In a couple of hours this will become a pungent cultural metaphor . . .
A few weeks ago, the National Evil finally perfected his pad thai. Years of noodle boiling and hundreds of pounds of firm tofu went into this process, the results of which are unimaginably tasty. Perfection came about from a precisely calibrated combination of spices and oils, along with a secret, special sauce. (No, no!—it’s not that! It did not issue from Evil’s body! This isn’t restaurant food; the Evil has to eat this stuff! You people are disgusting . . .)
How does Evil know he perfected pad thai? The spicy-sweet bite is a strong hint, yes—but that’s not it. The pleasing but not-too-heavy weight in a stomach filled with cayenne-dusted noodles, that digestive, sleepy-making churn, also makes its case. But no—one can never be sure he has perfected another culture’s cuisine until hours later, when an ethnic effluvium issues forth from the bathroom.
That’s right: it’s not the meal itself, but the mighty Thai shits that define perfect pad thai.
Seated upon the ivory throne, Evil began to contemplate the kind of shit (both literally and figuratively) none of your great world travelers, none of your philosophers, none of your literary lions, ever considered. Or at least dared put into print. That’s because they’re cowards. Every last one of them.
Evil speaks of the normative associations we make about our own cultures from the waste we produce.
As the cloying stench of passing pad thai filled the restroom—it seemed to raise both the temperature and moisture of the air—Evil felt transported in a way he never had while eating his pad thai. Or even sitting in a Thai restaurant sipping thai iced tea. This is the true marker of cultural identity, he realized: not the tasty parts, not the presentation, not the ritual of the meal, but the only truly private moments you share with your cuisine, your culture, your history. It was, as you’d imagine, quite a moving revelation.
And it’s not only ours-vs.-foreign-cultures associations. Remember the first time you dated a vegetarian? Evil does . . .
He had been raised on a diet one could call classic American (he knows because he’s been to the “America” exhibit at EPCOT) deep-fried in Southern culinary traditions. Shake n’ bake chicken, baked potatoes, green beans, the occasional steak, pork chops, dinner rolls, side salad, corn on the cob, stovetop stuffing, hamburgers . . . the end-results of which stink like churned earth, idling construction equipment, felled trees. In a word: progress. The entire history of industrialization, suburban flight, exhaust-spewing highways could be summed up in the family restroom a few hours after dinner.
Then came the vegetarian—and with her, a swampy stench of decaying vegetable matter. Entering the bathroom after a gastrointestinal performance was akin to thrusting one’s head into a bubbling mire: rotting plant life floating in stagnant water floored with dinosaur corpses. You know that smell—reminds the Evil of collard greens, which is probably why he has never been able to enjoy that staple of his own cultural cuisine.
Anyway . . . give it a try. Sample your favorite ethnic dish—or the cuisine of a life philosophy—and enjoy the meal, certainly; savor the flavor, indeed . . . but wait, be patient, and when the moment arrives, pay attention to what your bowels are telling you: that we are all one person, one world, when we sit upon that throne.