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Posts Tagged ‘eating’

Briggflatts, Bibliophagy, and Other News

June 22, 2016 | by

"You'll eat your words," God said, and lo, Ezekiel did. (Source

“You’ll eat your words,” God told Ezekiel, and lo, Biblical literalism was born. Image via Gallica.

  • If your daily commute this past year was anything like mine, then your daily commute was nothing like Basil Bunting’s in 1965. That was the year Bunting composed Briggflatts, his magnum opus, while riding the train to and from his day job as a newspaper subeditor. Bunting started the poem not long after Tom Pickard showed up at his door and told him, “I heard you were the greatest living poet.” (At the time, Bunting had not published anything in thirteen years; he later said he wrote Briggflatts “to show the boy how it was done.”) The result, first published fifty years ago, in Poetry, was, as August Kleinzahler has it, “a very particular Northumbrian British flowering of all that Pound and Eliot had earlier achieved in their modernist project, while at the same time more emotionally freighted, more ‘human’ than The Cantos or The Waste Land.” 
  • Ask my sixteen-month-old whether books ought to be devoured or digested and he’ll be quick to demonstrate, locking jaws on his favorite compendium of fire-truck photos, that he’s a “both and” kind of guy. In the eighteenth century, it seems, the question was merely metaphorical: “Educational manuals, essays and advice books pitted ‘digestion’ against ‘devouring’ in order to slow down the increasingly fast-paced reading habits of their modern world, realigning reading with the process of character formation. ‘Readers may cram themselves in vain with intellectual Food … for want of digesting it by proper Reflections,’ cautioned Isaac Watts in The Improvement of the Mind (1741). This distinction allowed writers to position ‘digestive’ reading as an ethical ideal, while condemning ‘devouring’ as unthoughtful and hedonistic.”
  • I stopped watching Game of Thrones when I realized that the show existed only to supply grist for Sarah Larson’s ecstatic mill. Why watch the rough draft when you can go straight to the finished objet? This week’s episode pushed her to peak form: “A snow begins to fall, and Sansa, fittingly, gets the last word with Ramsay, who’s tied up in a dungeon, with the vibe of Hannibal Lecter. ‘Hello, Sansa,’ he whispers. She gives him a good cold speech and then reminds him that he hasn’t fed his dogs. Ah, the old bark-and-chew. Never have I been so happy to see someone’s face pounded in, then eaten off by his own dogs. Sansa watches calmly, then smiles. You’ve come a long way, baby. Or she’s become a monster, and so have I.”
  • In March, the New York Times held a three-day conference in Qatar, which featured Jeff Koons, Marina Abramovic, and Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr., the newspaper’s publisher and chairman. The conference addressed such themes as “What is the civic responsibility of the collector in the digital age?” and “How can true, untrammelled, artistic creativity be harnessed in the service of social and economic wellbeing?” It did not, apparently, worry much about what “true, untrammelled, artistic creativity” might mean in a country that imprisoned a poet, Mohammed al-Ajami, for writing poems that criticized Qatar’s autocratic emir: “The inflammatory issues of the region’s present—censorship, labor rights, dynastic succession—are left unaddressed in the Times’s plenary sessions. Rather, the proceedings circulate around the placid lexicon of TED Talks, platitudes of futurism veering into the apolitical and commercial. But in Qatar, you cannot separate politics from art, in large part because the emir’s family is the patron of the arts.” 

Pursued by H

February 9, 2016 | by

Finding a letter in a burrito.


Femme au Burrito, an 1875 painting by Auguste Renoir modified by Chili’s for a 2015 ad campaign with Buzzfeed. Image via Buzzfeed

I was somewhat delirious when I found the letter H in my burrito. I had two weeks to finish translating a difficult novel, and I was teaching at two different universities, one so far away it took three trains and two hours to get there. I was also writing a novel at night instead of sleeping.

And now, here, in the burrito I’d bought for lunch, there appeared to be an uppercase H in nine-point font stuck to a piece of tomato. I brought the burrito closer to make sure I wasn’t simply reading too much into a pepper flake. But no, this was definitely a piece of paper with a tiny letter on it, part of a typewritten word. I unrolled the tortilla to see if there were more letters inside; maybe a piece of newspaper had gotten sautéed with the onions. But I found only salsa, beans, tomatoes, and that solitary HRead More »

Good Digestion

May 29, 2015 | by


Hieronymus Bosch, The Seven Deadly Sins (detail), ca. 1500.

It’s impossible to be completely happy when you have no appetite—or when you’re sated. People talk about the contentment that comes with a full belly, but to the food lover, this seems paradoxical. After all, if you are of the sort who lives to eat, rather than the other way around, being full means that, for the moment, you don’t have much to live for.

I’ve quoted Iris Murdoch on the subject before, but the quote bears repeating: “Every meal should be a treat and one ought to bless every day which brings with it a good digestion and the precious gift of hunger.” Read More »

The Junket-Eater

February 26, 2015 | by


An illustration from Junket Is Nice.

New York Review Children’s Classics has reissued so many wonderful forgotten texts: novels and picture books and nursery rhymes and even the occasional cookbook. But for my money, none is weirder than Dorothy Kunhardt’s 1933 Junket Is Nice.

The prolific Kunhardt is best known for Pat the Bunny, but long before Daddy’s scratchy face was even a twinkle in her eye, the author was animating a far more sinister beard: that of the mysterious Junket-Eater. The plot of Junket Is Nice is as follows: a fat man with a Rasputin-like red beard sits at a table consuming a massive bowl of junket (“a delicious custard and a lovely dessert”). This intrigues everyone; the people come running to view the spectacle. Between gulps, the Junket-Eater challenges the populace to guess why, precisely, he is eating this enormous bowl of junket. They put forth ever-sillier hypotheses, to which the Junket-Eater screams, “WRONG!” for all the world like a red-bearded John McLaughlin. And then a little boy stands up and tells truth to power: “JUNKET IS NICE.” For which effort he receives SOMETHING NICERead More »

Weighing In

December 29, 2014 | by

We’re out until January 5, but we’re re-posting some of our favorite pieces from 2014 while we’re away. We hope you enjoy—and have a happy New Year!


