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Note: If you're going to be eating a meal soon, you might not want to read this question, and you (especially) might not want to click through to the "Secretive food concocting" Wikipedia article. Why? Lest you lose your appetite. Instead, you might want to bookmark this question and read it later.




Here is a question about "secretive food concocting".

The anonymous author of the Halacha For Today blog writes:

It is imperative to eat with Derech Eretz, in a dignified way.

According to the Rambam (Sefer HaMitzvos, Lo Ta'aseh 195 [in English]) and other Poskim, eating in a non dignified manner may be a transgression of one or more biblical transgressions. (See Aruch HaShulchan Siman 157:1 and Elya Rabbah Siman 170:23 what he quotes from the Shl"a.)

Neither the blog nor the Rambam nor any of the other poskim mentioned talk about secretive food concocting. But some of them do encourage every Jew to eat in a dignified manner.

Edit 1: Other sources also discuss ideas which may be relevant.

Edit 2: "One is forbidden to eat any food that most people find disgusting even if one happens to enjoy it.[6] Foods which most people do enjoy though a significant minority of the population will consider disgusting may be eaten.[7]" —R' Ari Enkin. "Disgusting Behavior".

Edit 3: "Rabbi [Yehuda haNasi] said: What is the proper path a person should choose for himself? Whatever brings glory to himself [before G-d], and grants him glory before others." —Tractate Avos 2:1. Probably translated by R' Dovid Rosenfeld.

Imagine an imaginary young man named Reuven. Sometimes, when he's alone, Reuven likes to eat bizarre food concoctions. To see some examples, hover your mouse over this spoiler box:

• A bowl of corn flakes and barbecue-flavored potato chips with milk.

• A sandwich made of bread, hummus, and soy sauce.

• Or an entire meal made up solely of peanut butter (eaten from a plate using a spoon).

In Reuven's case, this "secretive food concocting" isn't a sign of any serious eating disorder. True, Reuven is a bit overweight, but he doesn't suffer from anorexia or bulimia. He just likes odd food combinations sometimes.

For the purposes of this question, let's define "secretive food concocting" as the eating of food combinations which would make the majority of observant American Jews lose their appetites.

I propose that perhaps secretive food concocting is undignified and therefore not a good thing for an observant Jew to engage in — even in private. So:

  1. Is there any halachic problem with Reuven's secretive food concocting?

  2. Even if there's no halachic problem, does the Torah nevertheless discourage the behavior?

It would be good if you could please cite decisors who have ruled directly upon these matters. If no such rulings exist, please look into the poskim and tell us what you yourself think.

CYLOR.

I thank Double AA and especially DanF for helping me solidify my question.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Monica Cellio May 6 '15 at 1:00
  • Was the most recent edit really necessary? – Double AA Aug 12 '15 at 23:40
  • @DoubleAA: Dunno. If it prevents one person from losing their appetite, perhaps it'll turn out to have been worthwhile. – tealhill supports Monica Aug 13 '15 at 0:14
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Please refer to this Mi Yodeya question.

Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 116 mentions that one is not allowed to eat food that is mixed with vomit or excrement or to eat with utensils that people use for such purposes such as utensils used in the rest room (I guess that may mean something like eating food using a toothbrush?) He relates this to being a prohibition of Leviticus 11:43:

אַל־תְּשַׁקְּצוּ֙ אֶת־נַפְשֹׁ֣תֵיכֶ֔ם

You shall not make yourselves detestable

I searched the various commentaries and Beur Hagr"a (commentary 19) cites from Avot D'Rav Natan ch. 26, near the end

האוכל אוכלין שאיגם עולים על גופו עובר משום ג׳ לאוין שביזה א ת עצמו וביזה א ת האוכלין ומברך ברכה שאינה כתיקונה

My loose translation:

"Someone who eats foods that are not "appropriate?" for his body (I could use help translating the bolded words, above) transgresses 3 negatives - he embarrasses himself, the food, and recites an inappropriate blessing."

Point is - from what I can tell, based on commentaries in both Shulcha Aruch and what I saw in Avot D'Rav Natan, this does not refer to odd food combos. It refers more to how the food is eaten, i.e. not to eat food mixed with dirt, vomit, etc.

