Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Another reflection on my European travels


Portion sizes in both Italy and France have continued to increase in size. And, restaurants now welcome diners to share a course, whether starter, main, or dessert. Sharing courses, while common in the U.S., had previously triggered disdain if not outright opposition from Italian and French restauranteurs. This year I would guess that at as many as a third of the tables in the restaurants where I dined people shared at least one course.

Meanwhile, my anecdotal observation is that Europeans are gaining weight, though they are not yet at the levels of overweight and obesity found in the U.S.

God created humans to enjoy food and wine. One aspect of life in Europe that I have enjoyed in the past is eating a multi-course paired with several different wines, finding myself at the end of the meal pleasantly and comfortably sated but neither stuffed nor inebriated.

Temperance, however, is one of the four Christian cardinal virtues. I find the practice of moderation in all things (a Confucian teaching that helpfully defines temperance) increases my interest in savoring what I consume. Temperance also can help one avoid gaining weight (I was pleased to return from my extended sojourn without having added pounds in spite of having greatly enjoyed the food and wine).

Temperance is an under-appreciated virtue. Hoarders, the greedy, and people who hang on to every item regardless of its serviceability or continued use could all benefit from the practice of temperance. Conversely, those who oppose any consumption of alcoholic beverages, the 19th century Temperance movement that promoted abstinence rather than temperance, gave the word temperance an ugly and lingering negative connotation.

Perhaps most importantly, the Dalai Lama helpfully connects temperance to practicing concern for the environment (Dalai Lama and Sofia Stril-Rever, My Spiritual Journey, p. 137):

As Tibetan Buddhists, we advocate temperance, which is not unconnected to the environment, since we do not consume anything immoderately. We set limits on our habits of consumption, and we appreciate a simple, responsible way of life. Our relationship to the environment has always been special. Our ancient scriptures speak of the vessel and its contents. The world is the vessel, our house, and we, the living, are its contents.

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