"Danes are right to obsess about food because eating it is what freed Adam and Eve from Eden, allowing humans to think and make individual decisions, to be joyous, suffer and learn." Scott Murray/The Age Green Pages.
The above quote is from a review of a Danish film called A Taste of Hunger which is showing on SBS ON Demand. One of the characters is a chef, hence the reference to the Danes obsession with food. I have no idea whether the Danes obsess about food, but they do have Noma and Rene Redzepi and his fame seems to have led to a number of other Danish chefs coming into the spotlight.
I was struck by the quote because it was a new way of looking - to me anyway - at the story of Adam and Eve. The idea that eating the apple and leaving the Garden of Eden was actually a good thing. That the Garden, indeed had been a kind of prison in which there were difficult rules and no autonomy. No room for free choice. Maybe indeed it would have been boring. Maybe there was even no love. Certainly, it is implied, no sex and therefore no future. And, of course, no knowledge. No brains. No thought. Now whether that is a good or a bad thing is an entirely individual choice.
I tried really hard to find a painting that implied that eating the apple and being thrown out into the world was a good thing, and this is the closest I could find. It's somewhat kitsch, but it does show the couple looking forward, not back in fear. There is even a baby at their feet and the serpent is almost protective. And a boat is ready to take them away to unknown lands. One has the sense of a beautiful and adventurous future. There is no sense of doom and disaster, as there is in most representations of the legend.
Of course it didn't turn out to be a good thing, so maybe God was right. Maybe it's better to be ignorant. I certainly went through a period of firmly believing that ignorance is bliss. That not knowing about all the horrors and evils and disasters in the world is much better than knowing. Indeed to an extent I probably continue to try and shut it all out - which merely leads to a huge sense of guilt. Guilt for not doing anything about it, however tiny; guilt about being of the generation that has caused most of the current problems of the planet; and guilt that my children and grandchildren will have to deal with that.
And yet Knowledge with a capital K is surely a good thing. Without Knowledge mankind will not be able to solve all its current problems, although it has to be admitted that Knowledge also created some of those problems. Most in fact.
"Once Adam and Eve had their first taste of knowledge, they knew that they were naked, and they were ashamed. That first bite of the apple represents the fall of man." Dan Redding/Culture Creature
So they knew they were naked - so what? What's so bad about that? That is a puritanical, dare I say, religious, view of sex. But I'm not going there. Certainly without sex there would be no future. That is the least that you can say. Joy? Yes that too.
Getting back to the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge - and we won't get into whether it was an apple, a pomegranate or a quince - I once even saw a banana being suggested. Let's assume it was an apple and let's digress for a moment to this:
This is possibly the cleverest logo ever designed.
"Former Apple executive Jean Louis Gassée called the logo “the symbol of lust and knowledge.” Dan Redding/Culture Creature
It is absolutely loaded with symbolism. The apple itself - so primordial, the fact that it has a bite out of it, and all the associations behind it. Even the stalk looks a little like an exclamation mark. As for the lust - I remember my brother saying of one of Apple's computers that it was so beautiful it inspired a feeling of 'want' - lust really (I've got to have it) - rather than need. And as an lifetime user of Apple computers, from almost the first one, at home, and very occasionally at work - I would heartily concur, whilst adding that they actually are so much easier to use than a PC. And I worked on PCs for years.
But enough of the free plug for Apple - which in some ways is the serpent - tempting you to buy and achieve knowledge. Well everything you desire really, whilst spending more than you need to.
Back to Adam and Eve themselves - again just briefly. There were of course, lots of jokey comments about the whole thing, and also lots of politically 'woke' ones too - like this one. Klimt's version is almost in tune with it:
“[I]t was with a good end in mind – that of acquiring the knowledge of good and evil – that Eve allowed herself to be carried away and eat the forbidden fruit. But Adam was not moved by this desire for knowledge, but simply by greed: he ate it because he heard Eve say it tasted good.” Moderata Fonte
It's more than the knowledge of good and evil though isn't it? And that knowledge has not, of course, prevented evil.
It's also so interesting that the apple, such a pure kind of image, should be the source of evil.
"Since the dawn of storytelling, man has used the apple to visually symbolize all manner of things, including knowledge, immortality, abundance, the fall of man, and more. It makes sense – the apple almost seems to epitomize the fundamental idea of fruit and even food itself. It’s a visually simple food – round, colourful, and almost elemental in its form." Dan Redding/Culture Creature
It's a symbol of life itself and all those things that Scott Murray referenced in my initial quote of the day - thought, choice, joy, suffering and knowledge. So you could say that eating the apple woke Adam and Eve into life. And yes this was the right thing to do. Did God intend that all along?
"To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with. After all these years I see that I was mistaken about Eve in the beginning; it is better to live outside the Garden with her than inside it without her." Mark Twain
And finally let's not forget the tree itself. For the tree is almost as old and sacred a symbol as the apple. The tree of life is an image and symbol common the world over, and therefore deeply embedded in the human psyche.
In another of life's little coincidences, the picture at left is from my desk diary and is this week's photograph from Julie Kenny in Western Australia. It has won several awards. She calls it Tree of Life:
"The tree is seen as a sacred symbol, which carries significant meanings in both religious and spiritual philosophies. From above the surrounding sheep tracks combined with the fallen tree reminded me of the Tree of Life," Julie Kenny
Enough of this very scrappy ramble around the symbolism of Adam and Eve's apple. My brain is just not up to teasing out, in a coherent manner all of the symbolic implications of this iconic story - whether you are religious or not. So back to the Danes and apples and potential joy.
As I said at the beginning Rene Redzepi is Denmark's most famous chef, and below are two of his apple dishes: Apple of the season with oxalis, paste of fermented black apple and elderflower oil and Apple slowly poached in sloe berry juice with kelp. One of his claims to fame is his use of foraged materials remember. Not quite symbolic I think, but certainly with a touch of the fairy-tale about them.
More on terra firma though and within the realms of possibility - not just because of the expense but also because I think even Noma 2.0 has now closed - there is the apple danish - available probably in your local supermarket and a Danish gift to the world. Simple joy.
And sorry I just couldn't resist these: