The Most Exquisite Satire: ‘A Modest Proposal’ by Jonathan Swift and the Cuisine of the Absurd

“A Modest Proposal,” that biting and deeply savory gem by Jonathan Swift! Written in 1729, Swift’s pamphlet is a true delight for anyone who appreciates a dash of dark humor mixed with a generous dose of social satire.

But before we begin, let’s quickly summarize for those who haven’t had the pleasure of savoring this literary dish. In “A Modest Proposal,” Swift suggests that the best way to address poverty and famine in Ireland is… to eat the children! Oh yes, you read that right. Why bother solving social issues when you can simply turn the little ones into delectable meals?

And how does Swift propose this solution? With impeccable aplomb. With surgical precision, he argues that the children of the lower classes would be an economical and easily accessible source of nutrition. They would serve as a way to solve overpopulation while simultaneously providing relief to impoverished families. A brilliant solution, don’t you think?

But that’s not all. Swift also offers a detailed analysis of how these little human morsels could be cooked. Stewed, roasted, grilled… the options are truly endless! And mothers could even become entrepreneurs, setting up small food stalls on the street.

Well, now that we’ve praised Swift’s acumen, perhaps we should start taking this proposal seriously. Who wouldn’t want to dine at a Michelin-starred restaurant with such an innovative and daring menu? We’re talking haute cuisine here, not some neighborhood fast food!

Imagine a chic bistro, complete with linen tablecloths and gleaming silverware. A flawlessly dressed waiter hands you a beautifully engraved menu. You open the menu and there, among the delicacies, stands out: “Roast of Tender Infant with Wild Blackberry Sauce and a Side of New Potatoes.” Sounds divine, doesn’t it?

But, perhaps, before we start making reservations, we should remember that Swift wasn’t actually suggesting that we turn children into appetizers. Rather, he was using irony to highlight the absurdity of the social policies of his time. And, indeed, his “modest proposal” continues to resonate today, reminding us of the power of satire to question, to provoke, and yes, to make us reflect on the society we live in.

Yet, despite it all, a restaurant with such a unique menu… well, that might be an idea worth considering, right? After all, as Swift himself said, “He who lacks a sense of humor is as good as dead.”

© Marco Mattiuzzi

By Marco Mattiuzzi

A multifaceted artist, former teacher and communicator, he has dedicated years to art and communication. He taught classical guitar, exhibited photos and wrote in magazines. In the book sector, he promoted photography and art through HF Distribuzione, a company specialized in mail-order sales. He currently owns CYBERSPAZIO WEB & STREAMING HOSTING. In 2018, he created the Facebook group "Art Pills" with over 65,000 members and manages CYBERSPAZIO WEB RADIO dedicated to classical music. He collaborates with several cultural organizations in Vercelli, including Amici dei Musei and Artes Liberales.
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