Le cru et le cuit

In my last post I talked about how categories get confused when you put salt-and-pepper shakers representing food items on a table in the midst of real food items: categories like real and fake, hard and soft, edible and inedible, etc. Yet another such category, one that the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss thought was culture-defining, is le cru et le cuit: the raw and the coked.  For Lévi-Strauss, “cooked,” refers to anything that is socialized from its natural state–rawness. All societies have binary structures that distinguish between the raw and the cooked, the fresh and the rotten, the moist and the dry or burned, but they separate them differently.  And the separations are, he claimed, always important.

So what about salt-and-peppers representing raw food?  Not that the salt-and-pepper versions of food are either raw and cooked (unless you consider doing time in a kiln to be cooking).  But some of them are, in fact, clearly meant to represent something that is raw.  Like these, for instance:

Raw potatoes, right?  Very clean raw potatoes, very shiny ones–but still raw.  And unlike the mini-hamburgers of my last post, these potatoes are actually large enough to be considered life-size.  They look surprisingly like the things they represent–might actually, for a moment or two, trick someone into believing they were real, until a closer second glance might reveal the truth implied by the presence of holes for releasing salt or pepper and, also, the imprint of the place they come from:

But why would you want fake raw potatoes on the dining table?  Raw potatoes are what exists before you prepare the fries or mash or Pommes Anna you might also have on the same table.  You would never have real raw potatoes on the table–so why imagined ones?  a reminder of where the fried came from, what they once were before they were turned into fries?  A reminder of rawness amidst the pleasures of cookery?  Who needs reminding, and why?  These shakers are, strangely, disconcerting, though, even if I don’t know exactly why.  There’s something playful about placing imagery of raw food in the midst of real food–playful in an impish and unsettling way.  Culture-disturbing, somehow.  Anti-social.

Published by pernodel

Children’s literature critic and author of books for children

One thought on “Le cru et le cuit

  1. never thought of creating a salt and pepper shaker with the concept of raw food-interesting. I have a small rabbit pepper shaker inherited from my mom. the partner one was broken by one of my grandchildren.maybe it needs a raw carrot friend but I recall your son telling me that already!!have a good day.

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