Giving Up the Search for Pierre —

— or, Jean-Paul Sartre to the rescue:

We stopped in for lunch at our favorite restaurant today. Now this restaurant happens to make THE Best Crab Cake in the World (and I am a very tough critic when it comes to crab cakes). I’ve brought a lot of people here with the lure of the crab cake, and every one has been a happy camper.

My mouth was all set for my crab cake when the waiter (who knows me by now) said apologetically, “We made a small change in the menu. The crab cake has been changed a little — It’s now mixed with some potato, and deep-fried, fritter style, with a spinach purée — Do you want to try it?”

Deep sigh, but how conservative can a person be? So I tried it.

It was good, don’t get me wrong. It just wasn’t MY crab cake. The definitive crab cake. As I was eating it I thought, Hmm, next time I come in, I think I’ll look over the menu and see what else sounds interesting, instead of always ordering my usual crab cake, since it is no more.

And then I remembered Sartre’s anecdote about Pierre. You were probably wondering where Pierre comes into this story—  Anyway, this is from Sartre’s Being and Nothingness, by way of Aaron J. Elkins’ Fellowship of Fear:

“You are late for an appointment with your friend Pierre in a café. You are not sure if he has waited for you. As you come in, you quickly scan all the customers in the crowded room, and you see that he is not there. But what exactly have you seen? Would you know any of the hundred customers if you were to see them again? No. You have not really seen them. You know they are not-Pierres, that is all. Only when you have given up the search for Pierre will they become recognizable entities in their own right, foreground rather than background…”

What you lose on the swings, you make up on the roundabouts, as the British saying has it. I lost my crab cake, but gained the freedom of Alta’s entire menu. Who said philosophy doesn’t have practical applications?

This entry was posted in Etcetera, Personal Essay, Wisdom and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Giving Up the Search for Pierre —

  1. Stef says:

    Ah, interesting! And “perfect” timing, too. I am having to give up some things in my life right now -and I’m hoping to take this as an opportunity to gain many things, instead of mourning the loss of what must be lost. I appreciate the wisdom of Sartre, and hope to carry the spirit of turning my “not-Pierre’s” from background to foreground.


  2. beyondanomie says:

    Good story, and a nice application of Sartre. Although in this case, your story reminded me more of Magritte; c’est ne pas une croquet de crab, perhaps…. 😉


  3. Meg says:

    Liked this a lot, and was totally unfamiliar with it. There’s a lot of non-Pierre’s in my current life as I’m focused on a few BIG things … which is probably a mistake as the BT’s are not bringing much satisfaction. Time to refocus.


  4. Stef says:

    I am feeling better; though after getting groceries today, I’m tired. So, clearly not 100% yet; but better. 🙂

    Also, on a totally un-related subject, I read another blog post I thought you might appreciate:


    • Touch2Touch says:

      Glad you’re better!
      Subject — winter, get away from my door!— not un-related at all, as I am SICK SICK SICK of the creature. That’s a great post and everybody should click on it and enjoy it. And click on Stef’s blog, smilekiddo, because it always does just that, makes you smile!
      Further not un-related: I’ve been running a series of Eye Candy photos on my other blog to counteract my color deprivation, one-a-day, like vitamin pills. Check ’em out:
      A View From the Woods, eye candy series.


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