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Trip, T'Pol and Food
Iíve been thinking about the role food plays in the relationship between Trip and TíPol and felt compelled to inflict my musings upon you, should you care to read the following.
Defining human culture through the use of food, including drink, was introduced early in Enterprise, in Broken Bow: both the rules for dining aboard Enterprise and the use of food/dining as symbolic of the differences between humans and Vulcans were established. Archer invites TíPol and Trip to dinner. Although abrupt and suspicious of her in prior meetings, Archer engages TíPol in cocktail type conversation as they await Tripís arrival. He inquires about her leisure activities and tells her that all work makes people dull. Thus, he immediately establishes the rules of dining on Enterprise: adversaries put aside their differences. Dining can be about work, but even then it is more than that. It is about conversation, the exchange of ideas, learning about each other both personally and culturally, and the sharing of experiences. As he talks with TíPol, Archer casually picks up a breadstick to munch. The door chime to the room sounds, the doors open, and Trip enters the room, bracketed by the hands of Archer and TíPol, the former holding a glass of tea and a breadstick and the latter a glass of water. Visually, we see the juxtaposition of food/drink which characterizes each species framing the character, Trip, who in many ways is the quintessential human - emotional, loyal, outgoing, funny Ė and who is in many ways TíPolís exact opposite. Through Trip and his love of food we learn about TíPol, her culture, and how she changes as she learns about humans.
Because Vulcans are fictional, comparisons with humans are necessary to understand their culture and how each species views the other. As Lo Pan pointed out to me, the writers are creating a mythical world for Enterprise, and food is one avenue to allow us to enter that world. It is a means of connecting our time with the unfamiliar future where war, disease, and poverty have been conquered. We can relate to food and through it learn about the human culture of the 22nd century, how it compares/contrasts to 21st century Earth and how, using food as a measure, Archer and his crew learn about alien species, especially the Vulcans. And Enterprise has lots of food Ė real food prepared by a chef, not the replicated nourishment of later Trek series. The ritual of dining has an old fashioned feel to it Ė leisurely and civilized Ė as opposed to the fast food world of today. This era is more civilized than ours, but still barbaric to the Vulcans. Humans have progressed in the future, but still have far to go to be partners with other alien species.
In Broken Bow, several things are established immediately which differentiate humans and Vulcans, using food as the point of comparison: humans are carnivores and Vulcans vegetarians, humans eat with their hands and Vulcans do not. Trip and Archer are eating thick steaks while TíPol attempts to cut a bread stick with a knife and fork. Trip counters that he was taught by his grandmother never to judge a species by their eating habits. TíPol uses the fact that humans are still carnivores as evidence that humans are not enlightened, that they havenít embraced patience and logic. Trip counters that war, disease and hunger were wiped out in less than two generations. TíPol is not convinced and believes more exertion on the part of humans is necessary Ė humans need discipline. TíPol questions whether humans will revert to their baser instincts and Trip jokes that humans were once cannibals, so who knows how far they will revert when they do. He clearly believes humans are as likely to revert to cannibalism as they are to war, disease, and poverty. Archer tells TíPol that human instinct is pretty strong and canít be changed over night. Holding up the piece of bread she successfully cut using the knife and fork, TíPol uses this as evidence that, with proper discipline anything is possible. Archer good naturedly shrugs his shoulders, smiles, and resumes eating his dinner.
From this meal, the world of Enterprise and its encounters with alien cultures are explored through references to food, meals, and manners. Food provides one of the means of establishing human and Vulcan identities. Beyond this, it is also a way of providing contrast between Trip and TíPol. How does food define these two characters both in terms of their cultures and their relationship? Food is a source of pleasure, comfort, and ritual for Trip. To TíPol, the type of food consumed reflects the level of civilization a species has achieved. She uses food as a measure to judge humans, especially Trip. At the dinner in Broken Bow, she looks slightly alarmed when, upon informing her host that Vulcans donít touch food with their hands, Trip responds, with a breadstick in his hand, ďcanít wait to see you tackle the spare ribs.Ē In one sentence he set himself and TíPol apart. He is human, willing to meat, and not only meat, but eat meat with his hands, and not a relatively clean, neat food but a messy dish which covers the partaker with sauce on the hands and face and meat which catches in the teeth, a dish that has to be ďtackledĒ in order to be eaten. This is a dish no self-respecting Vulcan would touch. In contrast, TíPol is a vegetarian who equates eating meat with barbaric behavior. Being a vegetarian is a virtue. Trip and TíPol each see value in their attitudes towards food (?).
Food becomes a way to measure TíPolís understanding and acceptance of humans and Tripís willingness to forgive her for being Vulcan. Their relationship as represented by food by no means develops smoothly. TíPol regards Trip as the extreme of human behavior in terms of food. In Vox Sola she comforts Hoshi by stating that, for all the crew of Enterprise knew, it was Commander Tuckerís table manner which set the aliens away angry. Trip, delights in mocking TíPolís alienness, her Vulcanness, by making her an outsider where food is concerned. In Silent Enemy, Archer asks Trip why he missed dinner and informed Trip that he missed TíPol eating with chopsticks. ďDamn, dinner and a showĒ responds Trip, making TíPol a source of entertainment (which she actually becomes later, in Carbon Creek). However, prior to these incidents, Trip, wracked with guilt over his inadvertent snooping in Breaking the Ice, attempts to befriend TíPol and, in typical Trip fashion, he uses food to do so Ė he offers her a bite of pecan pie. In this scene, he shares with TíPol the meaning of such a dish. It doesnít matter that the pie is mostly sugar Ė it isnít the food which is important, it is what it represents: youth and comfort and joy. It makes him feel better after a long, hard day. Although at the moment TíPol rejects his offer, we see her, by the end of the episode, allowing Trip to influence her decision to stay on board Enterprise and, ultimately, we see her with a piece of pecan pie in her room. How the pie came to be there is uncertain Ė did she get it herself? Did Trip give it to her to make her feel better? What we do know is that she ate it Ė in a later episode she goes to Phlox and discovers she has a cavity, which should have been impossible with her Vulcan dental care. She pays the price for departing from Vulcan eating habits, which she may or may not regret.
