Thursday, October 15, 2009

Why Food?

“Why food?”
I recognized the voice immediately. I turned around, and there he sat, in full chef regalia, on my love seat.
Although I had not seen Hookie for quite some time, I was not particularly surprised that he was there. I have known him practically all my life; he was my imaginary friend when I was three years old. Eventually he disappeared for a long time, but for the past several years he has occasionally shown up wearing a costume apropos to whatever subject he felt like discussing at the moment. Obviously, this time it was food.
“Hookie,” I said. “What about food?”
“Why is it that whenever we meet with other people, we have to have food? On a date, attending a movie, playing cards, whenever we get together with someone else, we have to have food? Why can’t we just sit and talk, or walk in the park together, or take a long drive in the country? Even when we meet someone to discuss a business deal, we prefer to do it over lunch.”
The only thing I could think of to say was, “I guess it’s just a custom.”
“Well sure,” he said. “But how did it start? Why do we keep doing it?”
From past experience I knew he wasn’t going to give up that easily. “Well perhaps it started in prehistoric times, when man wanted a favor from his gods, like to kill an enemy or send rain, he figured if he wanted something, he had to give up something; sort of a quid pro quo. And it had to be something valuable – you just can’t hand a god a stone or a stick, and since he spent most of his time providing food, that was the most valuable thing he had.”
“Very good,” Hookie said. “But men eventually got beyond that. The Greeks and Romans even ate during their orgies. What about that?”
“Well, those things went on for several days. I suppose they had to eat a lot in order to keep their er, strength, up. Please don’t ask me any more orgy questions; I wasn’t quite finished with the god thing. Eventually the practice of propitiating the gods with food carried over into the Jewish Seder and the Christian Eucharist.”
“Sorry,” he said. “But we do it for non-religious meetings too. What about that?”
“Well for one thing, don’t think that orgies stopped during the Middle Ages. Also, during the wars of the period, it was an advantage to eat while negotiating with your enemy, because if he was eating, he had to lay down his arms.”
“I see.”
“And among the peasants, all of whom were Christians, their religion demanded that they feed the stranger.”
“OK, but most people aren’t that religious today. What about them?”
“I think we are back at the beginning. On a date or a business lunch we are obviously looking for something from the other person. And at other times, what we are after is approval, which is not quite as obvious.”
“Speaking of obvious, you forgot one thing,” Hookie said.
“Oh, what’s that?”
“It’s fun.” And with that he vanished with a tiny ‘pop.’

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