Belated Music Monday: “What’s inside” from The Waitress

April 8, 2016

We went to a movie on Monday and I ran out of time to post. (Anomolisa which was wonderful and uncanny and will feature in a future Music Monday.) I’ve been baking some and in a fun way using Michael Ruhman’s Ratio. Ruhman is a wonder food/cookbook writer and Ratio attempts to shift your understanding of baking (or cooking in general) from sui generis recipes (perhaps with some variation) to a sort of “essential” definition (primarily in terms of the ratio of fat, flour, liquid, and sugar, at least for baked goods; though for somethings, like cakes, processing also matters). It’s amazing (though I’m not 100% on all bits or results yet; but the shift in perception is amazing; for now!).

It reminds me of Socrates’ critique of cooking (as a waystone to bashing sophistry and rhetoric) in the Gorgias:

Why, did I not hear you call it a certain habitude?

Then please—since you value “gratification”—be so good as gratify me in a small matter.

I will.

Ask me now what art I take cookery to be.

Then I ask you, what art is cookery ?

None at all, Polus.

Well, what is it ? Tell me.

Then I reply, a certain habitude.

Of what? Tell me.

Then I reply, of production of gratification and pleasure, Polus.

So cookery and rhetoric are the same thing?

Not at all, only parts of the same practice.

What practice do you mean?

I fear it may be too rude to tell the truth; for I shrink from saying it on Gorgias’ account, lest he suppose I am making satirical fun of his own profession. Yet indeed I do not know whether this is the rhetoric which Gorgias practices, for from our argument just now we got no very clear view as to how he conceives it; but what I call rhetoric is a part of a certain business which has nothing fine about it.

What is that, Socrates? Tell us, without scruple on my account.

It seems to me then, Gorgias, to be a pursuit that is not a matter of art, but showing a shrewd, gallant spirit which has a natural bent for clever dealing with mankind, and I sum up its substance in the name flattery. This practice, as I view it, has many branches, and one of them is cookery; which appears indeed to be an art but, by my account of it, is not an art but a habitude or knack. I call rhetoric another branch of it, as also personal adornment and sophistry—four branches of it for four kinds of affairs.

It’s also similar to the shift from “algorithmic math” to “proofy math” (actually, I’ve felt that that’s unfair to various forms of applied math; not everything that is not-cookbook math is proofs).

This leads me to the opening song of the Waitress, What’s Inside:

The opening starts with the words “sugar”, “butter”, “flour” sung very simply and continued throughout the song beneath the main verse (in a sort of “Broadway counterpoint”, I think). I love the opening! I just like hearing the words.

The first “real” version sets up the trajectory of the musical (as I understand it) in 4 lines:

My hands pluck the things I know that I’ll need
I’ll take the sugar and butter from the pantry
I add the flour to begin what I am hoping to start
And then it’s down with the recipe and bake from the heart

The last line expresses a sort of abandon that Socrates doesn’t quite seem to acknowledge. He’s concerned with the effect or aimed effect of cooking (or speaking) as opposed to the performative experience. Now, these aren’t wholly separate: Part of the pleasure of baking is thinking about how people will react (including one’s future self). But the doing contributes something different: Baking a cake is different than purchasing one even in that anticipation.

There’s a bridge:

What’s inside, everyone wants to know what’s inside
And I’ve always told them, but I feel something needs to change

Now the metaphor is clear: What’s inside the pie and what’s inside the pie maker which, in part, is the pie! It’s baked from the heart. (Wearing your heart on your sleeve in the form of pie gets messy.)

You wanna know what’s inside?
I could tell you if I wasn’t hiding
My whole life is in here
In this kitchen, baking
What a mess I’m making
The metaphor isn’t super complex, though it is neat (in the sense of the parts lining up well; perhaps “tight” is the right descriptor) and non-trivial (in the sense that there are quite a few parts). However, I’m finding it very affecting. The expression is really quite elegant and the introspective music lends it a powerful weight.
I want to see this musical (and hear the musical version of the songs)!
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