Food and Diet
The Machine Will Never Triumph, part five
Few things in life are as important as diet. We need clean, fresh air, good water, and behind those two essentials we need a good, nourishing diet. Despite being one of the most important things in life, our diet is taken for granted and we treat our bodies either as garbage dumps—shovelling them full of fast food—or manufactured pills and powders, thinking they can keep us healthy. Only real food, grown slowly in healthy soil can properly nourish our minds and bodies.
Food of the North
One of the first steps on the way to a healthier diet is to cut out animal products, both for health and ethical reasons. Lawrence’s Food of the North is a suitable anthem for a healthier body and healthier world.
The food of the north tastes too much of the fat of the pig
fat of the pig!
Take me south again, to the olive trees
and oil me with the lymph of the silvery trees
oil me with the lymph of trees
not with the fat of the pig.1
Everything manufactured or processed these days is bland. In America, and other countries where food production is mechanized, natural flavors have vanished. It does not have to be this way. One of the great joys in life is a simple home-cooked meal from home grown produce, and even something as simple as the taste of fresh pressed olive oil can be an ecstatic experience.
Animals are alive as much as we are, and they experience joy and suffering just as we do. With an abundance of plant based foods available, there should be no excuse for eating meat. Even fish, squid, and so on should be spared the sufferings that our insatiable cravings hoist upon them. Lawrence writes:
I have a peculiar aversion to these ink-pots. Once in Liguria we had a boat of our own and paddled with the peasant paddlers. Alessandro caught ink-pots: and like this. He tied up a female by a string in a cave—the string going through a convenient hole in her end. There she lived, like an Amphitrite’s wire-haired terrier tied up, till Alessandro went a-fishing. Then he towed her, like a poodle behind. And thus, like a poodly-bitch, she attracted hangers-on in the briny seas. And these poor polyp inamorati were the victims. They were lifted as prey on board, where I looked with horror on their grey, translucent tentacles and large, cold, stony eyes. The she-polyp was towed behind again. But after a few days she died.
And I think, even for creatures so awful-looking, this method is indescribably base, and shows how much lower than an octopus even, is lordly man.2
We are so cruel to squid, but also to cows, chickens, pigs, and other humans. In our never-ending search for pleasure for ourselves, we cause untold suffering on all the other creatures of this world. If we want joy, love peace, and compassion to exist between humans, we must start from the animals and the rest may follow. So long as the cruel slaughter of animals for food continues, there will always be wars and suffering. In fact, the Garden of Eden story makes much more sense if it is not an apple, but a lamb chop that is eaten.
Why would we be so cruel? Why would we sacrifice health, joy, and taste for what we have today, namely fast, unpleasant, flavorless food? The answer is money. Lawrence writes:
The household no longer receives its food, oil and wine and maize, from out of the earth in the motion of fate. The earth is annulled, and money takes its place. The landowner, who is the lieutenant of God and of Fate, like Abraham, he, too, is annulled. There is now the order of the rich, which supersedes the order of the Signoria.3
Ancient agriculture was at one with the land, and the farmers who tilled the land did so with respect and with hearty offerings to the Gods.4 Modern farms are eyesores and destroy the land rather than nourishing it. Modern “farms don’t really belong to the land. They only scratch it and irritate it, and are never at one with it.”5 Due to the current rationalistic and materialistic metaphysic and a way of thinking inherited from the Semitic religions, we consider ourselves vicegerents or masters of a planet that is ours for the taking, yet the truth is that the Earth is alive and is a manifestation of the preternatural Godhead. David Jones, the Catholic poet, wrote a pithy poem about just this:
Does the land wait the sleeping lord
or is the wasted land
that very lord who sleeps?6
When we hurt the land, make an animal suffer, or cut down a tree, we are inflicting grave injuries on the Mother Goddess, and in turn the Mother Goddess responds by afflicting us with devastating weather events and grave psychological distress. There is another way, the old way, the way of the Gods:
[T]he intensive culture of vine and olive and wheat, by the ceaseless industry of naked human hands and winter-shod feet, and slow-stepping, soft-eyed oxen does not devastate a country, does not denude it, does not lay it bare, does not uncover its nakedness, does not drive away either Pan or his children. The streams run and rattle over wild rocks of secret places, and murmur through blackthorn thickets where the nightingales sing all together, unruffled and undaunted.7
Just because we now harm the world with our industrial agriculture, does not mean that it has to always be this way. We can change things still! “…it can be done. Man can live on the earth and by the earth without disfiguring the earth.”8
Though the ethical and health reasons for eating better are important, so is the epicurean reason, namely the sheer pleasure one gets from partaking of good things. One should eat slowly, savoring the experience of good food that is a gift from Demeter and Dionysus (the Goddess of grain and the God of fruit). Lawrence wrote the poem Mystic about this:
They call all experience of the senses mystic, when the experience is
So an apple becomes mystic when I taste in it
the summer and the snows, the wild welter of earth
and the insistence of the sun.
