The Jean-Paul Sartre Cookbook
by Marty Smith
from Free Agent March 1987 (a Portland Oregon alternative newspaper),
Republished in the Utne Reader Nov./Dec. 1993
We have been lucky to discover several previously lost diaries of French
philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre stuck in between the cushions of our office
sofa. These diaries reveal a young Sartre obsessed not with the void, but
with food. Apparently Sartre, before discovering philosophy, had hoped to
write "a cookbook that will put to rest all notions of flavor forever."
The diaries are excerpted here for your perusal.
Spoke with Camus today about my cookbook. Though he has never actually
eaten, he gave me much encouragement. I rushed home immediately to begin
work. How excited I am! I have begun my formula for a Denver omelet.
Still working on the omelet. There have been stumbling blocks. I keep
creating omelets one after another, like soldiers marching into the sea,
but each one seems empty, hollow, like stone. I want to create an omelet
that expresses the meaninglessness of existence, and instead they taste
like cheese. I look at them on the plate, but they do not look back. Tried
eating them with the lights off. It did not help. Malraux suggested
I have realized that the traditional omelet form (eggs and cheese) is
bourgeois. Today I tried making one out of cigarette, some coffee, and
four tiny stones. I fed it to Malraux, who puked. I am encouraged, but my
journey is still long.
I find myself trying ever more radical interpretations of traditional
dishes, in an effort to somehow express the void I feel so acutely. Today I
tried this recipe:
Ingredients: 1 large casserole dish
Place the casserole dish in a cold oven. Place a chair facing the oven and
sit in it forever. Think about how hungry you are. When night falls, do
not turn on the light.
While a void is expressed in this recipe, I am struck by its
inapplicability to the bourgeois lifestyle. How can the eater recognize
that the food denied him is a tuna casserole and not some other dish? I am
becoming more and more frustated.
I have been forced to abandon the project of producing an entire cookbook.
Rather, I now seek a single recipe which will, by itself, embody the plight
of man in a world ruled by an unfeeling God, as well as providing the eater
with at least one ingredient from each of the four basic food groups. To
this end, I purchased six hundred pounds of foodstuffs from the corner
grocery and locked myself in the kitchen, refusing to admit anyone. After
several weeks of work, I produced a recipe calling for two eggs, half a cup
of flour, four tons of beef, and a leek. While this is a start, I am
afraid I still have much work ahead.
Today I made a Black Forest cake out of five pounds of cherries and a live
beaver, challenging the very definition of the word cake. I was very
pleased. Malraux said he admired it greatly, but could not stay for
dessert. Still, I feel that this may be my most profound achievement yet,
and have resolved to enter it in the Betty Crocker Bake-Off.
Today was the day of the Bake-Off. Alas, things did not go as I had hoped.
During the judging, the beaver became agitated and bit Betty Crocker on the
wrist. The beaver's powerful jaws are capable of felling blue spruce in
less than ten minutes and proved, needless to say, more than a match for
the tender limbs of America's favorite homemaker. I only got third place.
Moreover, I am now the subject of a rather nasty lawsuit.
I have been gaining twenty-five pounds a week for two months, and I am now
experiencing light tides. It is stupid to be so fat. My pain and ultimate
solitude are still as authentic as they were when I was thin, but seem to
impress girls far less. From now on, I will live on cigarettes and black