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"You are what you eat"
This sentiment is ancient, appearing in one form or the other from the Greeks on. Martin Luther, in his conversations collected in Table Talk, states that: "When it comes to eating, we are the ilk of every tyrannical sort of animal. The wolf eats sheep, so do we; the fox chickens and geese, just like us; hawks and vultures eat birds as we do; pike eat fish, like us. We eat grass as do oxen, horses, and cows. And like pigs we eat dung and filth. But internally everything becomes shit." This phrase was first recorded in modern writing about diet by Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin in i826 and repeated in a different context by the German philosopher Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach in his essay of 1863 on "Spiritualism and Materialism." Friedrich Nietzsche employs the same formulation in an ironic comment on the studying of German philosophy in his cryptic autobiography of 1888, Ecce Homo (first published in 1908):
But as to German cookery in general—what has it not got on its conscience! Soup before the meal (still called alla tedesca in the sixteenth-century Venetian cook-books); meat cooked till the flavor is gone, vegetables cooked with fat and flour; the degeneration of pastries into paper-weights! Add to this the utterly bestial postprandial habits of the ancients, not merely of the ancient Germans, and you will begin to understand where German intellect had its origin—in a disordered intestinal tract. . . . German intellect is indigestion; it can assimilate nothing.
Such a view is very much in line with his own failure at dieting. If you study bad philosophy because you are a German you are, of course, what you eat! Such a meta-phoric use came into practical application with its introduction in English by nutritionist Victor Lindlahr in the i920s, with a meat market slogan reading "Ninety per cent of the diseases known to man are caused by cheap foodstuffs. You are what you eat." He later published a book entitled You Are What You Eat: How to Win and Keep Health with Diet. In the 1960s, the meaning of this phrase became much more specific. It was used to mean that you would be healthy from eating "healthy food," here defined as macrobiotic whole foods. Some also trace the roots of this phrase to the Christian communion, where bread and wine represent the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
See also Brillat-Savarin; Cornaro; Lindlahr; Luther
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