Do not read this unless you have a "Kassed" iron stomach!

During a recent visit to a brew pub, Glenn Reynolds asked a good question:

I wonder if there were people who feared brewing technology when it was new? "They put in water and stuff, and out comes beer, which alters your consciousness. It's evil magic!"

Actually, I'm pretty sure that there were people like that. Would Leon Kass have been one of them, had he lived back then? I'm just, you know, asking.

While I don't know his exact position on home-brewing or beer-drinking, Leon Kass definitely hates ice cream cones, and cone-licking!
Worst of all from this point of view are those more uncivilized forms of eating, like licking an ice cream cone --a catlike activity that has been made acceptable in informal America but that still offends those who know eating in public is offensive.

I fear I may by this remark lose the sympathy of many reader, people who will condescendingly regard as quaint or even priggish the view that eating in the street is for dogs. Modern America's rising tide of informality has already washed out many long-standing traditions -- their reasons long before forgotten -- that served well to regulate the boundary between public and private; and in many quarters complete shamelessness is treated as proof of genuine liberation from the allegedly arbitrary constraints of manners. To cite one small example: yawning with uncovered mouth. Not just the uneducated rustic but children of the cultural elite are now regularly seen yawning openly in public (not so much brazenly or forgetfully as indifferently and "naturally"), unaware that it is an embarrassment to human self-command to be caught in the grip of involuntary bodily movements (like sneezing, belching, and hiccuping and even the involuntary bodily display of embarrassment itself, blushing). But eating on the street -- even when undertaken, say, because one is between appointments and has no other time to eat -- displays in fact precisely such lack of self-control: It beckons enslavement to the belly. Hunger must be sated now; it cannot wait. Though the walking street eater still moves in the direction of his vision, he shows himself as a being led by his appetites. Lacking utensils for cutting and lifting to mouth, he will often be seen using his teeth for tearing off chewable portions, just like any animal. Eating on the run does not even allow the human way of enjoying one's food, for it is more like simple fueling; it is hard to savor or even to know what one is eating when the main point is to hurriedly fill the belly, now running on empty. This doglike feeding, if one must engage in it, ought to be kept from public view, where, even if WE feel no shame, others are compelled to witness our shameful behavior."

Kass, Leon: The Hungry Soul at 148-149. (University of Chicago Press, 1994, 1999)

I think it is fair to say that if eating in public, yawning and "enslavement to the belly" are bad, then beer must be positively Satanic!

I could be wrong, of course....

(Readers whose appetites were whetted by the above and hunger for more might enjoy my previous post, "Quotations from Chairman Kass.")

UPDATE: Yup, beer is definitely Satanic. Read this tidbit (via Glenn Reynolds):

The Babylonians made sixteen kinds of beer, using everything from white and black barley to wheat and honey. Beer was extolled in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, where the varieties listed include "beer of truth" and "beer of eternity."
Beer of eternity? I can't think of a more egregious breach of bioethics than that! (Evil magic indeed!)

UPDATE (3-25-04): I just learned that this post was linked by Farhad Manjoo in a very scholarly analysis at Many thanks to Mr. Manjoo, and a warm welcome to all visitors from

Readers might also enjoy this hysterically funny post by Elizabeth Riba, documenting the little-reported fact that according to Miss Manners, Dr. Kass is wrong about ice cream etiquette!

Those with an interest in an offbeat, occultish look at Dr. Kass can read about his planets here and here.

Finally, I have more archival posts about Dr. Kass here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Once again, welcome Salon readers!

posted by Eric on 03.01.04 at 11:01 AM


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Do not read this unless you have a "Kassed" iron stomach!:

» Do not read this unless you have a "Kassed" iron stomach! from Jeanette Signon
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Tracked on November 3, 2005 11:51 PM


Leon Kass has taken the wrong side in the Culture War. He is promoting the Ice-Cream-Lickers' Agenda by implying that there is a right to eat ice cream in the privacy of one's home. I find no right to eat ice cream anywhere in the text of the Constitution. No mention of ice cream at all! Where does he find it? In those mystical "penumbras" and "emanations"? Under an inkblot? In Justice Kennedy's crazy "liberty of the person both spatial and in its more transcendent dimensions"? This is Judicial Activism gone mad!, overriding the expressed Will Of The People.

Antonin Scalia (with Robert Bork)   ·  March 1, 2004 12:49 PM

Justice Scalia and Robert Bork are right, as always. Legalizing Ice Cream Licking will inevitably lead to legalizing other kinds of licking! It will be the downfall of our Society!

Santorum   ·  March 1, 2004 12:53 PM

We know by Heinlein's writings that Venusians abhor eating in the presence of each other. Couldn't this Kass person possibly be a Venusian agent?

Marzo   ·  March 1, 2004 9:13 PM

Whenever I see that a post on Classical Values has some comments, I say to myself "I wonder what Steven Malcolm Anderson has to say about this."

Today it was something insightful, as always.

Allan Beatty   ·  March 1, 2004 10:09 PM

Dear Allen Beatty: Thank you!

I must also say that that title cracked me up. A "Kassed" iron stomach, ha! ha! I love your puns, Eric.

Got here from the 3/25/04 Salon article. Classical Values is now on the List!

Mr. Kass, I have a question for you. Since enjoyment of life is as natural a human state as even you would admit (otherwise how account for one's appreciation of Shakespeare, say, or a painting by Rembrandt or Monet), what is more natural than strolling along the beach, say in Santa Cruz, and enjoying said ice cream cone because you simply fucking like the walk and the scenery?

Steve Harper   ·  March 25, 2004 12:05 PM

Hmm... "Beerzebub." Shame I don't run a microbrewery.

But this is America, so I think I'm still gonna declare it a trademark; anyone care to license? Now, I need to patent my "pre-trademarking nifty beer names" business model...

Lief Clennon   ·  March 25, 2004 5:29 PM

I drift off, imagining a television commercial describing how Bush has ethics commissions run by people who think licking ice cream is just so wrong. Oh, if only the media would tell people what Bush has done, is doing.

Phillip Robinson   ·  March 26, 2004 11:43 PM

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