What you cited, presents a separate issue. Secretive food concocting may not be an eating disorder, but it is a mental disorder (based on the Wikipedia link that you provided. I am unaware if this is a voluntary habit done by "normal" people who have no mental disorder.) People with mental disorders may be considered an ones, meaning that they are not responsible for many of their actions. In a case like this, continuing this habit might be considered refu'ah for them, i.e. it may be "therapeutic", as it may help them resolve other more serious mental problems. I'm no psychologist, but, I'm suggesting this as a possibility. If the other mental problem is life threatening, and say, he won't eat at all w/o concocting this strange stuff, then this is certainly permissible. But, perhaps, it's permissible to him even if not life threatening.

This area seems to be a special case that I think needs more research. I think I would consult not just with any Rav — I would instead would speak with a rabbi who's studied psychology, or with a Rav who has access to a psychologist. Perhaps Rav Twerski would be a good person to relay your question to.

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    I have not checked the SA but, going by your paraphrase alone, I'd guess that "utensils that people use for such purposes such as utensils used in the rest room" are chamber pots rather than toothbrushes. – msh210 May 5 '15 at 2:22
  • I like your ideas about concocting and mental disorders. +1 just for those. – tealhill supports Monica May 5 '15 at 2:49
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    In truth, do I have a mental disorder? Yes. A doctor has diagnosed me with ADHD. Probably the #1 biggest time sink for me lately has been Internet use. (Baruch Hashem, I've basically quit video gaming by now.) Is my food concocting also a mental disorder? No. Certain mental disorders (such as bulimia) can lead to concocting, but concocting alone is never a mental disorder. Would continuing the concocting help me deal with the ADHD? Nope. Not at all. (Though it would please my palate.) If the concocting turns out to be forbidden, I can simply eat foods which are more normal. – tealhill supports Monica May 5 '15 at 3:06
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    I'm not sure that eating peanut butter alone is indicative of a mental disorder. I sometimes eat a spoonful of peanut butter. Putting it on a plate first is a little unnecessary. – Wad Cheber stands with Monica Aug 13 '15 at 0:12
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    @DanF: Wad Cheber's comment made me think. I checked Wikipedia again. The article says: "Disordered eating can represent a change in eating patterns caused by other mental disorders (e.g. clinical depression), or by factors that are generally considered to be unrelated to mental disorders (e.g. extreme homesickness)." [Emphasis mine.] So why do you claim in your answer that concocting is a mental disorder? – tealhill supports Monica Aug 13 '15 at 0:37
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אָסְרוּ חֲכָמִים מַאֲכָלוֹת וּמַשְׁקִין שֶׁנֶּפֶשׁ רֹב בְּנֵי אָדָם קִהָה מֵהֶן כְּגוֹן מַאֲכָלוֹת וּמַשְׁקִין שֶׁנִּתְעָרֵב בָּהֶן קִיא אוֹ צוֹאָה וְלֵחָה סְרוּחָה וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן. וְכֵן אָסְרוּ חֲכָמִים לֶאֱכל וְלִשְׁתּוֹת בְּכֵלִים הַצּוֹאִים שֶׁנַּפְשׁוֹ שֶׁל אָדָם מִתְאוֹנֶנֶת מֵהֶם. כְּגוֹן כְּלֵי בֵּית הַכִּסֵּא וּכְלֵי זְכוּכִית שֶׁל סַפָּרִין שֶׁגּוֹרְעִין בָּהֶם אֶת הַדָּם וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן:

The Rambam and Shulchan Aruch are talking about items which are disgusting, not items which taste disgusting. Dog meat, human carcasses, or beetles probably do not taste that bad (I wouldn't know), but they are repulsive things to eat. Similarly, a clean chamber pot will not affect the taste of the food, but is totally repulsive to use to cook your dinner.

On the flip side, once is permitted to eat jellybeans in disgusting flavors. A jellybean is a proper food, it is only the taste that is bad. And of course you are permitted to eat your wife's cooking, regardless of her culinary skill.

Similar is the concoctions you mentioned. Sure, I might think it's strange to eat plain peanut butter, or mix my cornflakes with potato chips. But there is nothing inherently disgusting about any of these mixtures. The taste might be strange, but, as they say, that's a matter of taste. And what about if someone would decide to mix raw fish with seaweed and a little rice? Now that's a weird concoction if there ever was one.

Rabbi Enkin seems to be taking it further. However, it is not so clear from the article he writes what is the issur of bal teshaketzu and what is merely an inyan of derech eretz. It's hard to determine exactly what is meant from a Torah article in a newspaper or online.

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