Four Things on Eating and Drinking




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There’s no cool way to put this: Rachel Hope Cleves is what I want to be when I grow up.

I probably cite her book Charity & Sylvia here too much. I need to start writing about other gay couples in history, so my readers don’t think that Charity and Sylvia represent the onlyevidence out there that gay marriage is not, as Justice Alito put it, “newer than cell phones or the Internet.” But Cleves is already on that: as this Washington Post interview points out, she has a new study out on the history of (not legally recognized) gay marriages in the United States.

Did you know that Cleves also blogs? Not very often, unfortunately. Her “Not So Innocents Abroad” blog is sort of about history, more about food, but also about her family, her travels, and her scholarly life. Cleves writes really, really well; her posts are inviting and honest, sometimes sexy, informed and confiding. She occasionally mentions twentieth-century American food writer M.F.K. Fisher, and that’s probably the best comparison I can make to Cleves’ writing. If you like Fisher, you’ll want to visit.

Here are three representative posts:

Salons of Paris: Then and Now

Love’s Oven is Warm: Baking with Emily Dickinson

Le Rosbif


More good reading: Emily Stimpson has a new blog, called“The Catholic Table.” I’ve enthused over Stimpson’s writing before, and I’ve also disagreed with her culture war positions (and here and here).

But “The Catholic Table” seems like her gracious attempt to step away from those battles and just give her readers pretty words and pictures. Seriously, check it out: the prettiest pictures of food you’ll see on the Internet. Some time ago, Stimpson wrote:

On this Thursday night like all others, I pour my love for my friends into the little feast I prepare for them, in a pale imitation of Christ, who pours his great love for us into the sacred feast of bread and wine, flesh and blood, that he prepares for us.

I give my friends a place to gather and give thanks. I give them a meal. And I hope and pray that as I do, I also give them what God intended them to have at every meal—a foretaste of the Supper of the Lamb.

“The Catholic Table” reflects that generosity. It’s also part of her project of bringing John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” out of the bedroom (and into the kitchen). In doing so, Stimpson illustrates why those of us who think that the Theology of the Body needs to be revised to reflect a fuller understanding of the human person can’t just scrap the whole thing. Stimpson says that the Theology of the Body literally saved her life: as a former anorexic, she credits ToTB with helping her come to what she calls a “sacramental” worldview. “The anorexic,” she writes, “looks at the body and doesn’t see a precious, beautiful gift.” But Catholic teachings made that distorted vision impossible to maintain. And that, in turn, changed her relationship with food. “I stopped seeing it as the enemy,” she says, “and started seeing it as a perpetual sign of God’s love for me.”


That “sacramental worldview” is interesting. Jamie Manson suspects it’s what makes Catholics more likely to support marriage equality than the overall population. I agree.

And you all know that I think that a sacramental worldview is exactly what you’ll find in Walker Percy’s writings on bourbon, and in G.K. Chesterton’s writing on beer. Booze is grace for both of those writers.



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But if Percy and Chesterton’s sacramental vision is the same worldview that leads a solid majority of Catholics to support marriage equality, the guys at Whiskey Catholic (remember them?) won’t make that leap. Oh, they like booze, and they like Catholicism, but they’re not willing to extend the possibilities of grace that far.

Last week, blogger “T” wrote about Wesleyan University’s “Open House,” a dorm that advertises itself as a space for gender-queer students. By encouraging alternative sexualities, T argues, Wesleyan is rejecting natural law. Because “natural law” means directing one’s acts to man’s natural ends, and the “obvious fulfillment” of sexual expression, T says, is “the conception of new life.”

Let’s put aside for now the bad reasoning behind the conclusion that *the* human fulfillment of sex is procreation.

T gives us a new twist on St. Augustine’s food analogy, finding irony in the fact that the Open House website also contains a warning that older buildings on campus may contain lead.

“This probably offends a tiny group of fetishists out there who have replaced the post-coital cigarette with a handful of lead paint chips from the windowsill; and they’ll have protected minority status by next semester,” T writes. “I suppose we should be grateful that institutions like Wesleyan haven’t yet lost track of all our natural law inclinations.”

Get it? Having non-procreative sex is like eating paint chips. It’s like willfully ingesting something harmful into your body.

And why would anyone do that? Why would anyone ingest, for example, something that dehydrates you, kills your brain cells, can ruin your liver, and causes tens of thousands of lost lives, wrecked families, and millions of headaches and even more bad decisions every year?

Anyway, after you’ve read T’s post on natural law, scroll down to read Whiskey Catholic’s review of Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey!


[To irony!]

2 thoughts on “Four Things on Eating and Drinking

  1. I loved this post – it led me on a long link journey! It’s a shame that Whiskey Catholic is so obsessed with manliness – as a Catholic woman who loves whiskey, I wish I could like their site unreservedly… and that they’d accept me as part of their audience.

  2. Thanks, Meg! I love a good link journey, and I’m glad I could inspire one for you! Yeah, Whiskey Catholic is frustrating. I try to appreciate the good and ignore the bad, but sometimes their bad is just too egregious to overlook.

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