Would you eat something someone cared about? Would you eat something someone whispered to sweetly?
On an episode of the brilliant, hidden camera show on TruTV called Impractical Jokers, the comedian Salvatore (Sal) Vulcano assumed the role of a worker at the counter of a bakery. In the course of his duties at the bakery, in an episode, titled “Who Arted?”, Sal spoke to one of the pastries a customer ordered before placing it in that customer’s take home pastry box. The implied joke, in this transaction, was that Sal developed a familiar bond with these pastries that went beyond the usual, professional association a baker has with his creations.
“I’m going to give you to this lady now, and she’s going to eat you,” he whispered to the pastry. In response to the confection’s purported plea, Sal Vulcano added: “I’m sorry, this is just the way things are.”
In reaction to this display, the customer on the other side of the counter, decided that she did not want that particular pastry. She didn’t reveal anything about her decision making process, but it was obvious that she was uncomfortable with the idea of eating that particular pastry. Without saying a word, Sal selected another pastry, and he proceeded to speak to that one too. The woman interrupted him saying:
“I don’t want one that you’ve spoken to.”
At the conclusion of the segment, all four comedians provided comment on the segment, and they admitted that they wouldn’t eat food that someone has spoken to either. Why, was my first question. I have no idea why, all things being similar, a person would prefer a pastry that hasn’t been involved in communication. We can only speculate why, because the show did not interview the woman after the segment, or if they did they did not air it, and the four comedians don’t say why they would reject the pastry either. My guess is that the four comedians wanted to let this woman off the hook.
In this space of philosophical confusion, I put the question to a friend. He said that his decision would be based on what the person said to the pastry.
“Okay, but what communication would you deem so unacceptable you wouldn’t eat it? It’s not something we see every day, I’ll grant you that. It might be weird, a little creepy, and I may join you in giving the man an odd look when he does it, but I would then sit and eat it without any uncomfortable feelings or guilt.”
The obvious answer is that Sal’s presentation animated the pastries in a manner that this customer found disconcerting. In her world, presumably, it had always been socially acceptable to eat pastries, and she wanted to return that world. She didn’t want the guilt associated with eating a product that had a friend, or that someone cared about, or at the very least she didn’t want to watch their interaction, or in any other way know about it. She was so uneasy with the association that she made a boldfaced demand that Sal give her another pastry, one that hasn’t been spoken to in any manner, and she did this without acknowledging the lunacy of such a demand.
Proper analysis of the segment is almost impossible, since we don’t know what was going on in this customer’s head, but it appears to be an excellent portrayal, albeit incidental, of an individual who over thinks matters. She appears to be an individual who cares about what others think of her. She appears to be the type who makes informed, compassionate decisions about her dietary preferences. When she watches documentaries on food preparation, we can guess that they affect her dietary choices
An author wrote a book that awarded “light counts” to each being. In this book, the author suggested that some animals are more aware of their existence than another, and that that awareness could be said to be a non-religious soul. Humans, he wrote, are the barometer, as they are the most aware of their existence. In the next tier of his “consciousness cone” he lists the dog, the cat, and various other animals that he considers more aware of their existence. The human is at the top, and the atom is at the bottom. The purpose of his piece, the reader soon learns, is to inform the reader what the author considers acceptable to eat. A plant-based diet is entirely acceptable, for instance, to eat plants, vegetables, and fruit, because they have very few light counts, and little to no soul.
Some have suggested that talking to cats and dogs animates them in a manner that improves their life. Others have suggested that talking to plants can improve their condition. Does this affect the way we care for them, is it all a myth, or are we, in essence, transferring some of our light count to them? What if a human decides to transfer some of their light count to a piece of pastry? Is that possible? Is it possible that this woman believes this on some tangential level, and she prefers to eat a pastry with no light counts attached to them?
If this woman knows about this multi-tiered philosophy, or thinks about it anyway, we can presume that prior to her interaction with Sal, she was always comfortable eating pastries, because she assumed they had no cognition or awareness of their own being. She is a woman who makes informed dietary choices based on similar compassionate bullet points. Thus, when Sal assigned the pastries such characteristics, it made her so uncomfortable that she asked him to give her one without communicating with it.
Who would eat something that someone cares so much about? A cad would. Someone who doesn’t care about a person, place, or thing would. They might even worry that doing so could reflect poorly on them if they eat the pastry without a second thought. You’re saying you would eat such a thing without guilt? What kind of person are you? How do we sell ourselves to our peers in the aftermath?
