The name of this blog is taken from “House-Warming” in Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. The original quote appears, abridged, on my Home page and I like that it greets readers. At first, The Scholar and the Savage it may seem a strange choice for the title of a blog about food, but I think it fits perfectly. For this is not just a food blog, but an eating blog – and an eater’s one, too. In short, it’s a blog about us and our relationships with food, including how they have changed and must change further still.
I understand that “savage” was a term that was once used to describe peoples of the marginal areas of society, who were believed to be “uncivilized” and “uneducated.” I don’t agree with the term in this regard. I merely use it to distinguish between humans of today and primal humans. If what sets us apart from the other creatures is our ability to reason, then the scholar is engaged in intellectual pursuits while the savage’s brain was preoccupied with survival.
Both, however, are capable of profoundly meaningful learning, and the savage is where the scholar comes from. We still have the vital savage within us just as the savage held the latent scholar. The savage was, in fact, a scholar: a scholar of the senses; a student of the world when it was still new and untainted. The savage, more so perhaps than the scholar, is apprentice to the powers of creation.
Today, the scholar and the savage are two parts of the human identity that seem to be at odds with one another when they ought to be harmoniously reconciled. This is where relevance to food comes in; it is in matters of food choice, preference, and opinion that discord between our inner scholar and savage is most apparent. The fact of the matter is, who or where or when we are/were, we still must depend on nature for our food – which is the case for all life.
For while we are always connected to our food, our consciousness of it is not always there. Even if we’re no longer using sticks to cook our food, what we eat still comes from the same sun, the same earth, and the same elements as our ancestors. Despite our tendency to judge our “primitive” past selves, the savage seemed to value food and resources more than we do.