18th January 1809. Food Glorious Food!
One of the sins of Sodom was a ‘fullness of bread’. The Bible is full of references to Gluttony, later regarded as one of deadly sins, an obsession which the early church promoted.(1)
However Today in 1809 the aptly named Rev. William Cowherd (1763-1816) of Salford, England, in his sermon asked his congregation to refrain not from bread, but from eating meat.
He is credited with advocating vegetarianism, which was to culminate in the founding of the Vegetarian Society, and no-one would charge vegetarians with other than dainty eating.(2)
Consumption of meat was a theme of King James I, in his Basilikon Doron, written for his heir apparent, Henry Duke of Rothesay who died young, in 1612, when he spoke of the importance of meat in war and on travelling.
Then in 1893 R.L. Stevenson: ‘Meat and Mass never hindered any man …the Mass I cannot afford you, for we are all good Protestants, but the meat I press to your attention’.
Today these musings tend to go against the grain [no pun intended]., as we are told to eat less meat and indeed less of any food; once it was called gluttony and the Christian writer C.S. Lewis in the Screwtape Letters written in the early 1940s, suggested that the sin of gluttony is not so much over-indulgence as excessive desire for food: ‘How valuable then must the devil find our successive food scares and obsession with dietary health and how well they do the devils’ work and how well done their work’.
Gluttony has been associated with the aristocracy: the Earl of Northumberland in 1512 for example, in that year alone, consumed 200 salmon, 42 hogs-heads of wine and £26.12.11d (a fortune then), on spices alone: ‘the peasant with cash in his pocket for nothing but some salt and a little dried fish against the Lenten fast’.(2)
Joseph Addison observing the hypochondriac tendency of his contemporaries in 1711 develops the notion…‘not to engage…in groundless fears melancholia, apprehension, and imagination leading to distemper and who is more anxious to live than how to live’.
He went on: ‘The citizens of the world societies eat the finest and healthiest in their history and are morbidly convinced they are being poisoned by their food’. No ‘E numbers’ then!
In our ‘brave new world’, food consumption in Britain is big news, with our obsession over ‘issues’ such as freedom food, fair trade, environmental impact, organic, free-range, farm assured, calories and saturated fats and cholesterol and diet. It would appear that the deadly sin of gluttony is now an issue of eating the ‘wrong food’ and even drinking to excess. Meanwhile starvation continues in the world.
(1) Ezekiel 16:49.
Sin could be committed in seven ways according to Pope Gregory I, and later by Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony.
(2) A History of Shopping Dorothy Davis, Routledge & Kegan Paul. 1966 Reviewed in Punch Magazine, February 9th 1966.
Ref: Pic: janeaustenworld/wordpress/comfort_of_bath.