Chapter 65: The Whale as a Dish

I tell you it will be more tolerable for the Fejee that salted down a lean missionary in his cellar against a coming famine; it will be more tolerable for that provident Fejee, I say, in the day of judgment, than for thee, civilized and enlightened gourmand, who nailest geese to the ground and feastest on their bloated livers in thy pate-de-fois-gras.

Before reading Moby-Dick, I had always assumed that crews on whale ships lived primarily on eating whale meat. Such an idea would make sense, after all — why buy and store a three years’ supply of preserved cow meat when your crew regularly kills enormous supplies of fresh whale meat? I learned quite the contrary in “The Whale as a Dish.” Although eaten by many cultures around the world, Europeans and Americans find the whale too fatty to eat, and are strangely unnerved by the idea of eating the animal that burns in their lamps.

This latter, kosher-esque rule about what people should and should not eat reminds us that all cultures develop proprieties regarding food. Were that not enough, subcultures of propriety can develop within a culture, such as veganism or slow food.

For Ishmael, at best these rules are arbitrary, since the same man who shuns eating whale by its own light has no problem eating ox with ox-bone handled utensils. At worst these rules are hypocritical, since the same set of rules forbidding the eating of an already dead whale endorse the cruelty fois gras. If you don’t believe him, “Go to the meat market of a Saturday night and see the crowds of live bipeds staring up at the long rows of dead quadrupeds. Does not that sight take a tooth out of the cannibal’s jaw? Cannibals? who is not a cannibal?”

Chapter 65: The Whale as a Dish

Eat! Eat your delicacy,
Gourmand, eat the best-tasting things.
I’ll teach you now (I’ll teach you right now!),
How to love (The brains of a cow!):

Step one, break the head of a calf;
Step two, mix the flour by half;
Cook it up (I’m already salivating!),
And eat it up (Your mind is so stimulating!).

But the whale is a curious thing!
To big to be appetizing!
So barbecue up for the king, a porpoise tonight!
A porpoise tonight!

Baby, what you doin’ in this meat-market,
Being eyed up and down by every cannibal in town?
Find someone that will treat you right —
Come with me, and I’ll teach you how to eat!

Step one, nail a duck to the floor;
Step two, feed it fat more and more;
The liver bloats (I’m already salivating!);
Thus, I emote (Your flavor is devastating!).

But the whale is a curious thing!
To big to be appetizing!
So barbecue up for the king, a porpoise tonight!
But don’t eat by it’s light,
No, not tonight!

(c) and (p) 2009 Patrick Shea
Words and music written by Patrick Shea August 20, 2009
All parts performed, arranged, and recorded by Patrick Shea September 10, 2010

Published in: on October 10, 2010 at 10:31 am  Leave a Comment  
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