After reading Fahrenheit 451 in my English class we were asked to write a life changing aspect of your life as a narrative and relate it to the book. Naturally I wrote about food. I went all in with this paper, putting my heart and soul and foodie self into it, and I think it deserves to be featured online. So here goes…
It all started with peanut butter and jelly. As soon as my younger brother Izzy was able to eat them, I began making him sandwiches. At four years old I was cooking and I have been advancing ever since. I would shove as much PB&J into Izzy as I could because I couldn’t get over the amazing feeling of making someone content through food.
Food is on my mind during class and at home. I go out to eat and try to define the flavors that I consume, deciding what ingredients the chef used for the sauce, sometimes writing it in my food notebook for future reference. When the food isn’t of the quality that I had hoped for, I decide what will make it better. When I make a new recipe that I have found on one of many food blogs I follow, or a recipe that I created myself, I evaluate the flavors in that same way, except a bit more in-depth, searching for that extra sprig of parsley or pinch of salt that is needed to push it over the edge. Knowing what went into that dish that’s bursting with flavor makes it that much more enjoyable.
One weekend in October I went to a pastry boot camp at Kendall College where I made a swiss buttercream for the first time and realized the wonders of a good buttercream. For the outside of the cake, I added a bit of raspberry jam to give it a nice pink color, though the flavor wasn’t very prominent – so subtle it and wouldn’t be detected unless you were searching for it. When I truly looked for the flavor, I found it, and that made the buttercream that much better. Many people don’t dig deep for the wonderful flavors in the food they eat every day. The value of the food they eat has been forgotten, and quantity has become more important than quality.
In the past, people valued food for a different reason: survival. People ate as a way to survive – eat or die. This mindset does come up in Fahrenheit 451, because despite all of the luxuries in Montag’s world, there is a point when he is alone in the wild and needs food for his survival. His mind is wandering to the simple need for “a glass of milk, an apple, a pear” (Bradbury 143). The aesthetic of this statement is persuasive, yet basic. Food is a necessity, but Bradbury uses whole, natural foods for a reason. Montag doesn’t wish for anything extravagant. This not only convinced me that he needed it, but also painted a picture in my head. The beauty was an outcome of simplicity, and that is what makes this line brilliant.
But now eating has become perfunctory, a favorite pastime, a stress reliever. People say they are eating to stay healthy, to stay alive, but if that is true, then there is no reason to bother with unhealthy food: skip bread, skip dessert, skip the extra fats – unless, of course, you eat for recreation. And that has become a tremendous part of our society; people eat for fun, not only when they are hungry but as something to do when they are bored, lonely, sad, or happy. Food is a distraction. When we have something on our minds, we often turn to food.
The obscene abundance of food in the U.S. makes people take it for granted. We seem to have a never-ending supply right at our fingertips and everyone takes advantage of that. I am not exempt from this. I eat a ridiculous amount of different foods imported from all over the world. The difference between the majority of people around me and myself is the way I eat the food, the thought I put into eating it and the love put into the preparation. My mom and I only have time to cook on the weekend, so Saturdays we usually cook a gourmet meal. We make a beautiful dinner and dessert. The first few bites we eat in silence. These are for enjoyment. To wow over things that work. Then comes the analysis. After the initial appreciation, we begin to absentmindedly search for imperfections and improvements we could make in the future. About halfway through the meal, we voice these ideas. Unintentionally leaving out the rest of the family, we discuss the food we spent the bulk of the afternoon planning, shopping for and cooking. My relationship with my mom is built on food, I was always her little helper around the kitchen until recently when we became equals in the kitchen. We ask each other for advice, working so well in tandem, turning down or supporting each others’ ideas without hesitation. Our understanding of food has made us so compatible in more ways than just culinary, and that is why food is so beautiful. It has a superhero quality that brings people together.
A year ago I was in Toronto with my family and my best friend. We were at a restaurant and what was at the time a touchy subject came up; extracurriculars. I was starting high school in a month and still had no idea what clubs to join or if I would play a sport. I didn’t know how to get involved because I’ve never been one for clubs and sports are just not my cup of tea. When the question of extracurriculars was brought up, my friend rattled off a list of her plans for involvement at the high school. When the spotlight was on me, I had nothing. I didn’t have a single club I planned to join. So I overreacted, throwing a bit of a fit and stomping off out of the restaurant. I walked to the apartment just off of the main drag of College Street where we were staying. My older sister, who was going into her senior year and my friend met me there before the rest of my family came.
We flopped onto the sofa/makeshift bed that my friend and I were sleeping on, and they proceeded to comfort me. I was worked up. The bottle of freshman anxiety had exploded and I couldn’t calm down. The school year was coming up and I still didn’t have a plan. So we brainstormed. What was I good at? What am I interested in? We came up with cooking. While I had no plans for a culinary future, I did enjoy cooking. At the time I read only one food blog, but it was the first of many to come. We decided I should write a food blog. That was my big, involved extracurricular. That blog may not have taken off at first. It took months for me to get my first post out there, but when I did, my understanding as well as my love for food grew exponentially. I started to notice the details in the food I cooked. Even the smallest issues revealed themselves as I ate the meals I prepare.
Food means so much to me. It defines me. It’s where I find joy and comfort and it’s one of the few things I strive to perfect. The society in Fahrenheit 451 took everything for granted, never thinking twice about what is around them, which is why Clarisse was such a profound character. She was the beginning of a new thought process for Montag, similar to the hot summer night in Toronto that unearthed the desire to understand food that hadn’t yet become clear to me. I have nurtured this desire until it became more than just an idea. Now it is reality. Food is something that I strive to understand. I learned how to be happy through food. I believe that the motivation and love I put into cooking has made me notice and appreciate the little things. I see a squirrel climbing a tree with a sandwich that is as big as him in his mouth and I laugh. I notice a tree with yellow, red and green leaves on it and I want to snap a picture to remember the way this beautiful tree makes me feel. The ingredients in my kitchen may not be able to have a conversation with me, like Clarisse does with Montag, but they do make me see with a brand new set of eyes, which is what Clarisse gave Montag.
In Montag’s society everyone is sleepwalking, trained not to feel anything, but Clarisse is the exception. She was born with her eyes wide open and that rubs off on Montag. Her answer to Montag’s question is one aspect that begins to awaken Montag. He asks, “What do you do, go around trying everything once?” and she replies, “Sometimes twice” (Bradbury 21). This is thought-provoking, for me as well as for Montag. Try everything once, or maybe twice? Our life is so fast paced, but if you think twice about why, you realize you really have no good reason. What’s the point of numbing ourselves to all feeling? Feelings take time, but time away from what may I ask? Millie’s driving in Fahrenheit 451 is a great example of this: “And she pushed it up to one hundred and five miles an hour and tore the breath from his mouth” (Bradbury 46). Millie aims for an even faster pace than society today. She moves so fast, but accomplishes nothing, feels nothing. That is what I am afraid of. It is important to take a minute to feel, to have purpose, to have leisure. I create these aspects through cooking, putting all those feelings into the pie and ice cream I whip up. To get frustration out, I make bread, something I can punch the hell out of and that just makes the bread all that much better. In cooking there is an antidote for anything. And it’s rewarding! People like to eat good food, and I can’t say I’m not one of them. But even better than eating is giving people beautiful food to try and seeing the look on their face when they see it, and then when they try it. That is how I rationalize spending hours in the kitchen. Food is woven into my past and it is also where I am headed.