The Jean-Paul Sartre Cookbook
by Alastair Sutherland
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
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 coffee.