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WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO NUTRITION? HOWARD A. SCHNEIDER, Ph.D.* because we see All arefromfixed seed andfixed dam Engendered and sofunction as to keep Throughout theirgrowth their own ancestral type. This happens surely by afixed law: Forfrom allfood-stuff, when once eaten down, Go sundered atoms, suited to each creature, Throughout their bodies, and conjoining there, Produce the proper motions. Lucretius, De rerum natura, Book ii trans. W. E. Leonard A preoccupation with eating, the getting of nourishment, is a characteristic ofall living things. Indeed, there is a compulsion in these matters which demands a never ceasing concern ofthe living organism with this important process. Eating may be postponed, but for only relatively short periods oftime, and this denial soon leaves its stamp in debilitation, weakness , lethargy, and finally death. As Erasmus Darwin was prompted to say, "Eat, or be eaten!" It comes as no surprise, therefore, that in human affairs this unending compulsion to be forever busy with eating should be revealed in some of man's deepest concerns. For early man, eating—or not eating—was a matter never completely out ofhis mind. The first gregarious tendencies in man probably had their reward in the increased efficiency of the clan or tribe in coping with the problem of getting food. In his bewildering adjustments to a hostile world, prehistoric man certainly found one of his greatest satisfactions in a stomach momentarily distended with an * The Rockefeller institute for Medical Research, Sixty-sixth Street and York Avenue, New York ??. New York. 278 Hoivard A. Schneider · Nutrition: What Happened? Perspectives in Biology and Medicine · Spring 1938 abundant meal. And he celebrated the prowess ofthe hunter in paintings on rocks and in caves. The first communal settlements ofman, in Iraq, centered on the core of stability that the storage of food provided. Indeed, it might be said that man found time and interest to embark on the road to civilization only as he found time to divert his attention from the never ending problem offood-getting. And so the problem of eating has found expression in a great variety of man's activities, ranging from his arts to his religion, from his commerce to his science, and from his medicine to his philosophy. Consider how the preparation of food for eating has led to la haute cuisine and a whole lore of the poetry of the palate. That man is dull indeed whose senses fail to respond to a symphony oftastes and textures. True, like any art, the participant needs training to appreciate; but that there is something distinctly human in this sense awareness, one would find hard to deny. And one need not be a dogmatic Jungian to acknowledge that the satisfaction oftaste may spring from an inner, race-conscious, prehistoric satisfaction at the solution of the problem of food-getting, which provided in variety and abundance the undeniable conquest in an enjoyable present ofthe eon-old threat ofthe hungry stomach. Not only in his senses, but in his spiritual outlook, is man linked to his eating. The symbolism of eating and feasting is used to mark events of deep religious significance in the Judeo-Christian traditions. The Passover feast and the Sacrament of the Eucharist have as their highest moments the partaking of special foods. For example, it may be indefensible, but the idea, I think, is interesting that the symbolism ofthe Eucharist—'welding the body with nourishment for its soul—draws on the intuitive and age-long sense that that which is eaten is assimilated and made into one's self. Is it any wonder, therefore, that man, in his immemorial concern with the problem offood—-reflected in his material, sensual, and spiritual being —should have turned finally to a scientific inquiry about these substances that he finds he is compelled to put into his mouth, chew, and swallow? Man has embarked rather late on this enterprise ofattempting to understand his food as a science, for it has been part ofhis daily outlook for a time reaching back to his beginnings. This is a different matter, it seems to me, from being scientific about, say, electrons, which are children of 279 the scientific enterprise itselfand which emerged in...


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