On the nature of Evil

Ethics, theology, and belief seem to crop up a fair amount on this blog, and many of you may have formed the impression that I am a moral relativist, rejecting as I do the existence of any kind of absolutist law-giving deity, and remaining highly dubious of arguments attempting to demonstrate natural, intrinsic, moral norms.

In this you would be right, at least as far as the Good is concerned. But Evil is a different matter. I have a very, very clear concept of absolute Evil, and it is thus:


Sheer evil

Let me be clear, I have no beef with sweet things (literally, as well as figuratively). Cake is fine. Biscuits, sure. We are coming to the part of the year where it is traditional to soak a wide range of confections in substantial quantities of whisky, rum, or brandy and of this I can but approve—though I frown slightly at the tradition of then burning some of it off, which rather defeats the point.

However—and I cannot stress this enough—the combination of sweetness of taste and gooeyness of texture is the nub, the pole, the lodestone, and the very epitome of Evil. That so many of you seem not only ignorant but actively in denial of this fact is a clear demonstration of the Fallen state of humankind.

Every nation commits this sin, in their own way. The British, of course, not satisfied with raping and pillaging the world through centuries of empire, made ourselves irredeemable by the infliction of custard thereupon. The Italians compound their popery and frilly shirts with panna cotta. The Germans gave us operas that last for whole weekends and Schokoküsse. The Turks and the Greeks compete not to deny but to lay claim to the eponymous delight of the former, and the French tauntingly burn a crust onto their puddles of sweetened cream, rather than committing the entire work of heresy to a justly-deserved auto-da-fé.

But Brazil! Oh Brazil! If the brigadeiro, the pudim, and canjica were not sufficient barbarisms to thrust upon your good, God-fearing people, the horrors of horrors of doce de leite alone place you at the height of the list of offenders. It is little surprise that so many of your folk devotedly attend church on Sundays and top up on Wednesdays, for you have much, much to repent of.

And the travesty pictured above? On a flight from Rio to Paris, some hideous, unforgivable individual, some spawn of Satan, some execrable inexcusable excrement of humanity had decided to celebrate this joining of nations by contorting together their greatest evils, and placed before each and every innocent passenger a doce de leite crème brûlée.

That the plane was not struck from the sky by a retributive bolt of divine lightning is the greatest evidence one could ever seek for the non-existence of God.

On pantries

The other day I was staying at the flat of a friend and, as he handed over the keys, he apologised for the apparent mess. The general needlessness of this apology to me of all people (see above, floordrobes) does not require mention; and his mess in particular was wholly forgivable, as he was in the process of building a pantry.

Pantries, even those partially-constructed, are never to be apologised for. Pantries are awesome, and I encourage you to relish them, not to mention to put your relish in them. Pantries, properly used, not only keep your butter at a usable temperature and allow your veg to gently ripen, but they spontaneously generate all manner of bizarre and exciting foodstuffs for you to gaze upon, occasionally sniff, and — if you are very brave — to sample.

When I was a lad my grandparents’ house, I recall, had a pantry, and any childhood excuse to nose in there was seized with ardour. The very front of it may have been in regular use but then, beyond a certain point marked by Spam tins, one entered a veritable Narnia of antique and glorious items. Sardine cans with keys that seemed solely designed to rip the thumb off their wielder whilst leaving the lid unscatched nestled against tins with labels like Mrs Sprogget’s Easy-Cook Tripe, Hackney Jack’s Jellied Eels, Fetid Onion Relish, and Thrupenny Meat Essence. Half-used packets of powdered custard glowered menacingly from a musty corner, and strange organic smells layered themselves through the air. Tubers of differing types that had fallen to the floor had, abandoned, performed strange and unholy acts of cross-fertilization, with the resultant species slowly evolving into gnarled, facelike roots that were clearly forming their own restless protoconsciousnesses. It was mysterious, arcane, and thrilling.

In fact, when I was very young, we had a pantry of our own in my house, which my parents had demolished for the unforgivably trite reason of moving the back door. “Oh! You scoundrels!” my youthful brain yelled furiously at my parents: “How, how can you do this to me? Do you not know how brittle the fingernails with which one clings onto the ledge of middle-class respectability? How easily they may break, and leave us falling into the chasm of pantryless oikdom, where butter is served hard from the fridge and tubers grow bored and lethargic in darkened cupboards? And you have willingly—willingly, I say!—destroyed this treasury for what? To move a fucking hole from one bit of a wall to another!” We all must learn, one day, that our parents are not infallible superbeings, but are flawed humans like the rest of us: and oh, how bitter that discovery when it came via the wanton destruction of a faultless larder.

After my stay in the home with the laudable, newly-constructed pantry that, in years to come, will be spawning its own occult foodery, I had a brief trip to pantry heaven, in the listed, thatched farmhouse of a different friend, whose pantry rises to levels of magnificence that leave me lost for words. Formed by walls so thick that it can back onto a fully-blasting oil-guzzling Aga, yet remain cool and still inside, accessed by an oak door with an old-fashioned latch, and made up of two separate rooms, one of which boasts a dusty and impressively full ceiling-to-floor wine rack, the pantry in Lavelle Lodge is a true work of art, and I could have stayed in there for many an hour, were it not for a more pressing need to drink gin and run over innocent pedestrians in morally suspect games on the XBox.

Pantries are what distinguishes us from beasts. The lion stores not his kill in a cool, dry place, but leaves it for the jackals and vultures. The jaguar, it is true, is onto the right idea; but until such a time as they construct a true pantry, I shall grant them no self-awareness or spirit. The Soul of Man was forged in his pantries.

There's wine racks, and there's pantries, and then there's wine racks IN pantries.

There’s wine racks, and there’s pantries, and then there’s wine racks IN pantries.