In the time I lived in Korea I noticed a fantastic innovation at their restaurants. Food was brought to the table simmering in these big steel cookers for everyone to browse from.
I was amazed how these not only kept the food hot, they even had an adjustable heat dial anyone at the table could use.
Such a marvellous invention would be unthinkable, revolutionary in stodgy, joyless American culture that takes greatest pride in its prolish junk food.
When it comes to American food, a piping hot meal is one of life’s challenges.
Everything gets served in complete portions on individual plates made of thick, cold ceramic, completely open to the air. Everyone takes great care to eat as isolated individuals, avoiding any appearance of sharing from the same source.(that would be disgusting) Browsing from a collective pot is taboo. Just watching a people at meal time offers great insight into how they see the world on the most visceral level!
By the time people begin to eat, especially if there’s prayer before eating, even the mashed potatoes are starting to get cold.
I never really understood what a truly hot meal was until I went to some other countries where thick sauces, flaky crusts were common, served in the same container it was baked in hot from the oven, served in cast iron cookware or thick pots with small openings or lids to hold in the heat. It was never the same again to just eat off of a cold plate that hadn’t even been warmed up. It’s barbaric, really. Cold food would offend even cave people cooking over their fires. Actually, cooking over with a fire in the remote woods is far superior to eating off a cold plate. There’s a radiant glow of heat that warms your face when you take those foil wrapped baked potatoes and pork loin from the embers of the fire. Something about really hot food revives the spirit even as cold, soggy food chills the mood, even down to the tips of the toes.
In the States, I still often eat out of the hot pan I cooked in instead of serving onto a plate when making food for myself. I’ll bring a chair right up to the stove and keep the heat on low as I eat. If I take it into another room, I keep a lid on until the moment I’m about to eat and enjoy the ebullient rush of hot, delicious-smelling steam rising into my face before I dig in. But even this is often difficult in America since almost all cookware I encounter is designed to get damaged if it’s so much as touched with silverware. What backwards and alien customs!
I guess I feel that one of the main reasons to even bother to have a society is to make life pleasant for people. It’s part of the implicit Contract that motivates us to cooperate with a social order at all.
First a people figures out how to invent a perfectly piping hot meal and then worry about surplus activities like missions into space.
It’s perverse in a way that the most wealthy populations on earth haven’t figured out how to apply sustained heat to their food or contain heat with insulation.
Perhaps it’s the Calvinist, Puritanical disdain for joy in this life that leads to such apathy.
Or is it misguided “enlightenment” empiricism? It has the same calories or nutrients served hot or ice cold after all.
Or is it simply a secular religion of competition and money-making that leaves no place for enjoying the smaller things that make life worth living to begin with?
I suspect it is a combination of all these that impede a culture known for innovation from serving food in containers that have a heat source and adjustable dial. These are after all the same people who take toasters for granted.