23 Philosophy III: Xenorecipes
Moral judgments on the edibility and worthiness of foods (a steaming Bouillabaisse slurped in the back of a Provençal cafeteria, say, as opposed to a functional tuna wrap gnawed on a subway station platform) can take an undeniably classist and colonialist flavor. The history of certain cultures oppressing and restricting others has left its mark on the planetary menu. Yet there is a dietary plague far worse than the Western Pattern Diet, which is the failure to recognize that no recipe is timeless and all can be destructive if they do not respond to change.
An uneven logic governs the forms food takes. Why do some become bars, shakes, clusters, pellets, and powders, while others are reserved for reproduction only in conditions of elaborate complexity? The distinction between “whole” and “molecular” foods is one of marketing. Those who reject the coldness of assemblages like Huel, Soylent, Impossible Burger, Quorn or YFood are rejecting brands who foreground the process of decomposition and recombination that defines the lifecycle of so many foods.
Authenticity a flaky concept, especially when it comes to food. It would require gene analysis or expert naturalist probing to determine if a specific strain of aubergine had not crossed continents, secreted in the fur or a stowaway or in the guts of some bird. Food has its own story, endo- rather than relational, a story of coevolution in the forest or in the field that preexists reunification on the plate. Alienation from the dish and abandonment of even the most sincere subjectivies will be an inevitable outcome on a planet that is reordering itself at such a pace. Xenorecipes allow us to practice the de-centering that collapses hierarchies irrelevant to planetary chemical disintegration. We should get used to the experience.