On the nature of Evil

Ethics, theology, and belief seem to crop up a fair amount on this blog, and many of you may have formed the impression that I am a moral relativist, rejecting as I do the existence of any kind of absolutist law-giving deity, and remaining highly dubious of arguments attempting to demonstrate natural, intrinsic, moral norms.

In this you would be right, at least as far as the Good is concerned. But Evil is a different matter. I have a very, very clear concept of absolute Evil, and it is thus:

evil

Let me be clear, I have no beef with sweet things (literally, as well as figuratively). Cake is fine. Biscuits, sure. We are coming to the part of the year where it is traditional to soak a wide range of confections in substantial quantities of whisky, rum, or brandy and of this I can but approve—though I frown slightly at the tradition of then burning some of it off, which rather defeats the point.

However—and I cannot stress this enough—the combination of sweetness of taste and gooeyness of texture is the nub, the pole, the lodestone, and the very epitome of Evil. That so many of you seem not only ignorant but actively in denial of this fact is a clear demonstration of the Fallen state of humankind.

Every nation commits this sin, in their own way. The British, of course, not satisfied with raping and pillaging the world through centuries of empire, made ourselves irredeemable by the infliction of custard thereupon. The Italians compound their popery and frilly shirts with panna cotta. The Germans gave us operas that last for whole weekends and Schokoküsse. The Turks and the Greeks compete not to deny but to lay claim to the eponymous delight of the former, and the French tauntingly burn a crust onto their puddles of sweetened cream, rather than committing the entire work of heresy to a justly-deserved auto-da-fé.

But Brazil! Oh Brazil! If the brigadeiro, the pudim, and canjica were not sufficient barbarisms to thrust upon your good, God-fearing people, the horrors of horrors of doce de leite alone place you at the height of the list of offenders. It is little surprise that so many of your folk devotedly attend church on Sundays and top up on Wednesdays, for you have much, much to repent of.

And the travesty pictured above? On a flight from Rio to Paris, some hideous, unforgivable individual, some spawn of Satan, some execrable inexcusable excrement of humanity had decided to celebrate this joining of nations by contorting together their greatest evils, and placed before each and every innocent passenger a doce de leite crème brûlée.

That the plane was not struck from the sky by a retributive bolt of divine lightning is the greatest evidence one could ever seek for the non-existence of God.

Brown, S. & Brown, G. (2015) A preliminary investigation into the gustatory pleasures of the “Tim‎‑‎Tam Slam”

Abstract

Anecdotal data suggest that the “Tim-Tam Slam,” a novel consumption method combining confection and heated beverages originating in the southern hemisphere, may be efficacious in bringing about a positive sensory response. Tests were conducted and recorded to assess these anecdotal claims.

Subjects

Subjects (n = 2) were matched for age (40;0), height (169±0.5cm), and DNA overlap (100%). Subjects originated from the northern hemisphere; one had been tranposed to the Tim-Tam’s native environment for a preliminary period of six months, and was undergoing habituation. The latter was transposed to the field specifically for the purposes of this experiment.

Materials

The materials used were:

  1. two Tim-Tam biscuits (variety: original); and
  2. a freshly-made cup of tea (variety: English Breakfast).

Some preliminary notes upon materials are required.

Tim-Tams

Tim-Tams are a biscuit confection originating in the southern hemisphere, though closely related to the northern hemisphere product Penguins. Both comprise a binary biscuitty structure (BBS), with the separate sections conjoined via a gooey inner bit (GIB). The gooey–biscuitty core is then entirely encased in a caramel exoskeleton.

Subjects independently assessed Tim-Tams prior to the experiment. They were found to compare favourably with their northern hemisphere relative, with the following noticeable differences:

  1. the Tim-Tam was observed to possess a pleasanter crunch in the BBS;
  2. the Tim-Tam additionally presented a higher caramelly quotient (CQ) than the Penguin, rendering initial appreciation higher, though leading to potential sickliness upon repeated consumption; and
  3. the Tim-Tam packaging was noted to be absent in euphonic verbal humour.

Tea

Tea is a hot infusion comprising “the taste of dried leaves in boiled water […] with milk squirted out of a cow” (Adams, 1980).

Subjects, though of English heritage, were correctly disposed to consider tea to be the very piss of the Devil.

Method

The method of performing the Tim-Tam Slam is widely attested in the grey literature. Opposing corners are exscinded from the exoskeletal portion to expose a small amount of the GIB. The subject places one amputated corner within the beverage and uses the Tim-Tam in the manner of a straw, drawing fluid up through the GIB until it is felt to enter the oral cavity. At this point, the subject withdraws the Tim-Tam, inverts it, and ingests it.

Results

Discussion

Subject 1 clearly demonstrated a conventional, though extreme, adverse response to the process. Subject reported that “It just takes like tea. Warm, mushy tea.”

Subject 2 demonstrated an equally adverse response, though somewhat less conventional as his neurons freaked the fuck out and put him into a state referred to in less rigorous literature than this as “cataplexy.” Whilst the cataplectic response may be triggered by pleasure, in this instance subject reported the trigger to be “mingingness.”

At this stage, both participants exercised their right to withdraw from the trial.

The Lenten patriot

The forty days are upon us, and yesterday I indulged my nephew by flipping a few comestibles of a recipe traditionally developed to use up all the ingredients not permitted during the fast, and for which I therefore had to make a specific trip to the Co-op, as is right and proper and thoughtlessly patriotic (what other type is there?).

