“Tell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are.”
-Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826)
Food Energetics. That's what I think of when I read this gem from Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. Before I continue, let me share with you a brief background of Brillat-Savarin:
Today, February 2 (some sources say it was February 1, 1826), marks the death anniversary of Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, a French lawyer and the author of a famous book, “The Physiology of Taste.”
The full title of his book is quite a mouthful: “The Physiology of Taste, or meditations on transcendental gastronomy. A theoretical, contemporary and historical work dedicated to Parisian gastronomes, by a professor, member of several literary and scholarly societies.”
Even though he was not a chef, he was considered as one of the most influential food writers of all time.
According to Cook's Info, Brillat-Savarin “aimed to make links between food and its effects on the body and health, as well as on the mind and spirit.”
The Causes of Obesity according to Brillat-Savarin
Many considered him to be ahead of his time when he wrote in his chapter on Obesity that this condition was due to a high intake of starchy carbohydrates:
“the chief cause of corpulence is a diet with starchy and farinaceous elements… The second of the chief causes of obesity is the floury and starchy substances which man makes the prime ingredients of his daily nourishment. As we have said already, all animals that live on farinaceous food grow fat willy-nilly; and man is no exception to the universal law.”
--Wow, can you imagine what we’d sound like if we still spoke English this way? I think it would be rather cool!--
To Brillat-Savarin, he considered the reaction of a person to a well-prepared dish as an indication of how educated the person was. He believed that excellence is based on the intrinsic quality of ingredients prepared with care.
What in the world was he trying to say?
Learning this about him, it made me wonder what he was driving at with his quote. Did he mean that based on the quality of the food one ate, he could evaluate the level of a person’s education? If so, that seems rather snobbish—in my view, anyway.
Regardless, I still see truth in his quote. I choose to interpret it in the light of food energetics, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post.
What is Food Energetics?
Beyond the vitamins, minerals, protein, fats, and carbohydrates, each food has its own unique energy. These distinct qualities and energetic properties depend on how and where the food was grown, harvested (for produce) or slaughtered (for livestock and poultry), and prepared.
Here are some questions to consider to help you determine what kind of energy your food has:
Is Your Food Organic or Commercially Raised?
Thus, fresh, organic vegetables in a home-cooked meal have a more vibrant energy than commercially farmed chicken used for making chicken nuggets. A fresh, free-range, pasture raised chicken used in a slow roast home cooked meal has more vibrant energy than the previously mentioned commercially farmed chicken made into frozen chicken nuggets. Generally speaking, whole foods will have better energetic vibration and a better effect on your health than processed, additives laden, ‘dead’ food products. Which of the two has a better energetic effect on your health: a honey glazed donut or a handful of strawberries?
How was your food harvested or slaughtered?
The way an animal died also affects the energetics of the resulting food. Think about an animal who lived in a miserable enclosure with hardly any room to move and then died in great pain. What kind of energy do you think will the resulting food have and its effects on the person? Could eating a lot of commercially farmed meat result in a tendency to become easily stressed and anxious?
How was your food prepared?
On a happier note, if the food was prepared in a loving way, that energy of love is transferred onto the food and can be ‘tasted’ by the partaker of the meal. I always remember my then 14-year old daughter who would make me cappuccinos for breakfast. (She would manually foam the milk while heating it in a pan before gingerly adding the foam to the espresso!) She would always say to me as she handed me the cappuccino, “Here Mom! I made this with love!” And I must admit, those were the best tasting cappuccinos I’ve ever had!
Is your food yin or yang?
Another aspect of food energetics is in Traditional Chinese Medicine in which food is categorized as either being yin or yang. Without going too much into detail, yin generally means a contracting energy and yang is an outward or expanding energy.
Foods that generate coolness in the body are generally yin foods. Examples are green vegetables, cucumber, honey, watermelon, most fruits, yogurt, milk, light cheese, and some seafood like crab, mussels, oysters and shellfish. Yin foods are also generally salty, bitter, or sour.
Yang foods has a warming and invigorating effect on the body. That would mean food like duck, beef, eggs, chicken, lamb, organ meats, fatty fish, butter, cream. wheat, pumpkin, sweet potato, and most herbs and spices. In case you're wondering, coffee, black tea, chocolate, sugar, and alcohol are considered yang as well. Yang food are generally sweet or pungent.
What do you eat a lot of?
Another level of food energetics is Cross-Species Transference. Put forth by Joshua Rosenthal, founder of Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Cross-Species Transference theorizes that character traits can be passed from animals to humans. I find this theory intriguing as this would mean that a person who eats chicken a lot will eventually tend to be tense and nervous.
These are fascinating concepts. I encourage you to try and observe for yourself if foods have these kinds of effects on you beyond the nutrients they contain. I have certainly proven it for myself in most cases. When I started eating much much more greens, I started feeling happier!
Just for fun: If Brillat-Savarin were still alive and he were to see what you are eating, what kind of person do you think he will say you are? Share your thoughts in the comments below!