Nietzsche's Angel Food Cake: And Other "Recipes" for the Intellectually Famished

Sample: Harper Lee’s How to Kill a Mockingbird



1. A person’s got to eat to keep her strength up. So Atticus was wrong. It’s not a sin to kill a mockingbird that sings for you all day, mocking this bird and that animal, and never even getting into the corncrib or cotton. It’s only a sin to hurt it unnecessarily.

2. Drop the mockingbird into a pan of boiling water. It will shriek piercingly for the few minutes it remains alive, but it’s only impersonating a lobster.

3. That’s one talented bird. Skin and de-bone it. Chop its meat, and, in a bowl, mix the meat with tiny bits of celery and onion, also chopped, and some mayonnaise. Be impressed that, even dead, your mockingbird can mock a chicken in just about any salad.

4. How does it do that? You’ve got to learn how.

5. Like Atticus said, to really know a body you have to walk around a while in its skin. Tape the mockingbird’s skin to your forehead, letting it hang down over your eyes. Now try walking.

6. Blindly stumble into the garden. Pluck what feels to be a cabbage leaf and return to the kitchen. Using your fingers, tear it into the “chicken” salad. Add sugar, dry mustard seed, salt, and vinegar. What was once southern cooking is now almost German. Be impressed that, not two minutes into wearing mockingbird skin, already you can do impressions.

7. That night, against Atticus’s advice, fall asleep with the mockingbird skin dangling across your brow. Dream terribly of the bird’s demise—of riotously boiling water, of steep pot walls, and of you holding a slotted spoon and cleaver. What have you done?

8. The next morning, be so happy to leave the bed that you scoot right up the wisteria tree. Kee! Kee! Kee! you’ll call, mocking a sunflower bird as you gobble the tree’s fruit. Then, mock a bobwhite. Bob white! Bob white! Shriek like a blue jay, or, come to think of it, like a songbird immersed in water of a temperature it had never imagined possible.

9. Feel sad that the mockingbird probably did suffer. From deep within your breast discover a rising lament. Will, poor will, poor will. Mock the whippoorwill until night falls.

10. Notice a closed curtain move in Boo Radley’s place nearby.

11. Change Will, poor will … to, Boo, poor Boo, too afraid to come outside.

12. When you get no response, call in other directions, Tom, poor Tom Robinson, it’s our prejudice that killed you, and, Walter, poor Walter Cunningham, we called you white trash because your family couldn’t give you lunch.

13. Feel satisfied. You’ve done the dead mockingbird proud.

14. As the moon rises, climb down the tree and go in for supper.

15. See Atticus and Jem at the table, chatting cozily about justice and civility under the rosy glow of an incandescent light. The maid Calpurnia is serving a fine supper of fish and collard greens.

16. Now go ahead; peel that dang skin off your forehead. Discard.

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This is from NIETZSCHE’S ANGEL FOOD CAKE: And Other “Recipes” for the Intellectually Famished, a gift book available in hardcover, paperback, and Kindle. 

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