But word has reached my ears that some of you – some of the English contingent1 – have been treacherously applying maple syrup to their pancakes. This cannot stand. Pancake Day may be a lousy, lacklustre tradition, an orgy of the kind of substitution of stodge for gustatory sophistication that rightfully got English cooking a bad name, but it’s our lousy tradition, it’s what we do to start Lent, and if you can’t do it properly then you might as well, I dunno, drink cachaça and dance in the streets for four days. Maple syrup! I ask you! They have a maple leaf on the Canadian flag, a country where it is legally permitted to speak French, for crying out loud. The only acceptable thing to put on your pancakes is Golden Syrup. That’s proper Englishness. Good Queen Bess herself still visits each and every vat they brew2 of the stuff where she ceremoniously gobs on her finger, sticks it in and wiggles it around a bit, and duly proclaims, “There. Now that’s one’s. All fucking one’s,” before hopping onto a unicorn and riding off to take high tea with St. George, or whatever else it is she does to Keep Our Country Great, Gawd bless ’er. [Wipes away a moist, dewy tear.] Maple syrup indeed! Light up a Gauloises and grate some garlic onto them, why don’t you, Jacques? Bof!

So yes, the forty days are upon us. For Lent this year I shall be giving up precisely nothing. This is because God doesn’t exist,3 there’ll be enough dust when I die, so I don’t see why I should spend a month of the brief interregnum shovelling yet more of it into my craw.


1 This really whittles it down. My readership numbers are hardly such as would challenge Cantor, and a significant proportion of those seem to be non-Brits, presumably with a scholarly interest in sarcasm, gratuitous intellectual name-checking (cf. supra, bitterly), or dated tubbish anecdotalism.

2 Infuse? Congeal? Irradiate?

3 Sorry if the last five hundred years passed you by and you had yet to realise this.

On pantries

The other day I was staying at the flat of a friend and, as he handed over the keys, he apologised for the apparent mess. The general needlessness of this apology to me of all people (see above, floordrobes) does not require mention; and his mess in particular was wholly forgivable, as he was in the process of building a pantry.

Pantries, even those partially-constructed, are never to be apologised for. Pantries are awesome, and I encourage you to relish them, not to mention to put your relish in them. Pantries, properly used, not only keep your butter at a usable temperature and allow your veg to gently ripen, but they spontaneously generate all manner of bizarre and exciting foodstuffs for you to gaze upon, occasionally sniff, and — if you are very brave — to sample.

When I was a lad my grandparents’ house, I recall, had a pantry, and any childhood excuse to nose in there was seized with ardour. The very front of it may have been in regular use but then, beyond a certain point marked by Spam tins, one entered a veritable Narnia of antique and glorious items. Sardine cans with keys that seemed solely designed to rip the thumb off their wielder whilst leaving the lid unscatched nestled against tins with labels like Mrs Sprogget’s Easy-Cook Tripe, Hackney Jack’s Jellied Eels, Fetid Onion Relish, and Thrupenny Meat Essence. Half-used packets of powdered custard glowered menacingly from a musty corner, and strange organic smells layered themselves through the air. Tubers of differing types that had fallen to the floor had, abandoned, performed strange and unholy acts of cross-fertilization, with the resultant species slowly evolving into gnarled, facelike roots that were clearly forming their own restless protoconsciousnesses. It was mysterious, arcane, and thrilling.

In fact, when I was very young, we had a pantry of our own in my house, which my parents had demolished for the unforgivably trite reason of moving the back door. “Oh! You scoundrels!” my youthful brain yelled furiously at my parents: “How, how can you do this to me? Do you not know how brittle the fingernails with which one clings onto the ledge of middle-class respectability? How easily they may break, and leave us falling into the chasm of pantryless oikdom, where butter is served hard from the fridge and tubers grow bored and lethargic in darkened cupboards? And you have willingly — willingly, I say! — destroyed this treasury for what? To move a fucking hole from one bit of a wall to another!” We all must learn, one day, that our parents are not infallible superbeings, but are flawed humans like the rest of us: and oh, how bitter that discovery when it came via the wanton destruction of a faultless larder.

After my stay in the home with the laudable, newly-constructed pantry that, in years to come, will be spawning its own occult foodery, I had a brief trip to pantry heaven, in the listed, thatched farmhouse of a different friend, whose pantry rises to levels of magnificence that leave me lost for words. Formed by walls so thick that it can back onto a fully-blasting oil-guzzling Aga, yet remain cool and still inside, accessed by an oak door with an old-fashioned latch, and made up of two separate rooms, one of which boasts a dusty and impressively full ceiling-to-floor wine rack, the pantry in Lavelle Lodge is a true work of art, and I could have stayed in there for many an hour, were it not for a more pressing need to drink gin and run over innocent pedestrians in morally suspect games on the XBox.

Pantries are what distinguishes us from beasts. The lion stores not his kill in a cool, dry place, but leaves it for the jackals and vultures. The jaguar, it is true, is onto the right idea; but until such a time as they construct a true pantry, I shall grant them no self-awareness or spirit. The Soul of Man was forged in his pantries.

There's wine racks, and there's pantries, and then there's wine racks IN pantries.

There’s wine racks, and there’s pantries, and then there’s wine racks IN pantries.