Gurdjieff - Beelzebub's tales to his grandson - The restaurant
Type of spiritual experience
An allegory of health. Today a microwave.
A description of the experience
Beelzebub's tales to his grandson
"Well, my boy, as I was saying, to avoid the bustle of the street I entered a typical New York restaurant and, taking a seat at one of the tables, began to gaze out of the window at the crowd.
"And since it is the custom everywhere on your planet, when one sits in a restaurant or any other such public place, always to order and pay for something with what they call 'money' for the profit of the proprietor of the establishment, I did the same and ordered for myself a glass of their famous
"This famous American drink consists of the juice squeezed from oranges or from their famous 'grapefruit,' and the beings of that continent drink it, always and everywhere, in incredible quantities.
"It must be admitted that this famous 'orangeade' does occasionally refresh them in hot weather, yet in its action upon what are called the 'mucous membranes' of the stomach and intestines this drink of theirs is another of the many factors which, taken together, are leading—slowly but inevitably—to the destruction of that 'unnecessary and negligible' function called the 'digestive function of the stomach. '
"Well then, sitting at the table with this famous orangeade and watching the passers-by in the hope of catching sight of the Mister I was waiting for, I began casually looking around at the objects in the restaurant.
"On the table at which I was sitting, I noticed among other things what is called the 'menu' of the restaurant.
'Menu,' on your planet, is the name given to a sheet of paper on which are written the names of all the varieties of food and drink served in that restaurant.
"Looking over this paper, I found that no fewer than seventy-eight different dishes could be ordered there that day.
"This staggered me, and I wondered what kind of a stove these Americans must have in their kitchen to be able to prepare seventy-eight different dishes on it in a single day.
"I should add that I had been on every one of the continents there and had been the guest of a great many beings of different castes.
"And since I had seen food prepared innumerable times, in their houses and also in my own, I already knew more or less that to prepare a single dish one needed at least two or three saucepans. So I reckoned that as these Americans prepared seventy-eight dishes in one kitchen they would certainly need about three hundred pots and pans.
"I wanted to see for myself how it was possible to accommodate three hundred saucepans on one stove, so I decided to offer what they call a good 'tip' to the waiter who had brought me the orangeade, to let me see the kitchen of the restaurant with my own eyes
"The waiter somehow arranged it, and I went into the kitchen.
"When I got there, what do you think? What picture met my eyes? A stove with three hundred pots and pans?
"Not on your life . . . !!
"What I saw was nothing but a 'midget' gas stove, like the ones in the rooms of 'confirmed bachelors,' or of 'man-haters,' that is to say, 'worthless old maids.'
"By the side of this 'pimple of a stove' sat a bull-necked cook of Scottish origin reading the newspaper, inseparable from every American, in this case, it seems, the Times.
"I looked around in amazement and I also looked at the bull neck of this cook.
"As I was standing there dumbfounded, a waiter came into the kitchen from the restaurant and, in a peculiar English, gave the bull-necked cook an order for a certain very elaborate dish.
"From his accent I could tell that the waiter who ordered this dish with a fancy name had only recently arrived from the continent of Europe, obviously with the dream of filling his pockets with American dollars—that dream of every European who has never been to America, and which now allows no one in Europe to sleep in peace.
"When this aspirant to 'American multimillionairedom' had ordered the fancy dish, the bull-necked cook got up from his place without haste, very heavily, and took down from the wall a small 'bachelor's frying pan,' as it is called there.
"Then having lighted his 'midget stove' he put the frying pan on it, and still moving ponderously, he went over to one of the many cupboards, took out a tin of some canned food, opened it, and emptied the entire contents into the pan.
"Then in the same way he went over to another cupboard and took out another can of food, but this time he poured only a little of the contents into the frying pan and, having stirred the resulting mixture, he arranged the whole lot with precision on a plate which he set on the table, and again sat down in his former place and resumed the interrupted reading of his newspaper.
"This bull-necked cook carried out the whole procedure with the most complete indifference, like a real automaton, it was visible from his movements that his thoughts were far away, doubtless where the events described by that American newspaper were taking place.
"The waiter who had ordered this fancy dish soon came back to the kitchen bearing a very large copper tray on which were laid out a vast quantity of what is called 'fashionable cutlery' made of hollow metal and, having set the plate with this strange food on the tray, he carried the whole thing into the restaurant.
"When I returned to my seat, I saw at another table nearby a 'Mister' who was smacking his lips over the dish that I had chanced to see prepared in the kitchen.
"Looking out of the window again, I finally caught sight, in the crowd, of the Mister I expected, so, settling my bill at once, I left the restaurant.