Art of Gluttony



While seven billion children, women and men are starving, others are making an art of gluttony. The Catholic Church considers gluttony (over-indulgence and over-consumption of anything to the point of waste) as one of the Seven Deadly Sins, and St. Thomas Aquinas added gluttony is also the "obsessive anticipation of meals, and the constant eating of delicacies and excessively costly foods."(Catholic Encyclopedia)


All the culinary arts, science of food technology, the attempts to add flavours, create exotic varieties of processed food, are for those who have never known the pain of hunger, those who eat several meals a day out of habit, and not because they feel hungry. They have to force themselves to eat, they need to make the food look attractive, and tasty. Some of them also eat to flaunt their wealth.


"To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art". Francois de la Rochefoucauld the 17th century French writer had said, probably because he was not sensitive enough to realize the pain of real hunger. 'Art of Eating' is a magazine published since 1986, which says "the best food and wine are traditional, created when people had more time and food was more central to happiness than it is today." People really had more time on their hands, till they became their own slaves after they developed agriculture, which created hunger for wealth and power.


The Thai monk Phra Paisal Visalo talks about 'Mindful eating', while the Jewish scholar Dr. Jay Michaelson says "Eating meditation is among the simplest, and most profound, of mindfulness practices." and he teaches the practice at synagogues and schools. All this applies to those who do not have to worry about their next meal. A starving man searching for a scrap in a garbage dump would not be concerned about mindful eating or meditation.


While one billion people are going hungry today, the Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that each year, approximately one-third of all food produced for human consumption in the world is lost or wasted. This estimate probably does not include the food taken away from the one billion hungry human beings to feed animals, so the other six billion could eat carrion. This also does not include all the prepared food thrown away by food vendors, the left over food in restaurants. This also does not include the food that is converted into alcohol, for consumption and for driving vehicles.


A new life-style disease that is spreading fast in the 'developed' countries, is named Bulimia nervosa, an eating disorder, when a person eats a lot of food in a short time and then tries to prevent weight gain by getting rid of the food, by throwing up or taking laxatives. This is a crime against society, in addition to being a disease, because this is a criminal waste of food. It is also much worse than Anorexia nervosa, willingly restricting their food intake.


Even the very poor, who have been starving for a long period, when they get to eat a little food, could also throw up, because their stomach could not retain the food. It is described by Knut Hamsun in 'Hunger' when the young man eats a whole serving of beef, and then throws up every thing immediately afterwords. At times his stomach could not tolerate even water, however thirsty he was.


Azdak teaches the fugitive ( Georgi Abashvili )"Put your elbows on the table, surround the cheese on the plate as if it might be snatched away at any moment...hold your knife like a small sickle and don't look at the cheese so greedily, your expression should be on the more sorrowful side, because it is already vanishing, like all beauty". Brecht was able to express in these few words, what the art of eating means to the poor and the oppressed, to the people who are hungry.


The man who has been starving, would not be concerned about 'table manners', which have been created as man believes he became 'more civilized'. Table manners too became an art. The best table manners for mankind should be to share his food and to ensure that no food is ever wasted, to serve on to his plate just enough to appease his hunger.


It is agriculture that had driven man to develop food preparations and eating into an art. Before he began to plant his own food, he had innumerable varieties of food, fruits, tender leaves and young tubers. Eating would never have been a chore, and as he would eat only when he was hungry, and not according to social customs at fixed times of day, he would have really enjoyed his food. The children would not have needed to be coerced, or forced to eat, because they too would eat only when they were hungry. And they too would not be having the same food at the same time every day.


As the choice of food became seriously limited, man had to eat the same food everyday, rice or wheat flour. He also realized that he could not find all the ripe fruit or tender vegetables, and what was available could not be eaten raw. He had to boil the vegetables, powder the grain and cook it, and such food would not be as tasty as the fresh raw food had been. Then man had to add salt, and spicy and aromatic herbs, and later harmful additives, to make the food smell and taste nice.


A true alms giving is when we feed a really hungry person, and not when we feed the already overfed, who have never felt a hunger pang, except when they have to fast before a blood test.

True happiness for a man should be, not when he sees an attractive spread on the table, with all varied aromas, but when he could sacrifice his meal to feed a starving child.



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