Corn Dodgers & Lembas

"True Grit" (1969) has corn dodgers.  The Lord of The Rings has lembas.

I could pretend to subtly treat these foods with their very different functions in their respective narratives, but the truth is I'm wrapping them both, and all of their cousins that I'm too lazy to research, into a doughy mass of sloppy exemplarity called "traveller's food."  Traveller's food is at the heart of one of high fantasy's fantasies: the long journey on foot.  (Westerns share this, but by far more often on horse.)  An adventurer, Bilbo might reminisce, does not travel bogged down with food.  No, he pops out the door with a knapsack and a cloak and is on his way.  In his knapsack he has a few bits of traveller's food--some bread and cheese perhaps (or some corn dodgers).  Traveller's food is rations but romanticized--hard tack but less disgusting while just as imperishable.  Despite its portability it is highly sustaining.

Traveller's food is one of the more extreme ways that food can compel that I have been trying to communicate.  Can one ever really make traveller's food?  No, but if you're me as a teenager, its impossibility can be easily forgotten. There was a time when I labored under the illusion that I could walk for days in the mountains with nothing but the biscuits I had baked before embarking.  The fact that I always came back before the next day was due to a personal failing and was not a reason for disillusionment.  Moreover it wasn't precisely that I went home; I simply stopped being the adventurer.  I paused the game.  No, the conflicting logics of "it was a personal failing" and "I paused the game" are not problematic.  They exemplify the necessary discontinuity of living in two.  In this manner I adventured for weeks in the wooded mountains while only doing so for an hour every day or two.  On the one hand adventuring army of one, on the other, at home on my computer.  (Not a strange combination at all, actually.)  The biscuits, obviously, did what they were supposed to.

15 January 2011