Wednesday, May 29, 2013



The word “orthodox” comes to us from the Greek, orthos (right, true, straight) and doxa (opinion, praise). It means adherence to the accepted norms, especially of religious beliefs. To be orthodox is to toe the line.

The opposite is heterodox, which means “other teaching,” and from which we get “heresy.” To commit heterodoxy is to stray from the accepted belief.

If you go off the rails altogether, you are guilty of apostasy; you are an apostate. That’s someone who has abandoned the belief system completely.

In order to understand this series of words, let us use the S’more as an example.

The orthodox version would be to toast a marshmallow to puffy meltiness over a campfire on a long stick, then at the exact moment when the sugars caramelize, to pull it off the stick by sandwiching it between two graham crackers (that is to say, one large one that has been broken in half), within which already lies half a bar of Hershey’s milk chocolate. The hot marshmallow then melts the chocolate to exactly the right consistency to form a unified gooey center. The S’more is then eaten like a sandwich, only with an ecstatic smile upon one’s face.

The heterodox version of this ritual is to use, say, something other than milk chocolate, or a different kind of cracker. Perhaps the violation is to attempt a S’more using unmelted marshmallow, or one that has been toasted over a regular stovetop burner. The absence of an actual campfire could be considered a heterodox S’more-making environment. One could, presumably, simply buy a ready-made S’more from a purveyor of unholy summertime snack foods.

An apostate would simply end their campfire meal by smoking a cigarette instead of making S’mores at all. Or not even go camping. Or they could approximate the S’more experience by using this recipe and filing utterly to enjoy life.

Family Dinners in a Hurry, Golden Press, 1970

Also from this book: The Arithmetic of Desperation