Saturday, February 13, 2016

"Some of the best philosophers and theologians I've ever known I've met in the kitchens of restaurants."

Completing a quartet of food-themed Saturday posts, following is a random snippet of wisdom from an acquaintance named Chris Baker. I hope he doesn't mind my reprinting these words without permission.

We know each other primarily through Facebook, where I find him among the exceedingly tiny percentile of social media users capable not only of writing well, but doing so in pursuit of an identifiable objective amid a medium that seldom rewards it.

For better or worse -- whether or not food, dining and drinking constitute segments of the economy capable of of changing a laggard river town's perennial backwardness -- it's where we are in New Albany.

We don't often see the guys and gals back in the kitchen, but along with the servers and other integral components of an eatery, they're actually on the front line of economic development, or whatever we'd like to call it. We've put them there. If we're telling all and sundry to come to New Albany and eat, then who's more important -- our kitchen staffs, or a handful of bureaucrats?

Chris' perspective is valuable, and much appreciated.


Some of the best philosophers and theologians I've ever known I've met in the kitchens of restaurants. Like me (at the time), they'd either dropped out of college, flunked out, or never went at all. And like me, then and now, they thought deeply, read voraciously, and argued passionately. Our minds and mouths were always as busy as our hands, and our conversations as literate and insightful as any on a college campus. The education I received from those who, for one reason or another, could not or would not navigate the formal education system, was and is invaluable.

I don't know why I'm thinking about that today. I don't know why I'm remembering all of the books various line cooks recommended or even put into my hands. But I am.

Philosophy, theology -- the moral, spiritual, intellectual life -- can be found anywhere, in anyone. That was, in fact, one of Socrates' greatest contributions to Western thought. I've been to many schools, some relatively prestigious and others, as I've written before, community colleges. I've also been to the school of the kitchen. And, at least in the two kitchens I worked in, it was one hell of a school.

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