Are we finally going to rediscover “The Joy of Eating”? (book)

While President Macron has announced the return to the society of sobriety, here is a book that risks challenging the French. Daring to talk about “The joy of eating” (1) when inflation gallops and consumers see the first food shortages appearing is not lacking in salt. But when Professor Lecerf undertook to write his work, the subtitle of which is “nourish, rejoice, unite”, the context was not the same. In a consumer society, where food was superfluous and still cheap, it was necessary to find a spiritual meaning in this fundamental act which defines the constitution of all living beings: eating. Thus the foreword sets the tone “Eating has become a source of worry, even anxiety… hygienism threatens… food exclusions are on the increase” It is therefore necessary to give meaning to the existence of a man of increasingly sad who has lost the joy of eating.

The undertaking is considerable since the professor at the Institut Pasteur in Lille, who is also a practitioner at the CHRU in the same city and was ordained as a deacon, answers the question of the meaning of the act of eating in all facets: not only on the scientific and nutritional aspects, but also on the ethical, moral and spiritual dimensions. It is addressed to both believers and non-believers. Here is a complete work that we can browse to find answers to all the practical and philosophical questions that we ask ourselves about food. We will savor this crispy mille-feuille all the more as it is full of tasty quotes from authors as varied as chefs (from Brillat-Savarin to Anne Sophie Pic), great names in French literature (writers and others philosophers) renowned scientists, Saints and other religious … a delicious mixture that only an ecumenical spirit is capable of composing.

If the question of the meaning of food is worth asking, it is first of all because eating is an essential and constitutive act of our nature: “man, Professor Lecerf tells us, is not not an animal like the others: it cooks. » And he does not always eat the same thing… « the ideologies which have made the 20th century ugly and plagued the 21st have in common culinary impotence » Only the civilized man is therefore capable of composing a menu worthy of the name. We understand the political stakes behind the art of cooking. A country like France has every good reason to recover when we approach this subject, especially since UNESCO has classified the gastronomic meal of the French as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity and the French remain the champions of the world. time spent at the table with 2 hours 13 per day on average… but all these satisfactions need to be defended: “in a sanitized, hygienist world, this art of living is threatened. » Individual diets and dietary particularisms harm our community life: « it is not just politics, money or religion that divide today. Food too, unfortunately. The conclusion of the first chapter on pleasure and sharing is that despite troubled times and numerous pathologies, we must never lose sight of the fact that “Eating is good. The act of eating is at the service of nutrition and life. Man should not be a slave to it. »

Having whetted our appetite, citizen Lecerf then puts on his doctor’s coat for a second chapter in which he begins to speak to us about “our food and our body”… questions that date back to the dawn of our civilization: Hippocrates advocated ” Let your food be your medicine” and Plato invoked moderation everywhere. These principles have accompanied the developments of our civilization. It was only in the 20th century that dietetics made remarkable progress: during the first half of the century there was interest in understanding the role of micronutrients, then during the second half of the century is focused on “identifying nutritional factors implicated in chronic diseases”

These studies have made it possible to show in particular that in the case of multi-factorial diseases, a good diet, even if it could play a considerable role in prevention and sometimes cure, was not a necessary and sufficient condition. Also, an important fact noted by the professor: “Whatever people say, our food has never been so safe and so healthy. And this despite the accidents that sometimes occur in the food chain, both with regard to industrial food and so-called organic food. For those who doubt it, it suffices to recall that “life expectancy rose from 24 years under Louis XIV to 45 years in 1900 and to 84 years for women today” We can therefore thank agriculture and the agro-food industry which provided “abundant and varied food to the greatest number” On the subject of exposure to phytosanitary and organic products, Professor Lecerf relies on several studies to say that things are not catastrophic as some would like to imply it but it would be wrong to attribute all our ills to them, especially since our exposure to these products is well below the standards recommended by the regulatory bodies.

Doctor Lecerf then enumerates the four universal principles that our knowledge has allowed us to bring to light: The first is that no food is bad in itself, only excesses are so moderation is needed in all forms of feed ; the second law is that there is no perfect food (except breast milk until the age of 6 months)… variety is therefore the corollary of this second law. The third law is that there is no essential food… but be careful: “since variety is essential (2nd law) you have to draw from all families of foods” and “if you don’t eat meat , you have to look elsewhere for the proteins it provides. Finally, physical activity completes these three universal laws.

Then follow in this same chapter, reflections on the omnivore, food behavior, food symbolism, food exclusions, and food rumors and fears… fears which according to Professor Lecerf “do not know such acuteness in the country where food abundance does not exist. While famines have disappeared from our country (but not misery) and our food has never been so safe and so healthy, it is a bit as if one fear, that of lack, had been replaced by another. This has led us to no longer bear zero risk (which, moreover, does not exist)…” The pleasure of eating implies, as we suspect, not letting oneself be dominated by one’s fears.

Another important point which is the subject of a chapter is the relationship between our diet and respect for creation. Professor Lecerf will therefore seek a happy medium by constantly oscillating between points that are often opposed to each other: respect for farmers on the one hand to whom we owe our food and respect for Creation, on the other. – part that goes through sobriety, a challenge in our consumer society: “we want everything, try everything, taste everything, have everything, get our hands on everything. »

So we would be wrong, and this is the first lesson that Deacon Lecerf gives us, to believe that the Bible teaches us to take the ascendancy over Nature “In the Bible, created man becomes himself a co-creator. He is not master of nature: he is, according to Christian wisdom, its usufructuary. » The biblical text is very clear on this subject: « The Lord took man and established him in the garden of Eden to tend it and keep it (Gn 2,15) » There is therefore a « relationship of reciprocity responsible between man and nature”.

Sobriety then involves actions such as the fight against waste (1.3 billion tonnes of food lost or wasted, i.e. 25 to 30% of food production). If he refers to the Bible and to Pope Francis for the necessary consideration of Nature and the environmental cause by agriculture, Deacon Lecerf does not hesitate to recall that “ecology cannot to be at the service of an ideology of authoritarian dictates without nuance. Yes to an integral ecology, integrating the human, but no to a fundamentalist and sectarian ecology. We must not pit urban against rural, peasant against green, or organic against conventional. We must move forward together, without dogmatism or green or red terrorism. The soup wasted on Van-Gogh’s sunflowers that day is another fine example!

It will be understood, here is a work which undertakes to legitimize in all its facets its title: ie the joy of eating. There must be no blind spots and rather reveal them all; we will leave the reader on his hunger story to make him salivate a little by contenting ourselves with communicating the menu of the last three chapters devoted to the Ethics and morals of the body and food (one will find there for example a succulent indictment against lawyers who intend to legislate against obesity); to spirituality (a fascinating chapter devoted to the theme of religion and food and full of quotations from the Holy Scriptures); and a climaxing finale dedicated to Joy: “Ensuring that everyone can access this food is a primary objective. Doing everything so that our food comes from a chain where nature, the soil, the plants, the animals the earth are also well cared for is a fair fight. Everything is connected. Because we are free to do good, it is our responsibility to do so. Some people rightly speak of an ecological emergency. But the first urgency is that of fraternity. I let you go to the table with the joy of eating.


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Are we finally going to rediscover “The Joy of Eating”? (book)