The problem with writing an essay like this is that we are at the beginning of the story. The incident with the pecan pie could prove to be pivotal in the relationship between Trip and TíPol, or it could have been just a pleasant moment when a human and a Vulcan shared a personal moment. The two have established a level of trust, but we donít know yet if it will ultimately prove to be important in establishing long term bonds of trust between humans and Vulcans, or even just between these two characters.
In season two, Trip and TíPol share only one meal and have one other scene related to food, but both continue the same themes seen in season one. Carbon Creek has all the elements Trip loves about eating Ė it is a social occasion, with a story, food, and wine. It is his ultimate dinner and a show. TíPol, who in Breaking the Ice informs Vanek about the role of dining in human culture Ė ďOn Earth, itís customary to exchange personal information with someone youíve just metĒ Ė in Carbon Creek becomes an active participant in this social situation. She even allows Archer to pour her a small glass of wine. Trip, still using food as a measure of difference between humans and Vulcans, requests a large indulgence. TíPol has come a long way from Broken Bow, but Archer and Trip still donít quite trust her acceptance of humans. The dinner, wine and story enjoyable, but both men are skeptical about TíPolís story and believe she is mocking them. A barrier remains between the two species, despite the fact that the three have learned to work well together. TíPol has taken steps to fit into the human culture she has found on Enterprise, but her motivations are still somewhat suspect to Trip and Archer.
In Dead Stop, we are back to Trip and TíPol as human and Vulcan in terms of food and choice. When TíPol informs her companions that the device they see is a replicator, she demonstrates its use by requesting a cold glass of water, which materializes immediately. Trip, intrigued, orders his favorite meal, pan-fried catfish, which again appears fully prepared with side dishes. He is truly delighted with this device and eats the food, savoring the taste and offering some to Archer who declines, stating he will wait to eat what Chef prepares. Meanwhile, TíPol watches Trip closely as he eats, holding her glass of water. In essence, we are back to the beginning Ė using Trip and TíPol to illustrate differences between humans and Vulcans. Why would it be necessary in this particular setting to again establish that dichotomy? Why are we reminded that food is part of our understanding of these two? Why did they both choose food instead of replicating, for example, a piece of machinery? Perhaps because each relies on their strengths to test reality. For TíPol, being able to see, smell, and touch/taste the water gave her logical proof the water was genuine. For Trip, the ability to see, smell, and touch/taste something familiar allowed him to judge the authenticity of the product. By involving as many of the senses as possible, members of both species were able to conclude that this device does create acceptable replications of items these two know but which would be completely alien to the space station. This is technology we are familiar with because of other Trek series, but which was unknown and alien to Vulcans and humans alike. The combined responses of Trip and TíPol establish this technology as new and amazing, and both used food to illustrate what about the device made it amazing.
In the first season and a half, food and eating have been a means of exploring both human and alien behavior. From the stinking Klingon kitchen in Sleeping Dogs to the feast prepared in Desert Crossing to the insult perceived by the aliens in Vox Sola, and even to the meals shared with Vulcans such as VíLar, Vanik, and the renegade Vulcans in Fusion, food provides the viewer with markers to compare these fictional species and characters with known human behaviors. Trip and TíPol and their issues with food are a microcosm of this larger picture.
Return to Miscellany
A hand of people have made comments
I always enjoy watching Trip and T'pol dine with the Captain. It was the harmless banter between them that amused me. It seems that in this setting, Trip can get away with being less formal, and even do a bit of teasing. Even T'pol joins in, such as with Carbon Creek.
Thank you for delving into this topic. I will now keep a closer eye on this aspect of the role of food on Enterprise.
some very good insight here...
i need to go back and look at it so i might be wrong but i think trip befriended her before he found out about the message.
it is fairly early in the episode.
i think this little encounter affected his decision to tell her about her message being read.
he already knew that she was troubled(he probably first thought it might be guilt before he knew what the message said. )
now even though i believe trip saw the handwriting on the wall that the relationship would fail as soon as he went into spcace seeing it's end in cold letters probably still carried some shock.
archer gives him an out when he tells him about t'pol at dinner..
and vox sola comes a couple of weeks after which episode..
and for carbon creek itself it was t'pol who pushed their buttons to question the story with her comment about the first man to land on the moon.
i mean till then trip really is sorta buying the story.. see how upset he is about how it looked like she just rewrote their history.
oh yeah he shows some intitial skeptism but then really settles down to to listen.
at the end he is so unsettled that the makes the comment that the next thing you are going to tell us that armstrong wasnt the first man on the moon.
her little comeback is what really sets him off into thinking it was just a story afterall
And don't forget when Hoshi tries to discover what Malcolm's favorite food is, to help him feel like he's part of the crew, at the request of the captain. Using comfort foods to aid intimacy?
I always try to see what KIND of food they are eating. Trip and Archer eat meat, potatoes, etc. T'Pol seems to eat salads - she was eating tomato soup one time, if I remember right. Anyone else notice anything else T'Pol eats?