09 September 2011

Things I Cannot Eat

Leafing through a spices catalog, one of my favorites, and I come across a recipe featuring some of the spices available from said catalog.  A nice picture of a slice of cake, with some sort of lemony icing or sauce on it.  Looked good, I thought.

Then I saw the byline under the caption.  This dessert, I was assured, is "decadent".

If there is one adjective that is almost certainly guaranteed to put me off my feed (if I may borrow from Jim Harrison), it is decadent.  It makes me not want to eat whatever was being called decadent. Seriously, cake, yogurt, I think even sauce or cheese I may have heard described this way.

Have none of the copywriters and ad folks even looked up the word in a dictionary?  I have.  And I couldn't find a single definition I would characterize as positive.  Most of them touch on some form of decay or decline.

I know the ads pitch these things as mostly in the sense of self-indulgent...but are we as a culture so focused on unmitigated gratification we are willing to look past the deeper meanings of things, to cherry-pick the one thing that will satisfy our undisciplined appetites?

I don't know.  Maybe I'm just being grumpy.  But when chocolate cake is described as decadent as if that is the only reason one would choose to make and eat such a simple pleasure, something is lost.  It's like the quiet act of eating cannot be made worthwhile unless there is a hint of sin or indulgence.  What, I wonder, is wrong with us?

"We are all pigs," Roald Dahl wrote in one of his books, "but we are, I hope, discerning pigs..." [Italics mine]

I continue to hold out hope that this is true, and that we can achieve balance with our appetites, rather than pander to their baser instincts, their childish fascination with too much not being enough.  I know I have been working to make my appetites work for me, rather than command me.

For that reason, I want my cake to simply be good, not decadent.  There is enough decay and decline in this universe that I do not need to eat it.


  1. it makes you wonder, how many other examples of this subliminal and insidious self serving messages are broadcast in every aspect of our lives? from the name brands for competition, to office position for senior-freshman cycle of abuse, to the music glorifying sex, violence, arrogance, dishonor, individuality, blind acceptance and on and on. the world has become saturated in its love for itself. there is a lack of natural affection and good moral sense. im 18! if i can see it and feel it and choke on it, i feel so sorry for all those far older souls who have been "born into this."

  2. Snort...there have to be excellent uses for this world...it's got me thinking.

  3. This isn't a perfect analogy, but when I think of 'decadent' it brings to mind Elizabeth Taylor (at age 79). That right there just kills my appetite.

  4. Actually, when wheat does a number on your body the way it does mine, "decadent" is an entirely apt description of chocolate cake. ;)


  5. I agree with jpooh (btw a nickname in my younger years was lpooh, more of a joke, nothing decadent) wheat does a number on me too...

    I looked up the meaning, your right about us using words without knowledge, and reminds me of how in wine tasting people began to go crazy throwing words around, like money on wine, although I like a good thick red from France and Italy...

    Consider this word removed from my foodie vocab, and I agree give me a good plate of pasta and flavorful sauce. I did have some good kimchi at a Korean place, but if you think about the process and what your putting into your tummy...yeah, I know...

  6. I once saw dessert described as decadent debauchery. Some people get a little too cute with their copywriting.

  7. I agree. I think there is enough decadence. Also, death by chocolate bothers me too.


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

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