Watching a cage fighter starve himself.

Photo: Jeremy Brooks

“Four eggs,” I instructed the waiter at the finest restaurant in the Palms Casino Resort.

“Egg salad?” He was in a starched suit, pouring water into a delicately lipped glass.

“No, four hard-boiled eggs.”

“Four eggs.”

The waiter returned with four eggs huddled in the slight depression of a sizable dinner plate, as if to further diminish the sad feast through a trick of scale. Each egg had been deshelled, which was, I supposed, the benefit of ordering hard-boiled eggs at the finest restaurant in the Palms. Erik was a few flights up in his hotel room, showering after a workout, but he had asked that his meal be ready when he descended, and I feared displeasing him.

Though his mentor Duke, his roommate Pettis, and his manager could be found dispersed among the card tables and slot machines, not a single member of Hard Drive, Erik’s fighting collective in Cedar Rapids, had ventured with us to Las Vegas. Following a momentous schism between him and his brother, Erik had been “banned for life” from the gym and its environs.

Banished, Erik had returned to Milwaukee, to his warm, fast-talking Italian American coach, to his potential as one of the youngest men in the most prestigious promotion open to men who weighed in at 155 pounds. From their offices in Vegas, connected people continued to call him in Milwaukee, and it was as if he had never made the mistake of going home. Would he like to be in the official UFC video game? They would fly him out to LA, take measurements, and then boys everywhere would fight their friends in the avatar form of Erik “New Breed” Koch. Pettis was asked to be a judge for the Miss Wisconsin USA pageant and, in declining the offer, sent Erik in his stead. Erik met, at the event, the manager of a Jersey Shore cast member. Would Erik like to be on an episode of DJ Pauly D’s upcoming reality spin-off show? He said he very much would like that. He was unattached, alone, free to make commitments to as-yet-theoretical reality shows as he pleased.

Erik at last arrived at the restaurant, sat across from me without a word, unrolled from the napkin his knife and fork, and began the surgical egg procedure with which I was, by then, familiar. I would have liked to discuss our surroundings, as it was my first encounter with a professionally run promotion and I had many astute observations on the subject, but he ate with an air of sacral solemnity I did not wish to desecrate by speaking. It was my twenty-ninth birthday and I had not told a soul in the world. Read More >>

Weighing In, Part 2

October 16, 2014 | by

This is the second part of an excerpt from Kerry Howley’s new book, Thrown. Read Part 1 here.


Erik Koch weighing in for a fight in 2010. Photo: flightlaunch, via Flickr

Erik spent the next morning resisting the intake of liquid. It was then that I recognized perhaps the only salutary psychological side effect of self-starvation, for Erik was about to weigh in beside his opponent, and he had not, as far as I could tell, thought about his opponent at all. He had seen Cisco by the blackjack tables a while back and briefly in line at the in-house movie theater, and the moment Cisco left his field of vision was the moment Erik’s thoughts returned to the Rio Buffet or gourmet granola or a single chocolate cupcake, though he was even beyond that now, because now he was dreaming of water. The thirst, Erik said, was worse even than the hunger. It made his teeth ache. Desiccated by forced dehydration, Erik’s skin had taken on a new solidity; pinched, it would pause before flattening back into itself. His ligaments had turned brittle. His elbow hurt. He sneaked, at some point, a sip of Crystal Light, but the powder at its base stuck to his teeth in his dry mouth and made his teeth hurt so intensely he regretted the transgression. He slathered himself in baby oil and stepped into the sauna and sweat, tensing hard as if he might will a few more drops of water from each straining muscle, until the sauna scale read 145.5. At his last fight, Erik had been so weak at this weight that a friend had to physically support him on the walk from the sauna to the scale.

In a packed hotel conference room later that afternoon, Erik watched Cisco play with the chains around his neck. There were reporters present from legitimate media organizations, which itself distinguished this entire endeavor from any fight I had yet experienced, and they came flanked by cameramen. The fighters were surrounded by teams of coaches in matching T-shirts; all were supported by sponsors more eminent than their local tattoo parlors. The fight would air on pay-per-view, and whoever won the main event would win fifty times what he might at one of the smaller, marginally legal fights I’d watched before.

Cisco and Erik both stared out past photographers crouching and clicking around the dais. When he heard his name called, Erik stepped onto the scale, which scrolled up to 146, the maximum allowed weight. His face went slack and his lips parted slightly. He flexed both arms. It was a less than convincing show of strength, a bizarre accumulation of protrusions popping under a translucent sheet of skin on his arms and abs. When he flexed, his two tattoos, “HD” for Hard Drive on the left and “Z” for Zombie Nation Army on the right, gleamed black and clean. He was nauseated and shivering with cold.

Erik stepped off the scale and posed for some shots with Cisco, who stood two inches shorter than Erik. Cisco was thin but not very, fully capable of fighting at 135 should he find within himself half of Erik’s willpower. They faced one another with fists raised, and Erik equalized their heights by forcing his head forward so his neck shot vertically from his shoulders. He had started doing this a few fights ago, he had informed me, and someone said that he looked “like an alien.” Now he was doing it every fight, and shaving his head to augment the effect.

“He looks like an alien,” I heard one of a dozen sportswriters tell the gentleman sitting next to him. Read More »