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Neither raw nor cooked


19 October 2020
This month's topic: Work, Stimulant, Insomnia

Neither raw nor cooked

To start a conversation about consumption is to venture onto a slippery-slope. The term ‘consumption’ is the subject of countless debates, and constitutes in itself a semantic Pandora’s box into which we propose to slip for a brief moment. The notion of consumption tends to convey ambiguous meanings that are reflected, for example, in expressions such as ‘consumerist society’, which implies waste, accumulation and passivity; or in figures of speech such as ‘consumed by loneliness’ or ‘consumed by desire’, which reinforce societal norms, rules of conduct, and suggest a potential loss of control. Here, to consume inhabits the threshold space in between restriction and embrace, unhinged desire and discipline, gluttony and diet: could one be ‘consumed by life’?

The perspective of being consumed, dissolved, is met with a certain disgust that can perhaps be sought in the fear of getting lost, of being contaminated or absorbed into something else. As if the act of consuming was a threat against a supposedly finite self. And yet, to consume is to complete a transaction, an exchange: to change and be changed. The act of consuming is never neutral and it bites its own tail: consuming is also to be consumed. In the end, we always consume more than we literally ingest, be it ideas or proteins, energy or kilobytes. Because for something to be consumed somewhere, something has to be secured and transformed elsewhere. In other words: there is nothing disembodied or ideal in what we ingest.

To produce or consume a cultural item such as a poem, for instance, requires a great deal of energy, including the food for the poet and audience, or the ability to store – whether in one’s memory or on analog or digital media – notes and verses to which to return. Such resources are tangible and imply labor, transport networks, a variety of techniques such as husbandry, accounting, as well as a thriving mind. Inspiration is not just a brilliant spark but the harvest and the winds, the markets and the electric lines. It is the very expression of millions of bacteria that collaborate to sustain life.

Take these lines:

“ Como las brasas que arden                                                                      “Like embers that burn

mientras Ariel y Calibán                                                                              while Ariel and Caliban

sostienen la soledad del muro oeste.                                                         hold up the solitude of the western wall.

Acuclillados uno frente al otro.                                                                  Crouched down, one in front of the other.

Como quien busca su rostro en el corazón                                              Like someone looking for his face

de la cebolla.                                                                                                  in the heart of an onion.

Hurgando, hurgando                                                                                  Poking, poking

pese al frío y los gases:                                                                               despite the cold and fumes:

Un abrigo de fantasía.”                                                                              a blanket of fantasy.”

These verses come from a poem entitled “Ni Crudo ni cocido” [Half-Cooked] written by Roberto Bolaño in the 1980s. Inspired by The Tempest – perhaps the last play written by Shakespeare as a single writer–, it is used by Bolaño to summon his everlasting disenchantment for a Latinamerica consumed by its own paradoxes. There have been at least two seemingly unrelated events that made these lines possible. On the one hand, Salvador Allende had to rise to power only to be overthrown by a military coup in 1973: an event that would greatly shape the universe in which the poet nurtured his imagination. On the other hand, the figure of the cannibal had to have settled in the collective imagination. Ambiguous figure oscillating between an emancipated slave and an uncivilized glutton: Caliban the cannibal “holding up the solitude of the western wall”.

The cannibal – and all its metaphorical palate – is perhaps an inevitable companion when we venture into a discussion about consumption. Neither fixed nor single, they gladly exist in the fringes between culture and nature – devouring, revoking arbitrary divisions, one bite at a time. Such a character helps us acknowledge that life entails above all a sort of relentless-cannibalia in which humans and non-humans are inextricably involved.

The title chosen by the poet, ‘Half-Cooked’ – neither raw nor cooked –, suggests a liminal state: half-done we remain, always in transit, insatiable. As if Allende’s aborted project and the Haitian revolution had become ingredients fermented by time, fetched across the oceans, flavored in someone’s mind, preserved in data servers: which we consume today by chance.

(Featured Image: Visible ship tracks in the Nothern Pacific, on March 4th 2009)



1. Roberto Bolaño, Los perros románticos , ‘Ni Crudo, Ni Cocino’ (Kutxa Fundazioa, 1994). Translated into English by Laura Healy, The Romantic Dogs (New York: New Directions, 2008).

La Cocina [Lore Gablier / Alejandro Ramírez ] was initiated in Amsterdam in 2016, driven by the desire to build a space – both physical and conceptual – where to explore the question: What is it that surrounds a kitchen?
There is something fascinating about building a kitchen, which goes far beyond technique and nodes, recipes and appetites. A kitchen is an exercise in thinking: an invitation to unpack stories through a place in which taste, trades and trends converge.

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"A desk is a dangerous place from which to watch the world" (John Le Carré)