Would we eat a small child’s beloved dog? Most would say no, to quote Pulp Fiction’s Jules Winnfield, “A dog’s got personality. Personality goes a long way.” If we agree with that sentiment, what are our parameters? Would we have any problems eating a small child’s beloved turkey? What if we met that turkey, and that turkey displayed some personality? What if that turkey displayed a little spunk that we couldn’t help but appreciate? What if that turkey befriended another turkey in a manner we found it endearing? What if the bird displayed an act of kindness that left an impression on us? What if it allowed us to fondle its wattle? What if that turkey had a name? How could anyone we eat a living being with a name? What kind of people are we? Would we rather eat a turkey that we’ve never met, that some individual in a factory farm slaughtered and packaged for us? We are informed, compassionate beings who don’t want to see anyone, any animal, or anything suffer, and when an individual does something that suggests they’ve bonded with something we plan on eating, do we consider how much pain that food might go through when we gnash it with our teeth, do we want to avoid thinking about that, and does it challenge what we think we know about light counts, the soul, and overall cognition.
The different between a quality baker and a top-notch one is the care they put into it. Some top-notch state that they put love into the confections they create. They care about their creations in the manner any other artist might. Sal’s joke might have been a spoof on the love and care some bakers put into their creations, and he did not expect the reaction this woman gave.
Once that reaction was out there, however, I would’ve been obsessed with drilling down to the woman’s philosophy behind rejecting the pastries to which Sal spoke. I would ask her if Sal redefined her philosophical stance on eating pastries in all the ways described above. If she said yes in any way, I would ask her why she considered another pastry acceptable. If he redefined it for her, wouldn’t that definition apply to all pastries? If she said no to this preposterous notion, I would ask her if she thought Sal transferred some of his soul, some of his light count to the particular pastry that she rejected. What’s the difference? Where is the line? It’s a pastry you say, and a pastry does not have the recognition of its own life in the manner a turkey does.
If a person has difficulty eating a pastry that someone spoke to lovingly, they may be a little too obsessed with their presentation. They may be as susceptible to commercialization and suggestion as those people they claim to hate. They may take the line, you are what you eat, a little too literally. They may consult websites that contain modern intellectuals who detail who we are by what we eat. They might refrain from eating a pasty, because of what it says about them if they do. They might be so afraid of what is says about them that they cannot sleep at night after taking a bite out of something that Sal appeared to love. Do they think too much, do they have too much time on your hands, and are they a result of the problem or part of it. If this woman was a spectator of the joke, as opposed to the subject of it, would she think less of the person who could eat such a confection without guilt?
How do we make our decisions on what not to eat? Does a vegetarian, or a vegan, make their dietary choices based entirely on a love of animals? Some of the vegetarians and vegans I’ve encountered initially say something along the lines of, “I don’t care for the texture of meat.” Or, they tell a story regarding the moment they made their decision and how they experienced a moment that shaped that decision in some way. Some others will detail for us the health related benefits they’ve explored. All but the very few will openly address anything political about their decision, and even fewer will state that they did it to achieve some level of cultural superiority by becoming a vegetarian or vegan. The minute we deign to put a piece of meat before our mouth, we will learn about their politics on the issue. We will also learn of their feelings of superiority over meat eaters before we learn their last name. If neither of these are the case, or if my experiences could be called anecdotal, why would a seemingly reasonable woman reject a pastry based solely on the fact that a Sal whispered sweet nothings to it before placing it in a pastry box?
If Sal had a Snickers bar perform the Can Can to animate that candy bar in a realistic, non-comedic manner would that woman, a vegan, or a vegetarian, be able to then eat that Snickers bar without regret or guilt? I realize that Snickers bars and pastries are relatively inanimate, but with proper, serious characterization would it be possible to animate them in such a fashion that a person, with susceptibilities to messaging, could be made to feel guilty about eating them? If that was successful, could an enterprising young documentarian launch a well-funded campaign, steeped in political pressure, to lead a segment of the population into avoiding eating Snickers candy bars based on videos about the inhumane manufacturing process involved in the creation and packaging of Snickers bars? With the proper documentarian displaying the inhumane process through which the peanuts and caramel are adjoined with the nougat in a final process that involves what could be called a suffocation technique employed by the layer of chocolate placed over the top, would it be possible to substantiate this cause to a point where a person would not only stop eating Snickers but denigrate those that do and anyone who supports Big Candy to be in line with evil? It’s not only possible, in my humble opinion, the seeds of it were on display in the inadvertent brilliance of this comic sketch on this episode of Impractical Jokers.