absurd pseudo-scientific claims— instists that the Native American Indians acquired their “sombre and excessive ferocity” from “perpetual indigestion,” which he argued was because their “wives had not mastered the art of conscientious cooking” (147).
given this description of Food, from Conrad, and Marion’s post on Virginia Woolf, it seems like there may have been more thoughts about the vibrance of matter and the fallacy of modernism going on than we would like to think. Reading essays like this make me believe that perhaps recent work in OOO and Actor-Network theory is actually giving a name to something that has long been thought about?
For further reading, the book and chapter is:
Conrad, Joseph. “Cookery.” Last Essays. Ed. Richard Curle. Freeport: Books for Libraries, 1970. 146-148. Print.