Friday, August 1, 2008

Ernest Hemingway . . . Foodie?

When I think of Ernest Hemingway, I think of an economy of prose bordering on the miserly. He certainly was not one to waste words, most likely because of his training and background as a reporter. And while he seemed fond of topics including war, fishing, war, hunting, war, drinking, war, screwing and war, the man could write about food.

“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”
 Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

While I first read A Moveable Feast ages ago, I just recently noticed this passage, and boy am I impressed. I’m there with him, chasing those briny oysters with a dry white wine. But it’s not just food talk. This combination seems to lift his character (most likely Hemingway himself) above the cold, rainy day and remind him there’s something better beyond it. Sometimes the perfect food, beverage or combination of the two can transport you this way, so that you move beyond mere sustenance into, what, optimism? Yeah, I think so.

I don’t believe he’s talking about depression-inspired gorging. After all, do those who eat this way ever actually TASTE the food they’re gorging on? And do they feel happy afterward? If they did, I’m sure there would be at least a dozen bestsellers written on it. “Eat Your Way Out of Depression.” “Pigging Out for Dummies.” “I Gorged My Way to Happiness and So Can YOU!”

Maybe this would be an instructive exercise to try next time I’m down, to find a great food and a great wine to pair with it, then set the table with linen (no paper napkins allowed!), pour the wine and eat and drink slowly, deliberately and with attention to detail. Even if it doesn’t actually lift me from the funk, it would give me something to blog about. And maybe that’s all I really need—something to get me outside of myself. I’d say that’s worth a few calories.


Chris said...

Great Post! And such a coincidence! I just read A Movable Feast and am working on For Whom The Bell Tolls and have actually posted a bit about this in my meme that I was recently tagged for. I read Hemingway, years ago, in school, and guess I didn't catch on to the foodie aspects at the time. But now, I am pleasantly surprised by all his food and wine references - not to mention the title of his last book "A Movable Feast".

This was my first time being tagged for a meme and it was fun. So, I hope you don't mind if I tag you now. The questions are on the latest post of my blog. Thanks.

Hungry Passport said...

Thanks, Michelle. You didn't include your blog address, so I'll do it now. It's And if anyone wants to see my response about being tagged for a meme (I confess, I had to ask my husband what that word meant--and how to pronounce it properly), you'll have to check Michelle's blog. And keep reading--it's cool (check out "What People Eat," from July 5).