Sarah’s “Immutables” category drives a hard bargain. Immutables are “individual tastes that will never be swayed, never be altered no matter who tries to do so. And to take things to perhaps an extreme level, if you attempt to be friends with someone who doesn’t agree with your Immutables, then the friendship is doomed.” Gee, that does sound extreme. Do we all have second-degree Immutables? Do I? Just off the top of my head I’d say that, while you don’t have to love Edward Gorey to be my friend, if you don’t get him, we might not have a lot to talk about.
It may well be, though, that I have good friends who don’t get him and it just hasn’t come up. I definitely have friends who don’t like Buffy, Lucinda Williams, Henry James, or other keystones of my cultural life. I often find there’s more to be gotten out of a robust disagreement with someone I like and respect than from mutual admiration of each other’s impeccable taste. And the joy of converting someone–well, that’s the great potential reward for engaging in such debates.
Nope, I’m racking my brain but I can only answer this question theoretically. A specific aesthetic disagreement has never thrown over any budding or actual friendship of mine. However, I once had a potential friend who didn’t enjoy eating. That proved insurmountable. It was then, as the relationship sputtered, that I first understood how much my social life revolved around food (and still does): dinner parties, cooking together, pizza-and-television, expeditions to Afghani or Ethiopian restaurants, and so on. Eating something wonderful together, in my experience, can cement or deepen a friendship. This is one of M.F.K. Fisher’s great subjects. It is memorably treated in what I think is the first essay in The Gastronomical Me, about a childhood picnic with her sister and father that marked the first time she became really aware of her father as an individual, rather than just one of her parents, and began to form a separate bond with him (a pie is implicated).
I take full responsibility for the interruption of my nascent friendship with the poor, pitiable food-phobe and wish her well–my own perhaps overdeveloped delight in good food didn’t seem to bother her any, and I credit her tolerance–but I just couldn’t carry on. Her attitude toward food, which was part fearful, part resigned, tended to kill all my pleasure in it. Maybe, then, my true Immutable is M.F.K.–if you can’t appreciate her appetite or her divine prose, a famous friendship might not be in our cards.