September 2, 2012
They say that “Hunger is the best sauce.” As a professional pedant, my kneejerk response is to point out how many different ways we talk about hunger. My wont has been to use the word gravely in connection with people who are seriously and continuously deprived. So, hunger is about a long, low ache in the gut at the very best. Authors who have investigated hunger note that this ache becomes overwhelming, but that once it has become so unbearable as to incline people towards the most desperate things, it dulls without ever completely disappearing. This allows the perpetually hungry to cope, even while their vulnerability to the diseases of hunger increases. The human species appears to be almost uniquely adapted to survive a long spell of extreme food deprivation.
All of which has made me scratch my head about The Hunger Games. Maybe I should just give in and read the book by Suzanne Collins, or at least go see the movie from director Gary Ross. Nothing in the description makes me want to, however. Here’s the blurb from the Internet Movie Data Base:
Set in a future where the Capitol selects a boy and girl from the twelve districts to fight to the death on live television, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her younger sister’s place for the latest match.
I’ve read enough dystopian literature and science to fiction to imagine how this teaser can set up opportunities for thoughtful reflections on society or human nature, and I know that the blurb is not really what the story is about in any case. Skilled writers and dramatists flesh out the sketch in ways that truly fascinate. I’m not here to knock a book I haven’t read or a movie I haven’t seen, but I have this lurking suspicion that the use of the word ‘hunger’ here is not material to anything that makes the book or the movie interesting. Commentators are, as usual, free to correct me on this point of vital cultural significance.
But grave matters to the side, we all get hungry now and then, and as the adage intimates, almost anything tastes better if you are hungry. Next time that happens, you can rely on Joe Ricardel and Redd Evans when you get ready to put in your order.
I don’t want french fried potatoes,
Red ripe tomatoes,
I’m never satisfied.
I want the frim fram sauce with the ausen fay
With chafafa on the side
Nobody knows what the heck they were thinking about, but everyone from Nat King Cole to Diana Krall has made hay with it. And I’ll not let my well-known feelings about “red ripe tomatoes” interfere with the deep scholarly analysis on this occasion. The Wikipedia article cites a William Safire column which suggests that “frim fram” is a play on flim flam, while ussin-fay is pig latin for “fussin”. By that doesn’t explain chifafa, does it? Could be a play on the way epicures are more interested in tasting than eating, and for that, they say, hunger gets in the way.
The best sauce? I’m going with that frim fram stuff. If you don’t got none, waiter, just bring me a check for the water.
Paul B. Thompson holds the W.K. Kellogg Chair in Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University