Prolegomena To Any Future Cocido Madrileño.

Vichyssoise made the list for Prolegomena Number 3, but Cocido interceded, so reading Kant and cooking with a pot continues today with garbanzo beans and odd bits.  Let’s leap in with the beginning of the “Second Part of the Main Transcendental Question.”

Nature is the existence of things, so far as it is determined according to universal laws.

Kant points out that knowing does not include “things in themselves,” there is no a priori knowledge or a posteriori of a particular existent; however, he does approve of a priori universal natural science and would have to accede by his own definitions to an a posteriori awareness through scientific induction of universal laws.  His emphasis on existence keys his view of objects in the world through external senses.  Kant believes more in symbolic logic than the inner life of the Galapagos tortoise.  Right now, I believe in the architectonics of Cocido madrileño.


Matt Goulding in Grape Olive Pig: Travels Through Spain’s Food Culture offers the following delicacies of this Cocido.

Cocido started off as a Jewish dish dating back to the Middle Ages, known then as olla podrida–a collection of meat, beans, and vegetables gathered in a clay pot on Friday nights and left to simmer in the embers of the fire for eating on the Sabbath.  When Catholics reclaimed the country, pork went into the pot, an edible litmus of sorts to test your allegiance to the Holy Roman Emperor.  If your stew didn’t have swine, then you must have been a Jew or a Muslim in disguise.  (281-82)

Food traditions can have as much ugliness as any other aspect of a culture, and certainly cocido acting as an agent of the Spanish Inquisition counts as ugly.  Goulding continues.

Like the other great peasant stews of Europe–pot-au-feu from southern France, bollito misto from central Italy–cocido is a simmering pot of necessity, crisis turned into opportunity through patience and ingenuity.  (282)

Layer by layer, floor by floor this dish builds in the pot.  First garbanzo beans which have soaked overnight, then onions, red peppers, and tomatoes; and finally, a ceiling of tripe.


Next, I add half a pig snout, pig ear, cow foot, and a hunk of cured ham.  I then toss in bay leaves, black peppercorns, allspice, and juniper berries.  Water finishes the house.  Now it bubbles for hours.  Time to pour a drink.


As I wait through the simmering I help myself to a bottle of Spanish Brandy and continue with Kant.  And again, to the senses.

The sum of the matter is this: the business of the senses is to intuit, that of the understanding is to think.  But thinking is uniting representations in a consciousness.  This unification originates either merely relative to the subject and is contingent and subjective, or it happens absolutely and is necessary or objective.  The uniting of representations in a consciousness is judgment.  Thinking therefore is the same as judging, or referring representations of judgments in general.  (304)

An Either/Or Dilemma, and yet in terms of any given moment of perception and thought both what is contingent and necessary operate.  Much like my cocido, which has the necessity of certain items, such as garbanzo beans, but still remains open to my contingent inclusion of tripe.  Kant continues,

Since the oldest days of philosophy, inquirers into pure reason have thought that, besides the things of sense, or appearances (phenomena), which makes up the sensible world, there were certain beings of the understanding (noumena), which should constitute an intelligible world.  And as appearance and illusion were by those men identified (a thing which we may well excuse in an undeveloped epoch), actuality was only conceded to the beings of the understanding.

And we indeed, rightly considering objects of sense as mere appearances, confess thereby that they are based upon a thing in itself, though we know not this thing as it is in itself but only know its appearances, viz., they way in which our senses are affected by this unknown something. (315)

I’m going to draw a direct line from these Kantian words to a famous analogy in Ludwig Wittgenstein’s, Philosophical Investigations–the “Beetle in the Box.”

Connected, yet alone.  Nice.  You might say we only live in a world of aesthetics.  Kissed, of course, by imagination.

The imagination may perhaps be forgiven for occasional vagaries and for not keeping carefully within the limits of experience, since it gains life and vigor by such flights and since it is always easier to moderate its boldness than to stimulate its languor.  But the understanding which ought to think can never be forgiven for indulging in vagaries; for we depend upon it alone for assistance to set bounds, when necessary, to the vagaries of the imagination.  (317)

The vagaries of imagination, has anyone written as well on living with this experience than Michel de Montaigne?

Lately when I retired to my home, determined so far as possible to bother about nothing except spending the little life I have left in rest and seclusion, it seemed to me I could do my mind no greater favor than to let it entertain itself in full idleness and stay and settle in itself, which I hoped it might do more easily now, having become weightier and riper with time.  But I find that, on the contrary, like a runaway horse, it gives itself a hundred times more trouble than it took for others, and gives birth to so many chimeras and fantastic monsters, one after another, without order or purpose, that in order to contemplate their ineptitude and strangeness at my pleasure, I have begun to put them in writing, hoping in time to make my mind ashamed of itself.  (Of Idleness)


Time to look at the pot.  Oh yes, all breaks down in heated water just as it should.  A fluid world bringing forth the essence of each object in its bath.  Time to add the incredibly valuable saffron threads, honored paprika, and the very delicious longanisa sausage.  Bubble, bubble.  Back to Kant.

How is nature possible in general in the material sense, i.e., according to intuition, as the totality of appearances; how are space, time, and that which fills both–the object of sensation–possible in general?  The answer is: by means of the constitution of our sensibility, according to which it is in its special way affected by objects which are in themselves unknown to it and totally distinct from those appearances.  (318)

And there you are, if you’re looking for grand statements concerning our experience of all that is, done in somewhat of an understated way, you have now read the words, which of course, leave many things open.  “Constitution of our sensibility,” yes that’s a mouthful and mindful.  And then, “which it is in its special way,” leading to of course, what is this special way you speak of Kant?  And then of course the noumena, the thing in itself, has no place in all this, our experience.  Excellent.  Time for cocido!


Isn’t that beautiful?  Gabriela expertly cut kale, sweated it with garlic and olive oil, which we placed on top along with another pour of olive oil and sprinkle of salt and black pepper.  The broth exudes a bony, fatty goodness, the tripe has almost completely dissolved into the broth, the beans are delicate, and the various meats umami the whole deal.  In a play between people who cannot know each other, we sit down to share the enriching world of appearances.   And as we dig into centuries of Iberian cooking, let’s listen to Andrés Segovia play Asturias by Isaac Albéniz.  Bon Appétit!


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