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At Table and In Bed (1971, and reprinted in Convergences, trans. Helen Lane, 1987)

1971

by Octavio Paz (1914 - 1998)

Paz essays usually make historical approaches, but here he approaches the United States as subject through a Utopia, that of Fourier, involving perspectives of ‘Erotics and Gastrosophy’ (the science of combining not only food but guests at table).

After this difficult introduction, he gives a funny, insightful analysis of Yankee Puritanism by contrasting its cuisine with that of his native Mexico. The second half unravels, with cross-cultural erudition, what American sexual liberation means historically and philosophically. After touching on everything from fusion cooking to courtly love, his ending suggests a very Puritan strand remaining in the idea of ‘sexual politics’.

Related recommendation: Mencken’s ‘On Being an American’ (1922)

Can also be found at: British Library shelfmark YH.1988.b.996

Origin: Mexico

Themes: America

Genres: Historical

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