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The man who "lives to eat" has been roundly condemned so much and so often that he needs no added censure from my pen. I believe that we should enjoy our food. Indeed, I believe that he who derives the greatest possible pleasure and enjoyment from his food, will have better health than the man who does not enjoy his meals. I have no patience with the doctrine of anti-naturalism that prevailed during the Middle Ages, and remnants of which still prevail--that all pleasures are evil. I do not regard a state of chronic misery as man's natural state nor loud groans as evidence of piety.
Buckle's History tells us of the reign of mediæval anti-Natural madness: "A Christian must beware of enjoying his dinner, for none but the ungodly relish their food." It is not difficult to understand why such a religion had to be propagated by the sword and men and women could be held to the straight and narrow path only by the persuasive power of the thumb-screw, rack and the iron virgin. The Greeks and Romans had no difficulty in propagating their joyous Nature-worship.
I believe in Epicurianism in its true meaning, in its higher sense. With Mr. Macfadden I say that "there is no natural pleasure, or natural appetite, or natural desire that was not created for a particular health-giving purpose, the following of which will add strength to the body; and the sin, the evil, lies not in commission but in omission. Cultivate Nature, natural appetites, natural desires; develop the delicacy of intuition which will enable you to interpret and follow their dictates as nearly as it lies in your power, and you will be a stronger and nobler specimen of manhood because of this."
I believe in sensualism in its true sense and not in the degraded sense with which theologians have invested the term. I believe in enjoying the pleasures of the sense of taste and I am convinced that the sense of taste is one of the most important of all man's faculties.
The gourmand who stuffs himself on three meals a day and who cultivates perversions of the sense of taste, by his use of condiments, to "stimulate" his jaded appetite, does not enjoy his food. He does not know the pleasures of taste. The "dulled, intermittent sensations" he secures from over-stimulated nerves, do not compare with the intensity of pleasure derived from natural foods, by one whose nerves are keenly alive with power and are able to sense the fine delicate flavors of foods, as only those can who have keen appetites.
Of course, it is not the merely incidental pleasures of eating that makes for health and happiness, but the ability of the food eaten to properly meet the demands of the body for nourishment. But the role of pleasure in eating must not be underestimated.
Tasting and enjoying your food actually forces you to linger longer over each mouthful and holds you back from "hurrying through the meal by the gorging process," as Horace Fletcher so ably showed.
The fact that a coated tongue prevents the normal appreciation of the flavors of food, prevents the establishment of gustatory reflexes and through these prevents the secretion of appetite juice, should show the great importance of enjoying our food.
Much pleasure may be derived from eating, but man, in his much vaunted civilization, when he comes to eat, is prone to shovel his food in with one hand while figuring up his accounts or reading the newspaper with the other. The result is that, while he derives no happiness from these other things, he derives much misery from his wrong eating.
The highest enjoyment from eating must await upon hunger. A keen hunger and the ability to heartily enjoy the food eaten is a sure indication that there will be produced a full supply of the requisite digestive juices. The more one enjoys his food and the more completely he extracts the taste of every mouthful before swallowing it, the more freely does the gastric juice flow and, consequently the more prompt and efficient will be gastric digestion.
The pleasures of development come not from the dissipation and over-indulgence of desire, but in cultivating self-control and in using one's powers in the most perfect harmony with the interests of his body and mind.
There is a limit to the powers of the digestive glands. They cannot secrete sufficient juices and enzymes to perfectly digest three "square meals" a day. Neither can one who consumes such meals always be sufficiently hungry at meal time to thoroughly enjoy his meal. He not only eats beyond his digestive capacity but he does not have the flow of "psychic secretion" that conies from an eager desire for and a keen relish of food. The gastric and other juices cannot be supplied in sufficient quantity and of requisite strength when over eating is habitually practiced.
It is part of the function of the mouth to regulate the functions of the other organs of digestion. To secure this regulation it is essential that the food be thoroughly chewed and its taste fully developed. The most delicious flavors of foods are developed by long chewing, which permits sufficient time for the saliva to act upon the foods.
The recognition of the gustatory properties of food by the nerves of taste, through reflex centers in the brain, prepares the stomach, liver, pancreas and other digestive organs for their work. The longer food is retained in the mouth and the more thoroughly it is chewed, the larger the amount of gastric juice will be present in the stomach to digest it, and the better adapted to the digestive requirements of the food will be the juice.
Tasting food, in some way not yet fully understood, regulates the process of nutrition by cutting off the appetite for one food principle after another as the body has received a sufficiency of each particular item. The sense of taste is an instinctive regulator of nutrition and, when normal or unperverted, is a dependable guide in determining the quality and quantity of food needed--provided one eats natural foods and does not disguise these with dressings and condiments.
That there exists differences in the powers of taste of different individuals is common knowledge. It was recently announced from the laboratories of the Carnegie Institution, that a certain chemical is tasteless to some people and has the bitter taste of quinine to others. Such defects in the sense of taste are analogous to color blindness and tone deafness.
The prevailing theory of taste is that there is a very limited number of tastes--sweet, acid (sour), salt, bitter and perhaps two or three others--and that other flavors are combinations of taste and smell. If this is true, how important, in view of our knowledge of the relation of the taste of food to good digestion, becomes the odor of our food and the practice of enjoying its varied aromas.
The absence of ability to perceive a particular taste may be due to paralysis, or failure of development of certain nerve fibers, or of the taste buds. There is another and more commonly observed defect of the sense of taste, to which I have given the name Gustatory Infantilism.
By gustatory infantilism I mean the persistence, in the adult, of childish taste characteristics. The taste-range of the child is very limited. After he has attained a certain age it is very difficult to induce him to taste a new or unaccustomed food. He makes up his mind, in advance of trying it, that he does not like it and if we succeed in inducing him to try the food, he usually decides, after sampling it, that it is not good.
With the coming of puberty the taste-range begins to widen and continues to widen throughout adolescence. Milk, if it has not already been rejected, is likely to become distasteful and many articles of food which were not relished before are eagerly sought after. A new and broader nutritional equilibrium is established with a greater food-variety as its basis.
There are people in whom these pubertal and adolescent changes do not progress to any great degree. Their sense of taste does not broaden. They carry their childish dislikes with them into adult life. As in the case of the child, it is difficult to induce these unfortunate people to try new and unaccustomed foods and, like the child, they decide before tasting the food that they do not like it after they have eaten it.
I do not know all the factors to which this defective taste development may be ascribed, but I believe that in certain people, at least, it is due to a lack of a wide variety of foods during the period when their sense of taste should normally have expanded. I have observed the frequent occurrence of this condition in people from the more northerly regions, where the available variety of foods is very limited.
I am convinced from experience with such cases, that the condition may be largely if not wholly overcome, in the majority of cases, if the sufferer will attune his or her mind to the reform effort and make an honest attempt to cultivate and educate the sense of taste. Often such persons will not do this. There are a half dozen articles of food they relish and they refuse to try to cultivate a taste for more. Perhaps in such cases there is more than the usual degree of intellectual infantilism.