Bipolar Palate: Eating in a Disordered Society


Food Demons

Whenever a table was laid for Phineus, as soon as he would begin eating, the Harpies would swoop down upon him and snatch the food from his hands and lips. They finished their daily torment of Phineus by defecating on the leftovers, so what little they left stank. So loathsome was the odor that no mortal could go near. But, Phineus was also cursed with an insatiable appetite and the Harpies left enough putrid morsels for him to survive his torment. [Adapted from The Argonautica Book II, by Apollonius].

The mythical Phineus, was a blind king and seer who was tormented by demons whenever he tried to partake of the banquets presented to him by his supernatural enemies. Winged creatures called harpies would fly down from the sky and snatched away most of the food, leaving only unsavory trifles that stank so that eating them was impossible.

This is an apt image of modern dieters weighed with anxiety and haunted by caloric demons whenever they put something in their mouth?

But whoever drinks the water that I will give him will never become thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become a well of water for him, springing up to eternal life. [John 4:14].

Chemical Condiments

Is it our misfortune no longer to be able to enjoy the simple pleasures of food? Worries about ingredients and genetic experimentation have pared the goodness and joy of eating.

Our anxieties have been stirred by pesticide pollution, chemical additives, food engineering and commercial exploitation of innocent consumers. We spend more time pouring over the benefits and detriments of food than actually consuming it.

We are afraid of food. It causes obesity, tooth decay, heart attacks, cancer and many other diseases, some yet to be discovered or revealed to the public. We and our children face prolonged dumbness, incurable maladies and untimely death unless we supplement our diet and refine our eating.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. [Galatians 5:19].

Eating in a Disordered Society

O Israel, stay away from idols! I am the one who answers your prayers and cares for you. I am like a tree that is always green; all your fruit comes from me. [Hosea 14:8].

Is it possible that an entire society is suffering from an eating disorder? For millions of Americans, eating has become an unpalatable experience. Its bitterness springs from a habituated dread that eating has distasteful consequences.

Results from the 2007–2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), using measured heights and weights, show that an estimated 34.2% of U.S. adults are overweight, 33.8% are obese, and 5.7% are extremely obese. In 2010, 54% of U.S. adults (about one hundred million people) were dieting.

More and more Americans are trying to lose weight. In general, people continue to understand that restrictive dieting (deprivation, short-term solutions) spells failure. Instead, it takes permanent lifestyle changes to lose weight and prevent weight gain. [Calorie Control Council].

Piety, Purpose and Pizza

We know for a fact that food manufacturers are using techniques, procedures and chemicals that compromise the nutritional value of wholesome diets to facilitate production, extend shelf-life and increase profits.

Yet, gastronomically inquisitive, our insipid minds continually experiment, trying to correct our deficient cuisine. Nutritional supplements decorate our kitchen shelves while obesity haunts our inner sanctum.

It is not you who shape God; it is God that shapes you. If then you are the work of God, await the hand of the Artist who does all things in due season. Offer the Potter your heart, soft and tractable, and keep the form in which the Artist has fashioned you. [Irenaeus].

Unpalatable Eating 

Moreover, all those foreign words on labels of food products represent threatening, exogenous ingredients that distort the natural order and mutate the organic system of creation. Even natural ingredients are suspect.

We can no longer attend a festive occasion without concern about food content. We need special instructions to help us dine in new environments. Eating at public events, in hotels and convention centers requires careful planning and investigation. We don’t need menus; we need manuals to eat.

The kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. [Romans 14:17].

Divine Manuals

Sadly, we ignore the Divine manuals provided by Scripture. We haughtily discard time-honored wisdom on nutrition and eating, but cling to marketed tastes, wrapping our minds in cellophane comforts.

And seek aid in steadfast patience and prayer: and this, indeed, is a hard thing for all but the humble in spirit, who know with certainty that they shall meet their Sustainer and that unto Him they shall return. [Quran 2:45-46].

Our sacred connection to the Divine has been severed, so we vacillate between transient pleasures and mental agony, trying to find the missing link to a happy menu.

Men who have no riches, who live on recognised food, who have perceived void and unconditioned freedom, their path is difficult to understand, like that of birds in the air. He whose appetites are stilled, who is not absorbed in enjoyment, who has perceived void and unconditioned freedom, his path is difficult to understand, like that of birds in the air. [Dhammapada 7:92].

Can we understand that our decomposing bodies cannot provide true satisfaction? Do we realize that our frail emotions are too ephemeral to provide rest from anxiety and depression? Can we recognize that our limited intellect cannot encompass the Divine Reality upon which our spiritual nutrition depends?

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, accommodating, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and not hypocritical. And the fruit that consists of righteousness is planted in peace among those who make peace. [James 3:17].


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