Wednesday, April 23, 2014

robert farrar capon | apostate from the religions of health

"Isn’t it true that the eating habits of most Americans are killing them?”

My answer is no. People die because the human race is mortal. What they eat may cause them to die sooner (much sooner if they eat strychnine; less soon, perhaps – barring plane crashes – if they eat Hollandaise sauce). But in any case, some time before they reach the age of 120, they will die; and no religion of eating, however perfectly obeyed, will make the slightest difference in that.

Therefore, the last secret of the cult of nutrition – the mystery to be guarded at all costs – is that the implicit promise of immortality (which is the principal selling point of the whole religion) is bunk. The idol in the innermost sanctum doesn’t just have no clothes on; it is even there. But the faithful must scrupulously avoid facing that fact. The one question they must never ask is whether indefinitely on a diet of tofu and organically grown green leaves–without even salt to perk it up, or wine to wash it down, or a nice smoke to top it off–even vaguely resembles living as the human race in its earthly wisdom has defined it.

That, you see, is the big question. And on that, I am one hundred percent apostate from all the religions of health. I am simply tired of uplift, whether at the table, in the armchair, or anywhere else. I am sick of all the pious types who gasp when they watch salt a dish on the stove or put butter and cream in mashed potatoes, or leave a respectable amount of fat on my pork chops when I smother them with onions. I am mortally insulted by snide signs thanking me for not smoking. And I flatly refuse to believe that well-being is in any way furthered by ill-living.

Oh, I know. You want me to qualify all that. You want me to write a paragraph on moderation – or at least a sentence that makes a bow to religion of health – by calling the things I enjoy my “vices.” Or by referring to my smoke-shrouded end of the dinner table as “the sinner’s corner.” But I won’t. A moderate life to me, is about as exciting as a moderate love affair, or a moderate marriage, or a moderate banana split. I want a terrific life. So you write the paragraph yourself, and let me get on with my immoderate pursuit of happiness.

The net result of the religions of food is non-cooking, non-dining, and non-living.

Health, Money and Love (and Why We Don’t Enjoy Them) 
by Robert Farrar Capon

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

richard klein | eating like a frenchman

Richard Klein first started coming to Paris as a teenager from a small town in Pennsylvania, and has essentially constructed an entire life around the feeling that he got in Paris. He went on to become a scholar and a professor in the Romance Studies Department at Cornell University, author of several books, Eat Fat and Cigarettes Are Sublime, which are deeply suffused with a sensibility that is partly just un-American, or anyway, semi-Parisian, a sensibility that is all about the small pleasures of everyday life.

Richard Klein: "You know, the French have a much more uncomplicated and much less guilty relationship to their body, beginning with eating, not only the way they eat, but the pleasure that they take in eating. I mean, the American notion that food is medicine, for example, is totally repulsive to the French. And yet, increasingly in America, that's all you hear. I mean, people eat only as a function of what they think is good for them. And nobody in France would eat strictly as a function of what was good for them."

 from This American Life 165: Americans In Paris