Tuesday, December 1, 2009

lunch # 2

Here, of course, is the flaw of A Week of Lunches - the fact that, if I remember early enough in the morning that I will be taking a photograph of my food, that I'm likely to put together something might photograph well... to wit, chick peas (or garbanzo beans, to allow for national difference - and someone whose teaching sank yesterday to putting the names of Sainsburys, Waitrose and Tesco up on the blackboard in the name of cultural studies - admittedly with Mary Douglas thrown into the mix - ought to be taking this into consideration), red onion, avocado, parsley, and, yes, smoked mackerel. Smoked mackerel? I thought that there had been a can of tuna, once, somewhere...

So - is this everydayness as repetition and boredom? No. As defamiliarized? Probably not, because even if a shiny desk surface is less of a commonplace backdrop than a pine wood table or granite counter top, there's still something of the Healthy Lunch Magazine Article photography about this image. As convention, then? As taking celebratory visual pleasure in the unremarkable? I was reading some Mrs Miniver short pieces to go with the chick peas - MLA related reading, indeed - the fictional character created by Jan Struther in 1937, a kind of quintessence of ordinary Englishness (and made into a film with Greer Garson in 1942), who was made to remark, at the height of the London blitz, what a relief ordinariness could be, and what a blessed relief it was to be able to feel bored. The whole argument that I'm developing hinges - I think - on what, however, constitutes post-war ordinariness and its affects.

Which (for I'm not going to give away the whole exciting plot of a 20 minute paper right here, even if I had developed it any further than this) makes me loop right round, and back to the topic of English food (yesterday's class subject matter) and how much social history is contained within a dish - and how unordinary this plastic container full would have seemed in 1945, or, for that matter, in 1965. An avocado? I first had one around then, and thought it deeply slimy and unpleasant - like overcooked spinach, but worse. Chick peas? Never saw them. Flat leafed parsley? Not in England - we only had the curly stuff. A red onion? - no, these were bulbous and yellow - or else "spring onions," aka, here, green onions. Smoked mackerel? That's about the only familiar object... and even so, a sardine would be a more regular fish to have extracted, with or without tomato sauce, from its tin.

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