Food for Thought

Yesterday evening, having spent more than a week unable to work out as usual due to back trouble, and feeling, consequently, a little in need of some exercise, I decided to walk for while before getting on the subway to go home. My office is on Park Avenue just south of Grand Central Station, and I thought I might stroll down as far as Union Square, or perhaps even Houston Street. It being an unusually mild evening, however, I decided to press on, and wound up walking the whole way back to my home in Park Slope: a distance of about 7.62 miles, according to Google Earth.

If you walk that far in New York City you are going to pass more than a few interesting little shops, bars, and eateries, and not being in a particular hurry, I paused often to look in the windows, read the menus, etc. As I passed one little bistro I noticed that the day’s specials included a Shakhshukha, a North African dish made with lamb’s brains.

After reflecting contentedly upon what an extraordinary variety of restaurants this marvelous city has to offer the adventurous palate, it occurred to me, as I moseyed on, that the eating of mammalian brains is probably among the simplest and most effective things a person can do to increase the entropy in the world. Our brains are the most complex objects that exist, as far as we know, and even when the cerebrum in question belongs to a relatively dimwitted creature like a juvenile ruminant, to take such an object and convert it, however enjoyably, into heat and excrement has to be roughly the entropic equivalent of dropping a small-town library into a black hole.

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4 Comments

  1. eugene says

    I remember when I was a kid, my mother broiled pig brains with ginger
    roots or radish roots and salt as soup and they tasted great. Well, brains
    are very fatty organs and our taste buds attracts to fatty stuffs.

    Of course after mad cow disease and CJD was read in my high school
    years and elevation of Taiwan’s economy, we stopped eating brains
    But you can count on billion of East Asians, Africans and Middle Easterners
    are still continuing their efforts in increasing entropy in our wonderful world.

    Posted December 28, 2006 at 5:40 pm | Permalink
  2. the one eyed man says

    I once made a recipe which include calf’s brains. Half the fun was going to the butcher store and asking him “hey, you got any brains?”

    Posted December 28, 2006 at 7:03 pm | Permalink
  3. Malcolm says

    I will confess that, although I am not at all squeamish about food, generally, I’m a little put off by the thought of eating brains (though I’ve had them on several occasions). But it’s not an aversion I can make any rational defense of, except that it might be wise to avoid the possibility of ingesting prions (as you point out, Eugene).

    I in fact have a friend whose father died of CJD; it is a horrible, horrible disease.

    Posted December 28, 2006 at 11:55 pm | Permalink
  4. eugene says

    I think CJD is a cruel case for philosophers to argue the relationship between mind and body.

    I remember reading somewhere about Neanderthals breaking skulls and eating brains.
    But it is plausible for our ancestors to take similar approach during famines to eat everything
    they could lay their hands on. I wonder the aversion to organs and organ meats is very specific to
    U.S. eating habits in last 50 years?

    Posted December 29, 2006 at 12:17 am | Permalink