(Sarah Tolmie) is a medievalist trained at the University of Toronto and Cambridge and is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Waterloo.
Tolmie’s 2015 NoFood is a collection of linked satirical tales. It was published in the Aqueduct Press’ Conversation Pieces series.
Welcome to the glorious world of the future, where life is exquisite and calamities are for the most part kept demurely off-stage. At least if you’re very, very rich.
Seychelles appears to be just another billionaire’s child. She has a few body mods, but only of the kind commonplace in billionaire-brat social circles. However, her eighteenth birthday present is quite remarkable: dinner at NoFood, a restaurant so exclusive that the waiting list is years long. Is a callow teenager mature enough to savour such a sublime experience?
Seychelles and her friends have had TGB, a radical medical procedure that removes the digestive tract (and its threat to health) entirely. Nutrition is taken by other means. This does not eliminate the hyper-rich’s desire to be seen in the chicest of chic restaurants. TGB means that they do not need to eat while there.
The Last Supper
Seychelles and NoFood chef Hardwicke “Hardy” Arar fell in love at first encounter on the fateful night of her eighteenth birthday. Their relationship survived profound differences in background and world view. When cancer steals Hardy from Seychelles, grief makes the idea of parting from him intolerable.
So she doesn’t.
Although the rich are ordinarily long-lived absent accident or violence, Seychelles has been very unlucky. Not only were her parents murdered, but Hardy’s aversion to TGB left him vulnerable to stomach cancer. I cannot imagine her friends could offer much help, not having had such devastating experiences. Seychelles’ decision to go the Jeremy Bentham route with Hardy is a bit extreme, but understandable in the circumstances.
Following the discovery of the wild mycelium network, most fungi were protected by law. This killjoy law is no respecter of the extremely wealthy’s natural right to kill and eat (or kill and then savour the experience of thinking about eating) whatever they like. It falls to the brave poacher to serve the needs of society’s betters.
Cakes and Ale
Hardwicke Arar had the misfortune to be one of the world’s greatest chefs in an era when advancing technology freed the rich from dependence on food. Hardy was also a visionary who could see how to entice the wealthy into his establishments … but his outré notions might cost him his soul.
I am in no sense a foodie but this is still a pretty horrifying future.
When the most beautiful man in the world walked into Fats Bester’s doughnut shop, the shop owner had no inking that the two would bond over a shared love of an exquisite doughnut.
Fats had been married, but only to women. His instant attraction to Carl Cutworth was thus atypical for him.. This might suggest that human behaviour is more complicated than can be pigeonholed as straight, gay, or bisexual. Or it could be that Carl was so attractive as to overcome any previous fancies as to orientation. My take? It’s really all about the doughnuts.
Seychelles was devastated by Hardy’s death, but life goes on. She begins to regret that she and Hardy never had a child. Happily, this is the future and there is a technological answer.
Theodore Sturgeon once defined SF stories as “(stories) built around human beings, with a human problem, and a human solution, which would not have happened at all without its scientific content.” NoFood is undeniably SF by that measure; the stories are driven by developments like Total Gastric Bypass and the mycelium network. There are also hints of vast calamities never described in detail.
NoFood is also very funny, something for which SF is not generally known. It may be dark humour but … even gallows humour is a welcome distraction in these excessively interesting times.
NoFood is available here (Amazon). It is not available from Chapters-Indigo. Waterloo Region locals can purchase it in-store at the UW Campus Bookstore (located in South Campus Hall at the University of Waterloo) or at Wordsworth Books in UpTown Waterloo. I’d add “and then you can run over to Tolmie’s office to get it signed” but I sense I may be stepping over a line there.…