The ferry, Freud's salmon mayonnaise, a recipe for nectarines and ricotta on toast, everything I ate on Colonsay
Hello! My name is Rebecca May Johnson, I am a writer and cook and this is my Substack. This week’s newsletter contains Freud’s salmon mayonnaise as cited in a new book by Nuar Alsadir, food eaten on the ferry, a recipe for nectarines and ricotta on toast for breakfast, and everything I ate on Colonsay.
On the ferry from Oban to Colonsay: biscuits in a packet left from a staid hotel where I wrote and drank mint tea in late morning while teenagers wiped tables and an old woman talked to an old man about her giving or not giving him large amounts of money. The terms of their relationship was not clear. At first I was worried that he was trying to take all her money: ‘you could transfer thousands and thousands to me’, he said. Then he said, ‘no, you need it, to buy drink’. They each ordered a plate of cut sandwiches with crisps on the side. He had tuna, which I knew because he talked about it loudly, I didn’t see/hear what she had. He appeared to be the more confident and demonstrative of the two. There was another woman reading a book about polytunnels. Otherwise, the large space – parquet floor, beige tartan wallpaper – was empty. Also on the ferry: half a packet of snack sized pringles, half a smoked hot salmon sandwich saved from the seafood shack on the quay, half a millionaire shortbread from a bakery in Oban and a cup of tea.
Returning on the ferry from Colonsay to Oban talking about school food. I remember powdered potato and spam and pies whose contents resembled chunks of cat food in gravy. D remembers different things in white buns every day: bacon or sausage or egg or sometimes nothing, with ketchup. I visit the canteen and order chicken tikka and chips – a special request, exchanging rice for chips. I shared the tikka and sauce with Sam. ‘You’re not sharing chips are you?’ – said one of the men in the canteen, encouraging S to get his own. A correct interpretation.
Also on the ferry back: Reading psychoanalyst and poet Nuar Alsadir’s forthcoming book of nonfiction, Animal Joy, which has some very good food in it, I am drawn to a citation where Freud uses salmon mayonnaise to demonstrate a point about displacement jokes:
An impoverished individual borrowed 25 florins from a prosperous acquaintance, with many asseverations of his necessitous circumstances. The very same day his benefactor met him again in a restaurant with a plate of salmon mayonnaise in front of him. The benefactor reproached him: “What? You borrow money from me and then order yourself salmon mayonnaise? Is that what you’ve used my money for?” “I don’t understand you,” replied the object of the attack; “if I haven’t the money I can’t eat salmon mayonnaise, and if I have the money I mustn’t eat salmon mayonnaise. Well, then, when am I to eat salmon mayonnaise?”
Freud’s story makes me think about how philanthropy is a recipe for bad meals. So perverse to surveil someone eating and judge their food to be too good! Is it inherent in philanthropy to want to pay for someone else’s meals, but never meals that are quite as good as what a philanthropist himself eats, lest it suggest that a philanthropist at some point, might also be mistaken for someone in need of philanthropy? To me, the story suggests that the basis of philanthropy is to continue the difference between what two people may eat. I disagree with Freud’s analysis that the salmon-mayonnaise-eater’s response presents us with “a striking parade of logical thinking ...to conceal a piece of faulty reasoning”. At least, it is not the salmon-mayonnaise eater whose reasoning is revealed to me as faulty, but the benefactor’s. The salmon -mayonnaise-eater reveals the faultiness of the logic that a benefactor can really be a benefactor!
Recipe and eating notes below
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