In belated honor of April Fool’s Day, which I completely forgot to celebrate yesterday, I am posting part of the April Fool’s edition of the newsletter of my college’s library, which I received the one year I worked there in a position important enough to warrant my getting the newsletter. The theme of this particular April Fool’s newsletter was the startling discovery of a book called Cooking by Jean-Paul Sartre, written when the not-yet-famous existentialist philosopher was the chef in a small Left Bank bistro frequented by young French intellectuals. Here is an excerpt:
October 3 [year not indicated]
Spoke with Camus today about my cookbook. Although he seems never to eat, he gave me much encouragement. I rushed home to work. How excited I am! I have begun my formula for a Denver omelet.
There have been stumbling blocks. I keep creating omelets one after another, like soldiers marching into the sea, but each one seems empty, hollow, like granite. I want to create an omelet that expresses the meaninglessness of existence, and instead they taste like cheese. Tried eating them with the lights off. It did not help.
Malraux suggested paprika.
I have realized that the traditional omelet form (eggs and cheese) is bourgeois. Today I tried making one out of cigarettes, some coffee, and four tiny stones. I fed it to Malraux, who threw up. I am encouraged, but my journey is still long.
The more I do not eat, the more keenly I am aware of the void. Today I tried this recipe:
Ingredients: 1 large casserole dish.
Directions: Place the casserole dish in a cold oven. Place chair facing the oven and sit in it forever. Think about how hungry you are. When night falls, do not turn on the light.
However, I asked myself: How can the eater recognize that the food denied to him is a tuna casserole and not some other dish? I am becoming more and more frustrated.
I have been forced to abandon the project of producing an entire cookbook. Rather, I now seek a single recipe which will, by itself, embody the plight of man in a world ruled by an unfeeling God, as well as providing the eater with at least one ingredient from each of the four basic food groups.
Some of the restaurant patrons complained that my breakfast special (a page out of Remembrance of Things Past and a blowtorch with which to set it on fire) did not satisfy their hunger. As if their hunger was of any consequence! “But we’re starving,” they say. So what? They’re going to die eventually anyway.
Today I made a Black Forest cake out of five pounds of cherries and a live beaver, challenging the very definition of the word cake. I was very pleased. Malraux said he admired it greatly, but could not stay for dessert. I have resolved to enter it in the Betty Crocker Bake-Off.
Today was the day of the Bake-Off. Alas, things did not go as I had hoped. During the judging the beaver became agitated and bit Betty Crocker on the wrist. The beaver’s powerful jaws, capable of felling a blue spruce in less than ten minutes, needless to say proved more than a match for the tender limbs of America’s favorite homemaker.
I only got third place. L’enfer, c’est les autres chefs! Moreover, I am the subject of a rather nasty lawsuit.