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“homeostasis of terrible dissatisfaction” – David Foster Wallace on fooddouchery

2 Feb

In my continuing effort to define fooddouchery, I present this passage from Wallace’s essay, “Shipping Out: On the (nearly lethal) comforts of a luxury cruise”:

I am suffering here from a delusion, and I know it’s a delusion, this envy of another ship, but still it’s painful. It’s also representative of a psychological syndrome that I notice has gotten steadily worse as my Luxury Cruise wears on, a mental list of dissatisfactions that started off picayune but has quickly become despairgrade. I know that the syndrome’s cause is not simply the contempt-bred of a week’s familiarity with the poor old Nadir, and that the source of all the dissatisfactions isn’t the Nadir at all but rather that ur-American part of me that craves pampering and passive pleasure: the dissatisfied-infant part of me, the part that always and indiscriminately WANTS. Hence this syndrome by which, for example, just four days ago I experienced such embarrassment over the perceived self-indulgence of ordering even more gratis food from cabin service that I littered the bed with fake evidence of hard work and missed meals, whereas by last night I find myself looking at my watch in real annoyance after fifteen minutes and wondering where the . . . is that cabin service guy with the tray already. And by now I notice how the tray’s sandwiches are kind of small, and how the wedge of dill pickle always soaks into the starboard crust of the bread, and how the port hallway is too narrow to really let me put the used cabin service tray outside 1009’s door at night when I’m done eating, so that the tray sits in the cabin all night and in the morning adulterates the olfactory sterility of 1009 with a smell of rancid horseradish, and how this seems, by the Luxury Cruise’s fifth day, deeply dissatisfying.

Death and Conroy notwithstanding, we’re maybe now in a position to appreciate the falsehood at the dark heart of Celebrity’s brochure. For this — the promise to sate the part of me that always and only WANTS — is the central fantasy the brochure is selling. The thing to notice is that the real fantasy here isn’t that this promise will be kept but that such a promise is keepable at all. This is a big one, this lie. And of course I want to believe it; I want to believe that maybe this ultimate fantasy vacation will be enough pampering, that this time the luxury and pleasure will be so completely and faultlessly administered that my infantile part will be sated at last. But the infantile part of me is, by its very nature and essence, insatiable. In fact, its whole raison consists of its insatiability. In response to any environment of extraordinary gratification and pampering, the insatiable-infant part of me will simply adjust its desires upward until it once again levels out at its homeostasis of terrible dissatisfaction. And sure enough, after a few days of delight and then adjustment on the Nadir, the Pamper-swaddled part of me that WANTS is now back, and with a vengeance. By Wednesday, I’m acutely conscious of the fact that the A.C. vent in my cabin hisses (loudly), and that although I can turn off the reggae Muzak coming out of the speaker in the cabin I cannot turn off the even louder ceiling-speaker out in the 10-Port hall. Now I notice that when Table 64’s towering busboy uses his crumb-scoop to clear off the tablecloth between courses he never seems to get quite all the crumbs. When Petra makes my bed, not all the hospital corners are at exactly the same angle. Most of the nightly stage entertainment in the Celebrity Show Lounge is so bad it’s embarrassing, and the ice sculptures at the Midnight Buffet often look hurriedly carved, and the vegetable that comes with my entree is continually overcooked, and it’s impossible to get really numbingly cold water out of 1009’s bathroom tap.

I’m standing here on Deck 12 looking at the Dreamward, which I bet has cold water that’d turn your knuckles blue, and, like Frank Conroy, part of me realizes that I haven’t washed a dish or tapped my foot in line behind somebody with multiple coupons at a supermarket checkout in a week; and yet instead of feeling refreshed and renewed I’m anticipating how totally stressful and demanding and unpleasurable a return to regular landlocked adult life is going to be now that even just the premature removal of a towel by a sepulchral crewman seems like an assault on my basic rights, and the sluggishness of the Aft elevator is an outrage. And as I’m getting ready to go down to lunch I’m mentally drafting a really mordant footnote on my single biggest peeve about the Nadir: they don’t even have Mr. Pibb; they foist Dr. Pepper on you with a maddeningly unapologetic shrug when any fool knows that Dr. Pepper is no substitute for Mr. Pibb, and it’s an absolute . . . travesty, or — at best — extremely dissatisfying indeed.

[Available at Harper’s.]

What Kind of Douchebag Would Take Pictures of Their Food?

24 Jan

The New York Times has weighed in and officially condemned taking photos of food at meals. That’s it. Blog’s over.

Here’s what happened when a woman had the nerve to take a photo of her $125 meal at Momofuku Ko in NYC:

Then came the slapdown. A man in the open kitchen asked her to please put her phone away. No photos allowed.

Restaurants Turn Camera Shy – N.Y. Times, Jan 22, 2013