Unreal Nature

October 17, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:57 am

“The science of gastrosophy,” Lazarus wrote in 1852,

will place epicurism in strict alliance with honor and the love of glory. Of all our enjoyments, eating being the first, the last, and the most frequent pleasure of man, it ought to be the principal agent of wisdom in the future harmony … A skillful gastrosophist, also expert in the functions of culture and medical hygiene, will be revered as an oracle of supreme wisdom.”

And diet, Lazarus noted, “is the entire harmony of man with his planet and his universe … a theory of integral or social redemptions.”

The above quote is from from the book, A Short History of the American Stomach, by Frederick Kaufman.

The following is from an essay, The Lost Myth of Gasteria, also by Frederick Kaufman in Aperture 143 (Spring 1996):

A century and a half ago, the stomach, the intestines, and the bowels held the most highly esteemed positions of all in human anatomy. That long and winding interior road from mouth to anus we now all the “digestive tract” was then considered the driving force of our lives and characters. So tremendous was the collective power of these organs that in his encyclopedia of gourmandism, The Physiology of Taste, Anthelme Brillat-Savarin insisted that Gasterea, a mythological being who presided over all the pleasures of eating and digestion, was no less than the forgotten tenth Muse.

The ancient Greeks counted only nine Muses. The sister deities were the combined NEH/NEA of their day. Each was, in her own way, a patroness of the arts or sciences: Clio funded history, Urania lobbied for astronomy, Melpomene specialized in tragedy, Thalia covered comedy, Terpsichore handled dance, Polyhymnia focused on sacred music; and the other three — Calliope, Erato, and Euterpe — combined to create a kind of literary Muse Mafia.

Men and women have been making all kinds of promises and sending up all sorts of offerings (burnt and otherwise) to these nine sisters for the last ten thousand years. How could Gasterea have missed out on all that fun?

Where had she been hiding?

… By making her home within that most private of all spaces — the stomach — Gasterea became the most interior and intimate of our gods. She became each individual’s own, personal nexus of the spirit and the flesh.

… Gasterea had a good chuckle watching Adam and Eve slink out of Eden. She could have told them that ingestion inevitably leads to expulsion — if only they had asked. Food may have closed us off from paradise, but it has compensated by opening the doors of perception — from the first taste of mother’s milk, to the book St. John ate, to peyote buds and magic mushrooms.

(photo) Ellerbrock & Shafft; Food and Drink in Germany: Christening on the “Stauffenburg”, 1989

Continuing the Gasterea essay; progressing rapidly through history the American Revolution:

… less than two decades after Sylvester Graham published his highly neurotic food phobias to mass acclaim, an American doctor named Marx Edgeworth Lazarus took Anthelme Brillat-Savarin’s gastronomic theories to their logical conclusion, and in so doing gave Gasterea her finest hour.

Dr. Lazarus argued for nothing less than an American utopia in which “gastrosophers” would rule. In his wacky masterpiece of 1852, Passional Hygiene, Dr. Lazarus declared that, “A skillful gastrosophist … will [one day] be revered as an oracle of supreme wisdom.” Surveying today’s landscape of Susan Powters and Dr. Pritikins, one can only conclude that Dr. Lazarus’s prophecy has at last come true. Indeed, from the first Thanksgiving turkey to the lacto-ovo tofu trays some of use presently graze, food has been the American eucharist, the road to both private and public perfectionism.

Dr. Marx Edgeworth Lazarus is quite an interesting character. Google him for extended entertainment.

(photo) Bruce Davidson, Newborn Robin in Nest, New York, 1994



1 Comment

  1. There’s an extensive preview of Brillat-Savarin’s Gasterea description at Google Books.

    Comment by Ray Girvan — October 18, 2009 @ 4:56 pm

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