A recent essay published in the NYT Review of Books explores the nature and uses of boredom in advance of the 2011 publication of David Foster Wallace’s final novel, The Pale King, a work that takes boredom as its most prominent theme. In her article, Jennifer Schuessler makes a case for the necessity of boredom, its relevance and importance. She writes:
Researchers have discovered that when people are conscious but doing nothing … the brain is in fact firing away, with greater activity in regions responsible for recalling autobiographical memory, imagining the thoughts and feelings of others, and conjuring hypothetical events: the literary areas of the brain, you might say. When this so-called default mode network is activated, the brain uses only about 5 percent less energy than it does when engaged in basic tasks. But that discrepancy may explain why time seems to pass more slowly at such moments.
If this is the case, then my energy-efficient mind should be whirring away like an EnergyStar-rated dishwasher, cataloging my recent past, considering the needs of others, and imaging worlds unknown.
Can’t you hear it?
Nah, me neither.
I mean, I hope all of that is happening, but right now, I just feel kind of tired of being bored. However, I have started to think about attempting to cook myself right out of boredom, which surely suggests an impending mood shift.
Either that or a lot of hot water and a very big pot.
What do you cook when you’re bored, as I am now? something difficult or easy? strange or familiar? savory or sweet? spicy or mild? hard or soft? crunchy or chewy? Need it involve a lot of special ingredients and equipment? Should it reject or celebrate boredom?
Eugene Ionesco argued that boredom is “a symptom of security.” You can’t experience it when imperiled. Perhaps, then, I should make something difficult, confront the culinary unknown: croissants, soufflés, Pavlovas?
Then again, there are so many recipes that are proven energizers: curry, lemon tart, gazpacho. Maybe I should make one of them.
Oh, but it isn’t tomato season.
Suggestions? Advice? What do you cook when you’re bored to death? Other than your very own goose?
By the way, the pear cake pictured above was anything but ho hum. I made it for Thanksgiving and will eventually post a version of the recipe. For now, it’s just a clever ruse.