Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Appetizer #4

Scarfing chocolate. Walking uphill. That glorious moment just before sleep when your thoughts escape their pen and spill down the hillside, woolly and lost, into black. Simple pleasures are easy enough to understand. They're like a small, nonthreatening math problem, the kind where a single operation tips the brain into dopamine-soaked resolution. I'm an enthusiastic proponent of simple pleasures.

But then there's the fried pickle. As far as my chastened taste buds can make out, the fried pickle is an anemic, thinly sliced, unrefrigerated Vlasic dipped in a batter consisting of equal parts salt, bleached flour, and faux-lard before being fed the the roaring maw of the deep fryer. In case you had doubts, let me assure you that the fried pickle is, in fact, disgusting. Revolting, even. Wet, slimy, unconscionably salty (this from a woman who has been known to lick salt off the plate) and possessed of a subtle yet distinctive chemical aftertaste. The fried pickle is not your friend.

And yet, there is something overwhelmingly pleasurable about ingesting the fried pickle. It's a dodgy, perverse kind of pleasure, lurking somewhere in the correspondence between the physical object (pickle) and the mental paradigm of "truly foul." It's that match-up -like dropping the last puzzle piece into its slot- that's so profoundly satisfying. Here's the fried pickle; now here's this little mental constellation. See how they fit together!

With the fried pickle, then, we have ascended the rocky slope of the complicated pleasure. Complicated pleasures are bizarre, often dangerous beasts, feeding off the unstable activity of the forebrain as opposed to the more predictable impulses of the primitive nervous system. Complicated pleasures require mental constructs, intermediaries between sense and reaction. Complicated pleasures, and I speak from experience, give you heartburn.

But I wouldn't leave the restaurant without them.

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