All of which things I can surely taste in a good apple.
Though some apples taste preponderantly of water, wet and sour
and some of too much sun, brackish sweet
like lagoon-water, that has been too much sunned.
If I say I taste these things in an apple, I am called mystic, which means a
The only way to eat an apple is to hog it down like a pig
and taste nothing
that is real.
But if I eat an apple, I like to eat it with all my senses awake.
Hogging it down like a pig I call the feeding of corpses.9
Lawrence expands upon this thought in the following passage:
We, dear reader, you and I, we were born corpses and we are corpses. I doubt if there is even one of us who has even known so much as an apple, a whole apple. All we know is shadows, even of apples. Shadows of everything, of the whole world, shadows even of ourselves. We are inside the tomb, and the tomb is wide and shadowy like hell, even if sky-blue by optimistic paint, so we think it is all the world. But our world is a wide tomb full of ghosts, replicas. We are all spectres, we have not been able to touch even so much as an apple. Spectres we are to one another. Spectre you are to me, spectre I am to you. Shadow you are even to yourself.—And by shadow I mean idea, concept, the abstracted reality, the ego. We are not solid. We don’t live in the flesh. Our instincts and intuitions are dead, we live wound round with the winding-sheet of abstraction. And the touch of anything solid hurts us. For our instincts and intuitions, which are our feelers of touch and knowing through touch, they are dead, amputated. We walk and talk and eat and copulate and laugh and piss and evacuate wrapped in our winding-sheets, all the time wrapped in our winding-sheets.10
Until we can get out of our heads and let go of our egos—our egos which are the source of our desire for money and power—we will never care if our apples taste of cardboard or of apple. But for the lover of the Gods, for the revolutionary against the Machine, time spent slowly eating an apple that tastes truly of apple is one of the few rewards in a life filled with much sorrow. Ah, but the Gods are good, and we are the ones who have turned everything sour. It is not too late; we can make life sweet again, but we must start now.
Jones, David. The Sleeping Lord and Other Fragments. London: Faber and Faber, 2017.
Lawrence, D. H. Kangaroo. Edited by Bruce Steele. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
———. Late Essays and Articles. Edited by James T. Boulton. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
———. “Sea and Sardinia.” In D. H. Lawrence and Italy, 137–326. London: Penguin Books, 2007.
———. Sketches of Etruscan Places and Other Italian Essays. Edited by Simonetta De Filippis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
———. The Poems. Edited by Christopher Pollnitz. Vol. 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.
———. Twilight in Italy and Other Essays. Edited by Paul Eggert. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
D. H. Lawrence, The Poems, ed. Christopher Pollnitz, vol. 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 563.
D. H. Lawrence, “Sea and Sardinia,” in D. H. Lawrence and Italy (London: Penguin Books, 2007), 180.
D. H. Lawrence, Twilight in Italy and Other Essays, ed. Paul Eggert (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 164–65.
Lawrence acknowledged the value and truth of many orthodox religious traditions (as well as their many shortcomings), but his greatest affinity was for the ancient and pre-historic religions of Mesopotamia, Greece, Etruria, and Egypt. Accordingly, I will refer, as Lawrence did, to Gods and Goddesses to include, generically, even monotheistic traditions.
D. H. Lawrence, Kangaroo, ed. Bruce Steele (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 278.
David Jones, The Sleeping Lord and Other Fragments (London: Faber and Faber, 2017), 96.
D. H. Lawrence, Sketches of Etruscan Places and Other Italian Essays, ed. Simonetta De Filippis (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 225–26.
Lawrence, The Poems, 1:621–22.
D. H. Lawrence, Late Essays and Articles, ed. James T. Boulton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 203.