Wednesday’s Word: Viand
This is another uncommon word and again, I simply love the sound of it. It means food, or a piece of food. It’s usually used in the plural in the way we’d use foodstuffs or provisions. For example: The viands of the king were always abundant and delicious.
The word comes to us, rather appropriately, from the French who are justly well known for their love of viands. The French word is viande. Just add a vowel or two to an English word and you can usually get back to the French version. Of course they never pronounce these additions so you wonder why they’re there. Perhaps for aesthetic reasons. I took French in high school but sadly never learned it. I do think that with the extra vowel it is more pleasing to look at on the page. It softens all those hard consonants of English and makes the word go down easier, but I certainly would not want to be a French child having to write such words on a spelling test.
Actually, though, the French word is an alteration of the Latin word vivenda, a form of vivere which means to live. It gives a fuller meaning to the word knowing where it came from. Viands are not something that we merely eat, but they are life giving sustenance which we cannot do without.
How I used it
If you’ve read Into the Vast you might remember the word viand. It’s defined in the glossary, but I’d like to expand a little on what it means here. In the novel it’s the name for the invisible stream of nutrients which feeds the people of Oasis. Far beyond the need for simply eating and drinking, the society which the scientists in the story have created has found a much better, much more efficient way to keep people alive. And why not? Why waste time feeding yourself? It distracts you from other, more important things. At least that would be their thinking.
But the viand stream is more than that. It brings not only food but medicine and reparative routines to keep those who receive it in perfect health. In short, it is the source of the immortality the people of Oasis enjoy. So it really encompasses the full sense of the word viand as a life sustaining resource.
I don’t know about you, but personally I find that eating, far from being a distraction, is usually a rather enjoyable experience (though the enjoyment certainly varies based on what is being served). Food is more than “keeping my body going”. It’s taste, it’s touch, it’s smell. From a merely pragmatic perspective these things are unnecessary, extraneous. And yet they enrich and add so much to the experience that it is hard to imagine receiving nourishment in any other way.
And meals provide another important function: they bring us together. Pity the man who always eats alone. Meals were meant to be shared; with family, with friends. They force us to stop and spend time with each other in our otherwise self-centered and hectic pursuits. Meals with family, especially, can be wonderful occasions of laughter and sharing. When you share a meal with someone it connects you to that person. As the bread gets passed it somehow seems to say that we are more than mere companions, that we care enough about each other to share these viands, these life giving resources.
I hope you are able to share a table with your family or dear friends on a regular basis. It may not always be an experience you look forward to, but it can and should be. May it be more than a time in which you merely consume your daily allotment of calories. May it be a time where relationships are deepened, stories are recounted, and life itself is enriched and affirmed.