Prolegomenon: A friend of mine is a fanatic about McDonald’s. Absolutely fanatical. She has reviewed the new McDonald’s Taste of America range over on her blog. Having watched every episode of every reality cooking show ever made, her ability to describe the food is far superior to my own. I highly recommend that you read her review if you are genuinely interested in finding out which elements of the range are worth consuming. If, on the other hand, you are interested in the ramblings of an anosmiac imitating the style of Alain de Botton, read on!
In reviewing McDonald’s new Taste of America range, I am reminded that a few years ago, during that space between being a child and a young man, I was grazing upon a chicken drumstick while gazing upon the grassy paddocks graziers had cultivated for cattle. Dairies punctuated the landscape, like buoys floating upon a turbulent green ocean. These were oft-common days, idyllic afternoons filled with nothing in particular and yet full of time to meditate upon the nature, my nature, and the world around me. My milk, neither branded by logo nor by the scorching heat of sterilisation, came from a dairy three hills away. My chicken drumstick, on the other hand, came from the supermarket. Within the immediate few hills, there were no chicken farms. Although I knew the herd of cows responsible for the milk I drank each day, I did not know the chicken from which the drumstick had come. Meat was something which came from the supermarket — there was a cognitive break in the chain from an animal living the good life (as Aristotle might have put it had he considered animals capable of logos) and the meat which appeared cooked and ready to eat.
It would be some years before I read Boethius’ Consolations of Philosophy. Boethius was a 6th Century philosopher born into both a noble Plebian family (Anicia) and a Patrician family. A member of his ancient Anicia family, Lucius Anicius, was praetor during the Macedonian War some seven hundred years earlier. Through him, Rome came into possession of Illyria, a land which stretched from modern day Albania to Croatia. Titus Anicius purchased a home for the statesman Cicero, and Gaius Anicius introduced the same Cicero to Quintus Cornificius. Boethius’ father, Manlius Boethius, was consul in the year 487. In the Consolations, Boethius notes that:
That which is one and undivided is mistakenly subdivided and removed by men from the state of truth and perfection to a state of falseness and imperfection.
Perhaps my chicken drumstick, through its subdivision and removal into a supermarket, had its truth obscured from me. Perhaps I was not sufficiently cognizant that the food I was consuming was paid for through the life of a sentient creature. Perhaps I was not fully awake to Schopenhauer’s aphorism that:
The continuity, indeed the unityof human with animal and all other nature, thus that of the microcosmos with the macrocosmos, is expressed by the mysterious, enigmatic Sphinx, by the centaurs, by Ephesian Artemis with diverse animal forms disposed beneath her countless breasts, as it is by the Egyptian human bodies with animal heads and the Indian Gawesa, and finally by the Ninevite bulls and lions with human heads, which recall the avatar as man-lion.
Like Bertrand Russell coming upon the truth of the ontological argument, ‘Great God in boots!’, I came to understand that I was uncomfortable — and, indeed, ought to be uncomfortable — with the notion of consuming meat. Seeking the permission of my parent (as I was not the provider of food to the household), I became a vegetarian, eating only the occasional fish in order to preserve my health.
Since the Greek dramatists, if not earlier, philosophers advanced the idea of sophrosyne as the ideal measure of life. Theirs was the ‘middle way’ or ‘balanced mind’, neither extremes of action were healthy. From a diet rich in meat, I had swung to near abstinence. Imbued in the transition was the momentum for further revolution. After three years of vegetarianism, I returned to the consumption of meat. Baldesar Castiglione was a courtier, diplomat poet, soldier, and scholar who lived during the 15th Century in a period of incomparable literary and artistic achievement in Italy. When he died, Emperor Charles V commented: ‘Y vos digo que es muerto uno de los mejores caballeros del mundo’ — I tell you, one of the finest gentlemen in the world is dead. Castiglione probably liked bacon.
And thus it was, as it could have been no other way, that the inevitable counter-revolution was set in motion by the initial revolution. Following this period of abstinence from meat, I came to celebrate the greatness of meat.
Thus, I award the two burgers I ate a 4/10 and a 3/10.