Men of Cloth


Saturday afternoon. Anna and I sitting on the concrete floor of the Ferry Terminal. Exhausted I stare at the passing ankles and calves of the other shoppers. For 3 hours I’ve worked to inhale small portions of delectables. A mortadella hotdog from Salted Pig Parts tastes pallid and anemic. The fresh mozarella and clabbered cheese curds and goat cheese signal rancid. I want Tomales Bay oysters, imagining sweet cream, but the thought yet leaves me nauseous. I sample four gelato flavors: Dulce de leche, dark chocolate, vanilla bean, and grapefruit Campari – all marginally palatable in the same way. Butter hits the tongue like oil.

This vast building is a temple dedicated to the servicing of the two inch piece of flesh inside our mouths. Sitting there on the floor, I turn to Anna and tell her that I would rather have my dick cut off* than forever lose my sense of taste. She rolls her eyes at me. That doesn’t give me any great comfort, she says. And please don’t put that in your blog, she adds.

I have to think for a moment about my sentiment. Off the bat, I definitely hope no one takes me up on the offer. But then I wonder, why the thought? With diminished taste I feel a bit as if I’ve been severed at the waist – there is so little pleasure in feeding. And certainly, the feeding and preservation of one’s own body could preclude the procreative urge. But it actually shouldn’t work that way. The desire to pass on my genes should outweigh everything, absolutely everything, else. The Senegalese gentleman (see below) on some level actually had it right. And so would the equation be altered for me if I didn’t already have a child? If push came to shove which would I choose?

Apparently there was some big brouhaha a few years ago when Carlo Petrini visited the Ferry Terminal. In his book chronicling the history of the slow food movement, he lambasted the market and epicurean stalls for being too precious and classist, for catering exclusively to the well-heeled.

Forget it, Carlo. Do you really mean that? First off, twenty years ago in the US, food terroir basically didn’t exist. And neither did any of these meats or cheeses or exquisite heirloom vegetables. And now, thanks in part to you, they do. And the world is a better place for it. And right here, right now, don’t tell me about the bourgeois power structure undergirding 17th century portraiture. A blind man will gladly take anything he can get. A three dollar burrito? A dollop of tsar nikolai beluga? I would take anything if I could simply taste it.

*I lifted this line from a story told by my friend Emmanuel. Years ago he was riding in a Metro car somewhere in Paris. For the sake of the story, I’ll say that it was at night and the car was practically empty. Emmanuel had spent three years in the Peace Corp in Senegal and while there he’d learned to speak Woloof. So years later he’s sitting in this Metro car and it’s just him, two West Africans and an elderly priest in his black vestments and white collar. Metro doors slide open and a stunningly beautiful woman steps into the car. One of the Africans looks to the other and says in Woloof, if I could sleep with that woman for one night, I would have my dick cut off. The other fellow laughs. The woman and priest sit quietly unaware. Emmanuel stares ahead stonily trying to keep a straight face. A few stops later the priest stands to exit the car, but before doing so he turns to the first gentleman, smiles, and says in perfect Woloof, did you really mean that?

What I love: that among the five participants, the full story exists only in the mind of the Woloof speaker who remains silent. And that always there are those ethereal men of cloth hovering about, threatening to keep us honest.

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