You desire most what you cannot have

All last week I was felled by a stomach bug. It's rare for me to be sick for so long, particularly with a gastro-intestinal complaint; my childhood years of drinking spring water suffused with whatever happened to die upstream gave me a tough stomach. But given the sheer number of patients I treat who are vomiting or otherwise made miserable by intestinal viruses, it was only a matter of time before one virulent microbe breached my "personal protective equipment." 

The thing about this illness was that, after an initial period of misery in which my body expelled anything that might be perceived as an invader, I was more or less fine, as long as I didn't eat anything. I could keep down water (mixed with the electrolytes that plants crave), and I successfully swallowed a vitamin, but food only brought on more nausea. I was quickly conditioned, Skinner-style, not to eat. 

I felt scatter-brained and incapable of concentration, so my efforts to use this windfall of time to edit a bunch of stories that really need editing was a failure. To pass the time, I started watching shows about food and cooking on Netflix and YouTube.  

To my surprise, watching food shows with absolutely no appetite or interest in eating allowed me to enjoy them in an entirely new way. It was like reading a book in a quiet room, instead of going to see the derivative movie in a booming, swelling theater. 

My favorite show was Samurai Gourmet, an odd Japanese program in which a retiree discovers the pleasures of food, while inspired by the legacy of the samurai. In the first episode, he goes out for lunch and decides, after much vacillation and an appearance from a fearsome samurai, to have a beer in the middle of the day. That's it. That's all that happens. The plot of every episode could be easily summarized in a tweet. 

Samurai Gourmet is terribly hokey, like something the Children's Television Workshop developed to encourage old people to enjoy their food, but it's full of gorgeous shots of meals being prepared, the kind of thing critics often call food porn (a term I dislike, but can't fully articulate why).  Naoto Takenaka plays the recently retired salaryman, experiencing the pleasure of small moments, flavors, and smells, and watching him is like observing someone undergoing enlightenment. I could enjoy his expression as he drinks a cold beer or slurps noodles all day long. (I did do it all day long. That was my Tuesday.)

No English subtitles on this trailer, but the show has them.