You Are What You Eat

by admin on August 23, 2010

“You are what you eat” is such an interesting quote. Where did it come from? A lot people have (erroneously) attributed this to the great Escoffier, and sometimes equally great Antonin Careme.  But neither is documented as saying this.
The real quote that has been shortened and misquoted as “You are what you eat” is a translation of the French phrase “Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es.” [Tell me what you eat and I shall tell you what you are]. This quote appears in “Physiologie du Gout, ou Meditations de Gastronomie Transcendante, 1826″, (“Physiology of Taste, or Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy).  It was written by French doctor and gourmand, Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. You can find a great translation of this by M.F.K. Fisher. If you prefer the modern and comically sarcastic food writings of someone like say, Anthony Bourdain, then this book will be a big step up in arrogance and fairly dry. Check out the ‘Translator’s Glosses’ for a bit of perspective and welcome comic relief!
But what does this quote mean? “You are what you eat” – doesn’t really do the original quote justice. If you take it literally, it can be akin to “If you eat a vegetable then you are a vegetable.” Not what Savarin was going for. The original quote: “Tell me what you eat and I shall tell you what you are” is more logical.  What, exactly, are you eating? Junk food? Gourmet? Exotic? Maybe basic foods cooked in a natural state? The type of food that you choose to consume is a reflection of the kind of person you are. Not everyone chooses to by a gourmet/gourmand. Next time you to have a meal, think of Savarin’s quote.  Say to yourself “Is this food really who I am?”
Another perspective: “Tell me HOW you eat, and I’ll tell you what you are”. Are you eating quickly without thought? In front of the TV? Standing up? On the run? You might be enjoying a lovely organic lunch provided by Whole Foods, but if you are eating it in your car on the way to you next meeting, well, then…
Are you eating by yourself or with someone? If you have ever dined at a restaurant you might have seen ‘that’ couple. The couple that is out for the night at a nice restaurant – sitting across from one another, eating in silence. Looking glum, biding their time until the next course.  How you eat is just as important as what you eat. Enjoying a meal by yourself can be delightful.  Enjoying a meal with (good) company can be transcendent.
Enjoy your food.  Enjoy your company.

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