Eating Bad Meat, Grandma’s Famine, Skeletal Jews and Knut Hamsun
[Food Lover’s in Windhoek on 3/30/22]
In Albania, there’s a chain called Big Market. Despite its name, each Big Market is smallish. At my Tirana store, I bought cheeses, eggs, juices, nuts, chocolate, instant soups and yogurts. Without a kitchen, I couldn’t buy meat. The eggs, I boiled with an electric kettle. Once, I got some cheese that had gone bad, but instead of going to Big Market to complain, I simply tried to eat it all. If I remember correctly, I managed to swallow at least half.
In Windhoek, I usually shop at Checkers, a South African chain. Among its more unexpected items are fresh mint leaves, Thai fish sauce and lousy sushi. From its deli, I’ve gotten creamed spinach, curried ground beef and mutton stew. I’ve tried its fat cakes, a Namibian staple. Since no bread at Checkers has a crust, I’ve pretty much gone without bread for nearly five months.
At nearby Food Lover’s, another South African chain, one can sometimes find a tolerable loaf of German black bread, or Schwarzbrot. Rejecting crust, Namibians sneer at the needed contrast that heightens and sweetens softness. Foolishly, they miss out on that metallic tease in the bra strap.
Just about everybody is fussy about food and drinks. Your cup of coffee must have, say, two teaspoons of sugar and not 2 ½. Your rice must be basmati and not jasmine, much less short grain, and cooked just so. You won’t tolerate gouda with your burger.
[dinner at home in Windhoek on 3/30/22]
A month ago at Checkers, I bought some thick bacon that had gone slightly sour, so, of course, I ate it all. This morning, I did it again, but with beef that looked suspicious even as I picked it off the shelf. It didn’t feel cold enough and there was too much blood in the black Styrofoam tray. Though I cooked it two different ways, with a crazy amount and mix of seasoning, each bite was dreadful. Still, I managed to eat about half of it.
From these examples, it’s easy to conclude I’m just a moron, or a cheap moron, to be specific, but it’s more complicated than that. Having made a mistake in buying spoiled food, I doubled down by eating it, to prove that it’s not so bad. I was also punishing myself, though in two of these cases, I couldn’t have guessed there was anything dodgy.
Moreover, my pathology is hardly unusual. After you’ve been Pfizered twice, say, you hear about “vaccinated” people dying or having their limbs amputated, with all sorts of hellish complications awaiting those, like yourself, who are seemingly unscathed. Though taunted by these evil possibilities, you take a third and fourth booster shot, to prove you were right all along, and, damn it, that you’re with credible people like Noam Chomsky and Amy Goodman, and not a bunch of conspiracy freaks! With her maternal look of concern and girlish victory sign, Amy always has your back, and front too.
There’s another reason for me swallowing crap. If I drop a peanut on the floor, I’ll pick it up and eat it. I save ketchup packets from fast food meals, and not just because I remember making ketchup soup. Of course, you can get too weird about this, and maybe I have.
Among the quirks of Vietnamese is the inclusion of “eat” to describe numerous activities, so to dress, for example, is to ăn mặc, eat and dress. To talk is to ăn nói, eat and talk. To have sex is to ăn nằm, eat and lie down with somebody. To be married is to ăn ở, eat and live with somebody. The preoccupation with “eat” as the language was formed can only mean it was always on their minds.
To indulge in pleasures is to eat and play, ăn chơi. To celebrate is to eat with happiness, ăn mừng. To go to a party is to eat at a party, ăn tiệc. To look for work is to look for something to eat, kiếm ăn. To do well in business is to eat customers, ăn khách.
Growing up in Vietnam, I wasn’t poor, but I remember my grandma talking, in snippets, about the famine she witnessed at the end of World War II, when at least a million Vietnamese died. As she got senile, she would mention seeing Mr. or Mrs. such and such lying in the road.
It’s quite possible more Vietnamese than Jews perished during WWII, but let’s clarify something first: No Jews were murdered by gas, none! Like the Vietnamese and so many others, many Jews starved to death because supply lines were broken everywhere by the end of World War II, due to Allies’ bombing. Outside concentration camps, Germans also starved.
Just cut out already the (delousing) gas and violin in frozen weather among corpses after a death march, etc. Starving in prison was bad enough. In Primo Levi’s If This Is A Man, hunger is a steady undercurrent, as it is in all gulag literature, “A fortnight after my arrival [in Auschwitz] I already had the prescribed hunger, that chronic hunger unknown to free men, which makes one dream at night, and settles in all the limbs of one's body.” And, “But how could one imagine not being hungry? The Lager is hunger: we ourselves are hunger, living hunger.”
Those photos of skeletal Jews prove there were no death camps. Clearly useless as workers, they still weren’t shot or, I’m about to throw up my rotten beef, gassed, because there was no Final Solution! Right now, I have more lethal gas than Dachau and Auschwitz combined, a contention I’m willing to debate with any professor at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Let’s rumble!
Why keep so many Jews alive until 1945 if all you wanted was to mass murder them? Ann Frank spent five months inside concentration camp infirmaries before dying of typhus. Why feed and nurse a bedridden 15-year-old of a race you wanted to exterminate? As for the six million figure, it was bandied about even decades before WWII. Now quietly retired, it still circulates among brainwashed Jewish ass smoochers as a sacrosanct myth.
Though World War III hasn’t quite started, supply line problems already exist, with food shortages and famines discussed even in the mainstream media. Mass starvation appears to be the aim, though, and not a side effect of global conflicts.
US sanctions on Russia block much needed wheat and fertilizer to dozens of countries, including the USA. Worsening this situation, an unreliable PCR test that often yields false positives has led to a fake pandemic, but affecting birds instead of birdbrains. Already, +15 million chickens and turkeys in the US have been culled. For Covid, a bogus “health” passport was introduced to control one’s access to everything. Since that didn’t quite stick, a food rationing card will be rolled out to do the same. Obey, or you won’t be able to live.
Like pain, hunger is instantly forgotten once it’s solved, so a sated man may be sickened by the sight of an overflowing buffet! Those who don’t know when they’ll eat next, however, become hunger. Nothing degrades so prolifically, and so creatively, as hunger.
In 1920, Knut Hamsun was awarded the Nobel Prize, 30 years after the publication of his most famous novel, Hunger. In this semi autobiographical account, the starving writer bites his forefinger and gnaws a raw bone meant for a dog. Here’s a passage, as translated by Robert Bly:
Nothing to do, I was dying with open eyes, helpless, staring up at the ceiling. Finally I put my forefinger in my mouth and started sucking on it. Something started to flicker in my brain, an idea that had gotten free in there, a lunatic notion. Suppose I took a bite? Without a moment’s hesitation I shut my eyes and clamped down hard with my teeth.
I leaped up. Finally I was awake. A little blood trickled from the finger, and I licked it off. There wasn't much pain, the wound didn’t amount to anything, but I was suddenly myself again. I shook my head, walked to the window, and found a rag for my finger. While I stood puttering about with that, my eyes suddenly filled, I cried softly to myself. The poor bitten thin finger looked so pitiful. My God, I was a long way down.
Details asides, it’s the psychology of abjectly prolong hunger that grips. Pray that you will only know it through literature.