At the Paleo Cafe

Today’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro strip (Wayno’s title: “Farm to Slab”):

(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 4 in this strip — see this Page.)

A combination of two cartoon memes: the familiar Caveman meme, plus  a Remarkable Restaurant meme that’s a specialty of the Bizarro strips.

Plus the portmanteau word play in filet magnon (filet mignon + cro-magnon). And a subtle play on a systematic ambiguity between raw and cooked understandings in certain food names, in particular for cuts of meat. You ask for a filet at the Paleo Cafe, you get a hunk of raw meat.

Remakable Restaurants. Previous postings on this theme include two with restaurants catering to anteaters and serving ants, and one on a restaurant catering to dragons and serving knights in armor.

From my 5/29/18 posting “Chez Le Fourmilier”:


A strenuous exercise in cartoon understanding: you need to be familiar with a certain kind of (seafood) restaurant, and to recognize both anteaters and a children’s educational toy known as an ant farm. And then to understand that the cartoon embodies a metaphorical translation from a seafood restaurant world to an anteater world.

(On such translations, see my 5/22/18 posting “I just can’t stop it”.)

Another version in my 3/27/20 posting “Chez Le Fourmilier II”:


And then in my 5/21/20 posting “Knight bibs”. a restaurant serving knights for a clientele of dragons:


Then in #1, a restaurant servng raw meat to cavemen. The ultimate paleo diet. From my 7/23/20 posting “Let’s go paleo”, outside another Remarkable Restaurant, the Totally Natural Foods Cafe, where “They appear to be chasing a mastodon around with rocks and clubs.”


Implementing the Paleolitic diet, Paleo diet, caveman diet, Stone Age diet, or hunter-gatherer diet, right along with the appropriate hunting practices, for the appropriate prey.

From my 10/23/14 posting “Miss Florence and the Paleo diet” on the diet: “a modern nutritional diet designed to emulate, insofar as possible using modern foods, the diet of wild plants and animals eaten by humans during the Paleolithic era” (Wikipedia).

filet magnon. First the food, then the European early modern humans.

From Wikipedia:

Filet mignon (French, lit. '”tender, delicate, or fine fillet”‘) is a steak cut of beef taken from the smaller end of the tenderloin, or psoas major of the cow carcass, usually a steer or heifer. In French, this cut is always called filet de bœuf (“beef fillet”), as filet mignon refers to pork tenderloin.

The tenderloin runs along both sides of the spine, and is usually harvested as two long snake-shaped cuts of beef. The tenderloin is sometimes sold whole. When sliced along the short dimension, creating roughly round cuts, and tube cuts, the cuts (fillets) from the small forward end are considered to be filet mignon. Those from the center are tournedos; however, some butchers in the United States label all types of tenderloin steaks “filet mignon”. In fact, the shape of the true filet mignon may be a hindrance when cooking, so most restaurants sell steaks from the wider end of the tenderloin – it is both cheaper and much more presentable.

(#6) Filet mignon with mashed potato, string beans and mushrooms (Wikipedia photo)

The tenderloin is the most tender cut of beef, making it one of the more desirable cuts. This, combined with the small amount given by any one steer or heifer (no more than 500 grams), makes filet mignon generally the most expensive cut. Because the muscle is not weight-bearing, it contains less connective tissue than other cuts, and so is more tender. However, it is generally not as flavorful as some other cuts of beef (e.g. prime rib cuts). For this reason it is often wrapped in bacon to enhance flavor, and/or served with a sauce.

Then the early humans. From Wikipedia:

“European early modern humans” (EEMH) is a term for the earliest populations of anatomically modern humans in Europe, during the Upper Paleolithic. It is taken to include fossils from throughout the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), covering the period of about 48,000 to 15,000 years ago (48–15 ka), spanning the Bohunician, Aurignacian, Gravettian, Solutrean and Magdalenian periods.

… The term EEMH is equivalent to Cro-Magnon Man, or “Cro-Magnons”, a term derived from the Cro-Magnon rock shelter in southwestern France, where the first EEMH were found in 1868. Louis Lartet (1869) proposed Homo sapiens fossilis as the systematic name for “Cro-Magnon Man”. W. K. Gregory (1921) proposed the subspecies name Homo sapiens cro-magnonensis. In literature published since the late 1990s, the term EEMH is generally preferred over the common name Cro-Magnon, which has no formal taxonomic status, as “it refers neither to a species or subspecies nor to an archaeological phase or culture”.

Still, even specialists often use the term Cro-Magnon (or Cro Magnon) in their writings, because of its familiarity. So in Marcel Otte’s book Cro Magnon (Perrin, 2008):

(#7) The cover shows an artist’s reconstruction of a Cro-Magnon man — looking very much like current humans; the caveman of cartoons is some composite of Neanderthal features and brutish fantasy

The raw and the cooked. Suppose I go into a modern restaurant and order filet mignon with new potatoes and asparagus on the side — and I am then presented with something like the filet mignon below, plus some raw potatoes and raw asparagus:

(#8) From the Kansas City Steak Company, “4 signature, butter-tender USDA Prime Filet Mignon, 6 oz each cut from the best of the best beef available” ($150) (signature, butter-tender, and best of the best, all in one short description!)

(Compare the filet magnon in #1.)

Now of course, this isn’t going to happen — well, it would be an outrage if it did — because the default for these three menu items (filet mignon, potatoes, asparagus) is that they are they are all cooked dishes, not raw material. Meanwhile, at the butcher’s shop, if you order filet mignon, you don’t expect to get something like #6.

In general, out of context, there’s a systematic (metonymy-based) ambiguity, for a large class of lexical items, which can refer to edible foodstuffs or to cooked preparations of them. As with other such ambiguities — for example, between reference to some concrete object or to a simulacrum of it — we largely negotiate these semantic spaces without appreciating the complexities in them.

We are good at using our background knowledge, information about the context we are in, and estimations of what other people are trying to achieve in our interactions, to pick out the appropriate interpretations of the words they use, and we rarely notice that all this stuff is happening off-stage.

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