The Jean-Paul Sartre Cookbook

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Jean-Paul Sartre

Jean-Paul Sartre

In college I lived in a house with six other people — seven people in a five-bedroom house, it was an adventure every day — and one of the reasons we managed to make it through the year with seven people in a five-bedroom house is because we all share a similar sense of humor. This has also allowed us to not talk to each other for weeks, months, years at a time and have no problems at all picking up where we left off when we do finally see each other again.

While we were living together, we spent a lot of time sitting around our kitchen doing more or less nothing and laughing really hard at things that didn’t sound funny at all when we tried to explain to other people what we were laughing about.

We’ve had fairly regular reunions over the past two decades, and one of the ones I remember most was in 1993 or 1994 when we got together in Raleigh in a house that two former housemates were living in together. (We’ve actually had a fair number of combinations of us in various cities living together again; never quite the same as when we were all seven of us together, but made reunions easier for a while.)

For that reunion, the weather wasn’t great, which was actually fine because we didn’t feel like doing anything anyway — we usually don’t — so we ended up hanging around the house and eating bad-for-you food (mmm, hamburger dip) and reading newspapers and magazines. When one of us came across something interesting or funny, we would read it out loud.

My friend Sarah was reading the Utne Reader and there was a little piece called The Jean Paul Sartre cookbook by Marty Smith, reprinted from the Portland, Oregon, alternative newspaper Free Agent, which I thought was one of the funniest things I’d ever heard.

It was an imagining of the diary of a young Jean Paul Sartre, “obsessed not with the void, but with food.”

I keep creating omelets, one after another, like soldiers marching into the sea, but each one seems empty, hollow like stone. I want to create an omelet that expresses the meaninglessness of existence, and instead they taste like cheese.

It was so funny that I cut it out and saved it. It included a recipe for Tuna Casserole:

I find myself trying ever more radical interpretations of traditional dishes in an effort to somehow express the void I feel so acutely.

Tuna Casserole

Ingredients: 1 large casserole dish

Place the casserole dish in a cold oven. Place a chair facing the oven and sit in it forever. Think about how hungry you are. When night falls, do not turn on the light.

I was thinking today about how I was due to put up a recipe, but that I hadn’t actually cooked anything in quite a while, so I wasn’t sure what to put up, and I still need to finish work and finish tax stuff and everything is still kind of a mess. And it made me think of the Jean-Paul Sartre cookbook.

So no recipe, other than the above Being and Nothingness Tuna Casserole, and this, for your amusement.

October 25
I have been forced to abandon the project of producing an entire cookbook. Rather, I now seek a single recipe which will, by itself, embody the plight of man in a world ruled by an unfeeling God, as well as providing the eater with at least one ingredient from each of the four basic food groups. To this end, I purchased six hundred pounds of foodstuffs from the corner grocery and locked myself in the kitchen, refusing to admit anyone. After several weeks of work, I produced a recipe calling for two eggs, half a cup of flour, four tons of beef, and a leek. While this is a start, I am afraid I still have much work ahead.

7 Responses to “The Jean-Paul Sartre Cookbook”

  1. Valerie Says:

    This was too funny–thanks for the ‘recipes.’ I’m going to have to check out that article.

  2. Groovy Girl Says:

    I still can’t stop laughing. Instead they taste like cheese, indeed.

    And I am pretty sure that the house was technically FOUR bedrooms. That downstairs room was meant to be a study or sitting room, not a bedroom. Nobody would put a bedroom off the dining room.

  3. lessisenough Says:

    True, but it had a closet — a really giant closet, as you may recall, big enough for a mattress and box spring to hide during a house inspection — so I think in real estate land that is bedroom. Even if it’s weirdly located off the dining room.

  4. lessisenough Says:

    I actually think I might have found that even funnier this time around when I looked at it again, because the whole thing reminded me of a moderately famous chef who we knew back in his youth as a brooding poet. Does not chive flan with caviar sound like something that might appear in the JP Sartre cookbook?

  5. Groovy Girl Says:

    And I’m STILL laughing.

  6. Chazley Says:

    That is the funniest thing I’ve read in a long time!

  7. Sarah Says:

    Oh my. I remember this! I’m laughing so hard tears are coming out my eyes and the kiddos are wondering why. Explanations won’t work any better than they did in the past, I fear. I’m feeling that I am going to leave your blog and start a subscription to the UTNE reader immediately. Except I don’t have an address to get it sent to–the June issue is already out and I don’t know where I’ll be living in July. Okay–newsstand copy then.

    I’m realizing that the above housing dilemma sounds much like my life did back in 92. However, there have been literally decades of stability in between!

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