Friday, April 24, 2009


Think about JG Ballard and you’re likely to start thinking about his novel “Crash,” all that perverse sex and death centred around automotive mayhem. But the one perverse thing his cast of psychotics don’t do in their cars is eat.

I’m always amazed when I see guys in Porsches rolling up to the drive thru windows at some cheapo fast food joint. Of course owning a fancy set of wheels doesn’t make you a gourmet, but I’d have thought it might make you aim higher than the dollar menu.

I’ve never owned an especially fancy set of wheels but even so I don’t think I’ve eaten in my car more than half a dozen times in my whole life. Now, thanks to an article in Road and Travel Magazine I realize I’ve been doing the right thing all along.

The article is headlined, “Eating on the Go and Your Car’s Residual Value.” It reports on some research done by Kelley Blue Book and Taco Bell (so you know it’s going to be really impartial) and warns that, "With people spending more time in their vehicles, the number of dashboard diners has also increased. … Messy interiors could potentially cost owners thousands of dollars when it comes time to turn in or sell their vehicles."

And so those boffins on Taco Bell have come up with the Crunchwrap Supreme named “Best Meal on the Move” by QSR Magazine (whatever that is) and a “highlight in portability” according to the LA Times; and people wonder why the LA Times is losing readers.

The Kelley-Taco dudes also asked drivers to name the “messiest” food they’ve eaten in their car and 34 per cent said burgers and fries. This surprises me just a little. Have they never driven while trying to eat humus, or a vindaloo curry, or a fondue?

Anyway, I went back to “Crash” determined to find some perverse reference to eating, and I did, sort.

The book’s hero, who’s called James Ballard, is in bed with his wife Catherine and she’s doing a bit of dirty talk.

She asks, “… do you know what semen tastes like? Have you ever tasted semen? Some semen is saltier than others. Vaughan’s semen must be very salty.”

If this looks excruciating in cold print, it’s so much worse when it’s spoken aloud in the David Cronenberg movie of “Crash.” Poor old James Spader who has act as though he’s turned on by this, actually looks as though he’s eaten something that disagreed with him.


  1. I was sorry to learn of Ballard's passing as well. "The Atrocity Exhibit" helped me get through a rough year in college.

    But I am really writing to pass along a comment about your new York Times piece "Go Ahead. Spoil My Appetite". I am surprised you left out Haruki Murakami. Food,and detailed descriptions of cooking, and the taste of it, are regular and sturdy character actors in his novels and short stories.

  2. Why it's saltier than others?
    Go here, and you'll learn even more!

    "Evolutionary psychology: the adaptive significance of semen flavor"

    Still makes me chuckle, just thinking about it.

    Margi Macdonald

  3. Peter BaumgärtnerMay 5, 2009 at 7:25 AM

    Hey, congrats on the really nice article. One tiny thing though - there's a whole chapter in Moby Dick called "Chowder" that I found quite 'gourmetical'