Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Shortish Post in which I Talk about Nothing

So I was reading the fine print, like you do when you're a junkie and any words, even low-grade words of appalling smallness, will do. I'd already blazed through the recipe for Tatooine Toast in the Star Wars Cookbook, already inhaled the Copco Teapot Care brochure. I was scrabbling through the restaurant listings in the back of Indianapolis Dine when I found it: a popular breakfast dish called "After Your Chores."

I hadn't realized, until I saw it smashed to bits in print, that there was a rule about the names of entrees. Chefs may be gunning for the status of artists, but they are still denied the privilege of jamming their creative productions into titles of greater or lesser appropriateness. No "Raphsody in Blue" for chefs. No "Satanic Verses," no "Whistler's Mother," not even a "Symphony no. 9." Food may be the sole remaining milieu in which the title of your work is expected to enumerate, with a fair amount of precision, your ingredients. Not "Raphsody in Pork," but "Roasted pork loin with hazelnut dressing, dried cherries, and haricots verts."

Imagine if all works of art were titled this way. "Really loud symphony by Mahler with too much brass and a part in the middle where I fell asleep." "Disturbing painting of 16th-century meat carcasses." "Extremely maudlin, not to mention lengthy, novel in which over 50 pages are devoted to battlefield description and another 50 or so to a discussion of the 19th-century Parisian sewer system, after which time the reader wants nothing more than to apply a blunt instrument to her own skull."

And hey, why stop there? People can be construed as works of art in the sense that we shape, each day, our identities and experiences from the raw muck of the world. Doesn't "earnest, bearded male with an infusion of Machiavelli" give you six times the information contained in "Norbert?" Isn't "mildly neurotic 27-year-old female: two lungs, one spleen, and an overabundance of questions" a more transparent label than "Anne?"

Titles, like names, only confound. We deserve better! We deserve, if nothing else, accurate labeling. I'll get on that. After my chores. And my toad in the hole.

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