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. . . the food that cures all hunger . . .

"A bit of what you fancy does you good," says an old English proverb. And now science is opening up an area of common ground between medication and self-indulgence. According to Chris Mihill, The [London] Guardian's Medical Correspondent,

The time has come to open a restaurant specializing in medicinal cuisine. (Chez Panacea springs immediately to mind.) Our favorite foods could thus be justified as essential to our physical as well as our emotional well-being. Chiles, for instance, have long been regarded as a powerful stimulant and an aid to digestion. Taken together with beans, however, their effect is both noisy and noisome. This might be ameliorated by the addition of fennel, which was believed to be a cure for flatulence.

Tansy is definitely an acquired taste, but it was once so highly regarded that its very name was a corruption of the Greek athanasia, or immortality. It was commonly used in making omelettes, perhaps because its pungency helped to mask the sulphurous odor of rotten eggs. Without this unpleasant necessity, it might still be taken as a tonic and a stimulant, with the added bonus of destroying worms in the body. (You never know . . .)

As for the Doctrine of Signatures, we post-Freudians could, as it were, have a ball. A cornucopia of stimulants suggest themselves, which could be served below stairs in a private club. (But "club"  carries its own sado-masochistic luggage; "fellowship" takes us into the realm of the homoerotic and "sodality" points in an even more unfortunate direction. Perhaps that time-honored Berkeley institution, the "co-op", could be revived.)

But just as my dreams of la cuisine medicinale et érotique are taking shape, there comes a shattering blow from the British Medical Controls Agency. Robin Young reports in The [London] Times:

Thus our altar of the appetites would be threatened with demolition before it could be erected. Obtaining a prescription would become even more difficult than getting a reservation.  As for the kitchen staff: where would one find an army of pharmacists who would be prepared to undertake the rigors of alchemy without its mediaeval rewards? The chef de cuisine, of course, would require advanced medical qualifications, and the soporific effects of a post-prandial cordial would necessitate the attendance of an anaesthetist. By the time we had staffed and equipped our gastronomic pantheon, its running costs would make it cheaper to spend a relaxing weekend in a private sanatorium.

Perhaps we had better stay with the traditional motivation for frequenting a gourmet restaurant: sybaritic excess piously justified as biological necessity.

©1996 John Whiting

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