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Poisonous Foodies

Thanks, Michael, for the warm welcome, and now I ought to apologize for my late start. I'd had every intention of getting up at eight or nine—a touch on the early side for the quasi-employed—but last night's Super Bowl XLI revels included nearly perishing of food poisoning, and I'm only just now crawling out from a thoroughly fouled nest of electric blankets and empty Gatorade bottles. (The culprit was either bad mayonnaise or jalapeño poppers, but don't let that sour you on Philly cuisine, which is unlike any I have tasted.)

Speaking of food poisoning: If you haven't yet had the pleasure of watching James Wolcott fletcherize freakish gourmand and perma-child Adam Gopnik in the pages of The New Republic, go ahead and dig in.

"Children reconnect us to romance," he writes. For them, "every morning is the first morning in Paris, every day is the first day of love," and through their translucent eyes ours are given a fresh polish: "They compel us to see the world as an unusual place again. Sharing a life with them is sharing a life with lovers, explorers, scientists, pirates, poets. It makes for interesting mornings." Until the first major growth spurt turns them into aliens with iPod ear buds attached, children rejoice in the sunbeam spotlight of pure exuberance. "And then they are not here to do better, or to be smarter, or to get ready: They are here to be, and they know it. We delight in children because they keep the seven notes of enlightenment, as the Buddha noted them. Keep them? They sing them, they are them: energy, joy, concentration, attentiveness, mindfulness, curiosity, equanimity."

That's not how I recall my childhood, I seem to remember a lot of lulls and cloudy intervals, but who can blame Gopnik for wanting to play dress-up himself and enjoy that extra-special morning playtime joy?

Children reconnect us to headaches, mostly; that seems to be the chief similarity between children and Gopnik. Wait until you read about a kindergarten production of Peter Pan: "And the children flew! How they flew!" Gopnik's essays are aimed at adults, of course, but the best part about being an adult that you can reject Peter Pan and all his works. As Wolcott rightly concludes, "At the fade of day, nothing beats adult conversation."

So why is there a market for Gopnik's extravagent whimsicality? Is it because nobody wants to be left behind, the last adult in an increasingly regressive culture? Whatever the case, Wolcott's essay is a much-needed "because I said so" to anybody who wants to spend another minute splashing in Gopnik's bubble bath.

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