Do you remember learning about figures of speech at school: alliteration, simile, metaphor, hyperbole, synechdoche, metonymy, litote and the like? One of them was, if you recall, ‘bathos’. Bathos is all about a sudden descent in style, where a situation reels “from the sublime to the ridiculous”.
I was reminded of bathos on Christmas Eve, while I and my helpers were getting ready for the evening meal — only the situation wasn’t at all sublime, it was downright ridiculous. There was a plan, there was definitely a plan, but the outward manifestation of my master plan and the to-do list was one of messy disorder. I have been cooking out of a small kitchen for as long as I can remember, so it’s not as if the situation were unexpected, but this year, I had not devoted enough attention to logistics and it showed miserably. True, it was only family members who would be attending (all thirteen of us plus Aika the dog) but it got to the point where I wondered whether I would see light at the end of the skivvying tunnel and much heavy breathing and sighing ensued. There was much to rejoice about but I wasn’t revelling in the moment. This was the ‘ridiculous’ part, take a look for yourselves:
Shelling scallops … Boiling beans for the scallop and bean salad …
Trimming carciofi and making the batter to fry them in …
And then, as I toiled and tinkered, and dealt with brain fog and just a hint of panic, people started to stream in and take their coats off, and greet and kiss and exclaim until, blissfully, the first glass of bubbly arrived for me to enjoy. I caught sight of the table my lovely daughter and sister had set for us, a veritable Winter Wonderland, and knew that all would be well.
If bathos is all about ‘from the sublime to the ridiculous”, what is its opposite? Foodhappiness-athos?
Because, in the world of cooking, I think that is what very often happens: there is a huge amount of mess and chaos and then, as if by magic, everything falls into place and order is restored and beauty, via good food, via food well presented with love and care, is there for all to behold and enjoy.
A favourite uncle, my glamorous Ma … (she made 150 cappelletti from scratch for us to enjoy on Christmas day!) looking wonderful at 86. Favourite Uncle makes the best cocktails, young people literally pop over when they know he’s around and line up for one of his specials!
Time for the aperitivo and a favourite nephew, gorging on oysters … he drinking coke and we enjoying the champagne. The dog Aika behaving admirably … and a favourite brother-in-law resting his ailing leg.
Just for the record, I attended three funerals during the month of December, two of which were for people I knew as neighbours and the third for a best friend of my mother’s. All were old enough to die, two were over ninety, so fortunately the sting of untimely tragedy did not add insult to their departure. All left loved ones behind bereaving, however, because they had been lovely people to know, whatever their age.
I wonder whether people who read our food blogs think that perhaps we are insensitive to the troubles of the world. I think otherwise. I love my family, I love my friends, I usually like most people I get to know. Organising and cooking meals and sharing food together is just my way, one of many ways, of celebrating life.
I raise a glass to you all, wishing you health, happiness and abundance in the forthcoming new year. Buon Anno Nuovo a tutti!