In emergence, October
“How might we be able to see which foods were selected by taste and which by necessity?”
--Alan P. Outram, Food: The History of Taste
The night I cooked all the plants in our house and drank white wine. Chickpeas, crisp roadside romaine, a pale tomato, a half-pepper, tough white onions. All of it in olive oil and paprika and black pepper, with shredded carrot on top beginning to rot. It wasn’t my wine, it was Chelsea’s, and it wasn’t my pepper but my father’s, and I paused every other bite to wonder—if my brother who had already been to jail would now go to prison, if just having a pineapple was enough to constitute dessert, or if I needed to actually cut it up. The food, so clean it was almost bland, and the wine could have been anything. I had just spent one hundred dollars on a good knife, which was the exact price I had decided a good knife would be, and it was so close to winter I was ready to mince the ends of the table, my bedsheets, more onions.
I had been in the habit of eating alone, which means not really eating but feeding while doing something to neglect how human one is. Like crying all over the table, if that embarrasses you. Usually I read. First I had tried with a cookbook: scanning vegan po’ boy recipes for new flavors, or love, or trochees. Then some book I had long associated with the autumn—about orphans and apples and how many life spans can outlast one author if they’re really trying. Then I couldn’t read, couldn’t even eat really, which was rare for dinner and I was no closer to full. Chelsea ate from rust-colored pottery in the next room, and shifted around piles of laundry, and at the plate said, “This is good,” even though it wasn’t, but she was right.
If I were going to ever be full I would have moved to it by now. The glass of wine was low and moist, and I gnawed at the end of a carrot-head. I hadn’t made love in so long that I slept with my windows shut and my own body barely a novelty. I was eating, and so would survive. I was eating, and so knew as little as I could about survival. Later, I would be hungry again, rouse my bed and make a fuss about almonds and women, the seasoned cast-iron, the fence that feeds us all with a good view of our neighbor’s yard. Yes, this will be green grass. Yes my bed deep and metal, and the function of bread far away. Yes how we dream.
The fall had been winter not long before, and I had hardly noticed when it birthed and birthed. But here was squash to the table, and new pumpkin, and my mother again, grim, again bailing water from my brother’s boat. On a pile of work clothes and straight dialogue and work, pancakes. If there were chickpeas to tell if I was coming out of pleasure or need. If there were chickpeas and there were.