The recent suicide of Anthony Bourdain, celebrity chef and 'foodie,' offers food for thought. Why would so apparently successful and well-liked a man suddenly hang himself in his hotel room? One can only speculate on the basis of slender evidence, and it is perhaps morally dubious to do so.
On the other hand, not to wonder about a culture in which apparently sane and mature individuals throw away their lives on impulse is also dubious. But the problem lies deeper than culture. It lies in man's fallen nature.
It is clear to me that we are, all of us, morally sick and most of us spiritually adrift. If Bourdain had a spiritual anchor, would he have so frivolously offed himself, as he apparently did?
His 1999 New Yorker essay Don't Eat Before Reading This opens as follows:
Good food, good eating, is all about blood and organs, cruelty and decay. It’s about sodium-loaded pork fat, stinky triple-cream cheeses, the tender thymus glands and distended livers of young animals. It’s about danger—risking the dark, bacterial forces of beef, chicken, cheese, and shellfish. Your first two hundred and seven Wellfleet oysters may transport you to a state of rapture, but your two hundred and eighth may send you to bed with the sweats, chills, and vomits.
This is what good eating is all about? Seriously?
Bourdain displays the requisite decadent New Yorker cleverness, but he also betrays a failure to grasp the moral side of eating and drinking. There is first of all his moral obliviousness to the questions that divide carnivores from vegetarians, an obliviousness in evidence farther down:
Even more despised than the Brunch People are the vegetarians. Serious cooks regard these members of the dining public—and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans—as enemies of everything that’s good and decent in the human spirit. To live life without veal or chicken stock, fish cheeks, sausages, cheese, or organ meats is treasonous.
I am taking no position at the moment on the morality of meat-eating. I am merely pointing out that there is a moral question here that cannot be dismissed -- especially not with the cavalier stupidity of the quotation's final sentence.
But much more important is the moral question of gluttony.
D1. Gluttony is either the habitual, quantitatively excessive consumption of food or drink, or the habitual pursuit for their own sakes of the pleasures of eating or drinking, or indeed any habitual over-concern with food, its preparation, its enjoyment, etc.
- Laute - eating food that is too luxurious, exotic, or costly
- Nimis - eating food that is excessive in quantity
- Studiose - eating food that is too daintily or elaborately prepared
- Praepropere - eating too soon, or at an inappropriate time
- Ardenter - eating too eagerly.