Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sunbird from M is for Magic

I come from a family of people who like to eat, and who remember vacations by what we had to eat when we were there. The smell of fresh pineapple and Coca-cola brings memories of our last trip to Hawaii, and one of the things we remember about going to England was the completely fried breakfast we were served at a B&B in the Cotswolds--fried egg, fried bacon, fried tomato and...fried toast. Our most memorable meal in France was in the shadow of Chartres, at a sidewalk cafe where we ordered meals in French and so weren't sure what we were actually asking for (I got four tiny little birds, which were delicious).

So the story about The Sunbird is one I was primed to like as we return from our summer vacation. It's about an Epicurean Club whose members were always looking for something new to eat. At the outset, they think they "have eaten everything that can be eaten," including "several long-extinct species." So one of them says "I fear we must hang it up for there is nothing left that we, or our predecessors in the club, have not eaten." Then one of them suggests the "Sunbird."

The reaction to his suggestion is that he's making it up. One member says it's imaginary, but another responds that "unicorns are imaginary...but gosh, that unicorn flank tartare was tasty." So they decide to travel to Egypt to capture and cook a Sunbird. They find one, admire it, bow to it before it dies, and then they cook it. "It tastes like heaven," one of them says. Another says "It tastes like love and fine music. It tastes like truth." As they continue eating they say "It tastes like my youth. It tastes like forever." And then they all burst into flames. They have achieved their end.

It's a small idea for a story, but the idea stays with me. You go on a quest for your heart's desire, and then what you do when you find it--you eat it! I guess that's why we sometimes stand in front of the refrigerator when we don't know what we really want. As Stephen Dobyns says in "How to Like It," we stand there looking "as if into the place where the answers are kept." Do you ever find your heart's desire when you look in the refrigerator?


Harriet said...

Never. Everyone knows the proper place for your heart's desire is in the freezer.

Jeanne said...

Oh, as in ice cream?

FreshHell said...

Yes, when there's something good inside, like cake or pie. But, when its gone, the open refrigerator, with that big empty spot where a cake pan used to be, is a sad, sad place. The freezer is not very exciting to me.

Memory said...

I usually find my heart's desire in the basement pantry. It offers so many possibilities.