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If someone wants to eat something that is not considered food (e.g. paper), is a bracha required? Obviously if one is, it would be shehacol.

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This article is quite detailed on explaining when you don't need to make a bracha. The article contains source references, as well.

Excerpts:

A bracha is recited when we experience pleasure from eating the food that God has provided. This primarily includes pleasure due to “taste” – i.e. pleasure in the mouth or throat.

Similarly, if a food is in a state where it is not fit for human consumption, it does not require a bracha because it is not considered food. A few examples:

  • raw potatoes
  • raw rice, raw peppercorns
  • fruits that are [bitter or sour and] completely unripe
  • spoiled or burned foods

The general rule is: If most people would not eat such a food even if they were really hungry, then no bracha is required. For example, the Guinness Book of World Records claims that someone once ate an entire bicycle over a period of months. If he was Jewish, he would not have said a bracha when eating the bicycle.

(I met someone years ago, who claimed that he ate everything on his plate, LITERALLY. This included eating the flatware! We didn't believe him until x-rays confirmed that his stomach had spoons, knives and forks in there. Let's just say that after a few days, he "forked over" his food :-) :-)

  • I suppose paper qualifies as something that most people don't eat. – Scimonster Nov 5 '14 at 16:51
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    A bicycle? Really? This guy ate an airplane. – Scimonster Nov 5 '14 at 16:52
  • Was the bicycle hechshered? Did he inspect it for bugs? – Charles Koppelman Nov 5 '14 at 18:22
  • @Charles "if he was Jewish". – Scimonster Nov 5 '14 at 19:54
  • @Scimonster a bicycle is the R' Chaim Naeh shiur; an airplane is the Chazon Ish shiur. – Shalom Nov 6 '14 at 20:46

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