A maneuver of Omnimode Gastronomy

28.9.19 / Text
Utopian socialist Charles Fourier imagines vast armies engage in gastronomic combat.

Image source: J. J. Grandville, Un autre monde (Paris: H. Fournier, 1844), 247.

Domitian [the Roman emperor] thought he made a fine joke by requiring the Senate to deliberate on the proper dressing for a Turbot. Here we will, in all seriousness, require the learned councils of 30 empires to deliberate on each of the dishes that make up the cuisine.

This is the end of the petty gastronomical triumphs of our time. You will understand the vanity of Civilized pretensions, the weakness of your alleged refinements. You will see the God of feasts distribute his palms of glory, more magnificent than those of Mars and Apollo. You will see empires field vast armies in gastronomic struggle to determine the perfection of the most trifling dishes in each of its varieties, and you will see the renown of nations founded on omelettes soufflées or perhaps whipped cream. These foundations may appear quite weak, and these laurels ridiculous, but they will be bases of granite and beacons of wisdom for the nations rallied under the flag of Harmony.

Let us not cease repeating that the aim that we propose in theory for the omnimode play of the passions is their universal combination, the skillful arrangement of the play of each passion so as to involve all the inhabitants of the earth and mutually to enhance the pleasures of each of the 4 billion people who will eventually populate the globe. (The way to do this is to intro­duce the greatest variety into the development of each passion and of each branch of industry.)

Such is the result we must achieve by degrees. I have [elsewhere] indicated various means, whether in love or gastronomy, of interesting great masses in a play of the passions. For example, a great amphigamous quadrille, with its amorous maneuvers and evolutions, may intrigue an entire Tourbillon1 and all its neighbors who are able to take part in it. The rivalries surrounding a gastronomic thesis2 interest the whole region and even resound in the various empires, but these are only partial steps in resolving the problem of the universal connection of the passions. We are going to discover the most superb resources for this task in the omnimode maneuver, which extends the sphere of cabalistic struggles infinitely, developing the associations of gastronomy and love in a way that excites, stimulates, and involves everyone on earth in debates related to the slightest variations of dishes and amorous manias.

The omnimode exercise is only practical in huge gatherings, such as armies of 100,000 to a million persons. I am going to describe one of these gastronomic events and then show its application to the amorous regime.

In Harmony it often happens that the armies of 20 or 30 empires meet on a suitable field. They are accompanied by the most famous oracles of gastronomy, practitioners and cooks as well as theoreticians and critics. It is during these gatherings that each empire can assert its customary claims about its cuisine and thwart those of its rivals.

The issue here is struggle over the preparation of a dish, its elements, and the ingredients used in each. As for the competitions involving orthodox dishes, the laurels of that sort are distributed after the meal with that theme, as I have described elsewhere, but in the competitions that we are going to discuss, it will be a question of only one single dish at a time. This is the way to get the whole world involved in evaluating a pâté or an omelet.

The oracles are always divided into 3 juries, each jury tasting the batches from the ovens separately. This tasting is followed by a deliberation of the council as the whole. This method of a first evaluation by three separate juries produces much better judgments than if the oracles only formed one single jury at the time of the tasting.

Let us suppose that 32 armies from as many empires are gathered in Chaldea and Mesopotamia to build embankments for the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Each, in addition to the common work on the embankments and special jobs, has some theses to prove in industry, the fine art, gastronomy, love, etc. Each army starts off with a program of such contests proposed to the whole world and the empire which sent it selects for it those virtuosos who are most able to sustain its luster in the battles for eminence.

One army doesn’t propose a large number of theses; 3 or 4 of each type are sufficient. For example, in gastronomy: one empire throws down the gauntlet to the world on 3 topics: petits pâtés, various omelets, and sweet custard tarts. If it sends an army of 25,000 to 30,000, it must choose the people who are most likely to shine in these different categories, as well as in the other competitions they must undergo in love, the fine arts, industry, etc. Here we will discuss only the competition in gastronomy, the maneuvers of which will serve to illustrate those of the other types.

The gatherings for competition generally must involve at least 30 armies because it requires areopagi3 assembled from 24 empires to have a strong council, whose decisions have authority in world opinion, provisional upon their ratification by a compound council in which the majority of the world participates.

I say that 24 empires are needed for the mixed council because, the world being divided into 240 empires, the questions must pass through the channels of three councils, thus:

1st the simple council, or aeropagi assembled from at least 5 empires
2nd the mixed council, or aeropagi assembled from at least 24 empires
3rd the compound council, or aeropagi assembled from 2/3 of the globe, 160 empires

The description of the operation of the midlevel councils will suffice to enable an evaluation of the superior or inferior councils. In our Civilized assemblies there are discussions, and a first draft of the question is made by a committee that takes the initiative and presents the work half-digested. It is the same in Harmony; initiatives are first considered by a simple council of 5 empires, from which they move to a mixed council of 24 and then to the compound council.

Harmony uses an even number of judges because this provides an opportunity to divide or defer judgments. That is why it will require 24 and not 25 aeropagi; the decision returned by the 24 allows nine possible outcomes for an object being judged. Each may be:

–  accepted by 24, rejected by none, and thus exalted in triumph
–  accepted by 21, rejected by 3, and agreed upon
–  accepted by 18, rejected by 6, and approved
–  accepted by 15, rejected by 9, with tastes catered to
–  accepted by 12, rejected by 12, and honorably mentioned, with judgment reserved pending revision
–  accepted by 9, rejected by 15, and discarded
–  accepted by 6, rejected by 18, and dis­ approved
–  accepted by 3, rejected by 21, and condemned
–  accepted by 0, rejected by 24, and struck down, anathematized.

These vote gradations are weighted in the final examinations; thus in Harmony they will never say that a work or thesis has succeeded or failed. Such vague statements are replaced with one of the 9 above, indicating very clearly the degree of success or failure of each object put to the test. We could even expand the scale of judgments to 25, but a table of 9 is adequate for showing the method, which is not used in the confusing judgments of our [Civilized] Senates but is necessary in those of Harmony where the progressive order is the universal rule.

Tourbillon is another name for the Phalanstery, Fourier’s ideal community. The name means whirlwind or hurly-burly, and suggests the constant, restless movement by which communities in Harmony find the means of satisfying all the passions. – EDITORS.
 Fourier uses the term thesis to describe a particular method of accomplishing a labor, and the wars and battles that will establish the ortho dox means have the character, and sometimes employ the language of logical proof and debate. – EDITORS.
Advisory councils. – EDITORS.

Excerpt from: Charles Fourier, The World War of Small Pastries, translated from the French by Shawn P. Wilburg and Joan Roelofs (New York: Autonomedia, 2015), 17–24.