socrates 6Who doesn’t like good food and good conversation? But do you prefer that your conversations resemble low-cal appetizers; tossed salads with nutritious ideas for the body and soul; equally proportioned main courses; or after dinner desserts to mull over like a splendid port?  Do you like your discourse deep-dish or shallow, rare or well-done, spicy or mild, peppered and/or salty?

The Philosopher’s Table

Marietta McCarty sits us down at The Philosopher’s Table and serves up a plateful of delicious philosophical entrées good for the mind and the soul.  Philosophers, those seekers of wisdom, can at the same time attend to the body with McCarty’s thoughtful suggestions for dinner menus.  Hoping to whet the discerning palate beforehand, McCarty offers intellectual appetizers that include pre-dinner suggestions for research into the art, history, music, and architecture of each country featured. 
socrates 2

Having participated in Christopher Phillips’ Socrates Café (W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.) with neighbors and friends, personal experience makes it clear that humans crave thoughtful conversation.  The Philosopher’s Table walks Phillips’ “fresh taste of philosophy” out of coffee shops and cafes and into dining rooms, moving thoughtful living several steps further along the philosophic pathway.

Can certain food enhance deep thinking?
Meeting once a month, McCarty takes diners on a one year symbolic world tour where gourmands taste the culture of a particular country while ingesting the ideas of a philosopher from that country.  

Spend June in Brazil with Paolo Freire tossing around his thoughts on a liberating education while eating fish tacos and black bean salad. Travel in September to Kenya with Waangari Maathai where a diner can contemplate the threats to our natural world and consider which ecological issue calls one’s name, while tasting squash and apple soup with no-knead African seed bread.  Find yourself in China in November with Lao Tzu, discussing the benefits of “moving with life, entering into each day, come what may.”  Lao Tzu’s ethos flickers with the candle flames at the same table where you and your companions share shrimp dumplings with dipping sauce and a late harvest stir-fry.

socrates 1Questions to Consider

McCarty’s own philosophical wanderings, which begin each chapter, create provocative food for thought.  McCarty encourages thoughtful guests to consider topics of conversation such as:
• If you could have the answer to one question, just one question, what would your question be?
• Since everything seems to change, is anything permanent?
• How can you slowly build good concentration, moment by moment?
• If one hoped to wear the title of “philosopher,” what characteristics make a good philosopher?

The Philosopher’s Table

An exceptional book, a deeply thoughtful journey with one caveat: McCarty goes off course and becomes perhaps a bit pedantic, a bit of a show-off in the “Prepping For…” and “To Go” sections of each chapter.  She seems to want us to understand the extent of her travels and her education.  My first read of these sections actually produced a certain anxiety as I worried that the friends with whom I have shared Socrates Café would feel overwhelmed by the time required to prep for dinner discourse.  It’s hard enough to get people to find compatible schedules.

socrates 5That said, McCarty’s thoughtful book gets the mind rolling.  The Philosopher’s Table would make an excellent college course or adult education class.  Cross-curricular connections abound.  Students could take on the suggested research for individual countries and philosophers, music, art, architecture, politics, etc. 

For those contemplative individuals who enjoy combining your love of food (the gourmand) with your love of wisdom (the philosopher), get McCarty’s The Philosopher’s Table “to go” and start cooking!

For More Information

Contact Gina Rizzo w/ Penguin Publishing Gina.Rizzo@us.penguingroup.com