The Brass Tack

Let's get down to it.

Why I wish I lived in Seattle

Posted by srconstantin on July 14, 2009

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The Burning Beast festival,

The second-annual world’s greatest feast in a field—featuring a dozen Seattle chefs cooking whole beasts over hot coals—happened yesterday.

It only rained a little, and the carnivores’ spirits were undampened. A sell-out crowd of 450 people attended, a smashing success for Smoke Farm (the nonprofit haven for artists, philosophers, and other oddballs an hour north of Seattle that was both the site of and the beneficiary of the event).

Now, I don’t dig on swine, myself, but I like the idea of being able to cook and dress a whole animal. It’s a feat. I always liked the section on hog slaughtering in the Foxfire Book.

In fact, the current craze for bacon in all its forms, fading though it may be, reflects, in a time when demonstrating class means showing restraint about food, a commitment to awesomeness through arterial damage that I find quite moving. David Brooks lamented, “Gone, at least among the responsible professional class, is the exuberance of the feast. Gone is the grand and pointless gesture.” The New York Times misses the point when it sniffs at William Gurstelle’s “Absinthe & Flamethrowers: Projects and Ruminations on the Art of Living Dangerously” for including bacon among his risky home projects — “When Mr. Gurstelle begins to explore things like drinking absinthe, mastering bullwhips, eating hot chili peppers and throwing knives, his book runs briefly into the shallow weeds. There is even a disquisition on “danger dogs,” that is, hot dogs wrapped with grilled bacon. That’s not edge-work, it’s pigging out.” But pigging out is, in the minds of the baconneurs, a water-gun squirt in the eye of a society obsessed with health, safety, prudence, the denial of every reckless impulse.

Now in an age of rising global temperatures, thinking more about the future really isn’t such a bad idea. And changing ourselves into long-term thinkers might be our best bet at sustainability. This stuff is vitally important, and bacon and pig roasts are just a goofy gimmick. But a part of me rejoices that we’re not yet living in Norman Mailer’s “Utope cities on the moon,” run by the “natural managers of that future air-conditioned vault where the last of human life would still exist.” There’s a part of me that wants people to remain carnivorous, greedy, reckless, and fun-loving, watching the smoke from our own barbecues rise into the stars.

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