These little things are great to little man.

--GOLDSMITH: The Traveller

The insistent habit of mind is nowhere more noticeable than in connection with the food.

I have seen a hotel habitué, apparently sane, who invariably cut, or broke, his bread into minute particles, and minutely inspected each before placing it in his mouth. If this were a book of confessions, I should have myself to plead guilty, among worse things, to having avoided mince pie for weeks after encountering among other ingredients of this delicacy, a piece of broken glass.

Diner at tableNot infrequently the obsessive diner so long hesitates before giving his final order that the waiter brings the wrong dish. The insistent thought now replaces the doubting folly, and the diner would as soon think of eating grass as the article offered. I have known him impatiently to leave the table under these circumstances, and to play the ostentatious martyr, rather than partake of the food he had at the outset given weighty consideration. I have seen another omit his lunch because water had been spilled upon the cloth, and still another leave the dining-car, with the announcement that he would forego his meal because informed by the conductor that men's shirt waists without coats were taboo.

The obsessive of this type may by training even reach the point of seeing the amusing instead of the pathetic side of the picture when, in the course of his travels, his request for "a nice bit of chicken, cut thin," is transmitted to the kitchen as--"One chick."

One day, with pride, I called the attention of my easy-going friend to the fact that I was eating a dish I had not ordered. He quietly remarked that the next step was to eat it and say nothing!

Another friend has this motto in his dining-room: "Eat what is set before you and be thankful." His children will open their eyes when they find others, less reasonably reared, demanding that the potatoes be changed because they are sprinkled with parsley, that a plate be replaced because it has had a piece of cheese upon it, or that the salad of lettuce and tomato be removed in favor of one with tomato alone.

A lady recently told me of breakfasting with a foreign sojourner in America, who upon being offered the contents of an egg broken into a glass, was not satisfied with declining it, but felt impelled also to express his extreme disgust at this method of serving it, fortunately to the amusement, rather than to the annoyance of his hostess.

"After this, know likewise," says Epictetus, "that you are a brother too; and that to this character it belongs to make concessions, to be easily persuaded, to use gentle language, never to claim for yourself any non-essential thing, but cheerfully to give up these to be repaid by a larger share of things essential. For consider what it is, instead of a lettuce, for instance, or a chair, to procure for yourself a good temper. How great an advantage gained!"

The insistent desire to have a certain degree and character of appetite not infrequently leads to consulting the physician. Still more common is the obsession that the appetite must be gratified, the supposition being that the desire for food is, in the growing child or in the adult, an infallible guide to the amount needed, though it is a matter of common knowledge that this is not true of infants or of domestic animals. If one leaves the table hungry he soon forgets it unless inordinately self-centered, and he has no more desire to return than to go back to bed and finish the nap so reluctantly discontinued in the morning.
WEBMASTER NOTE: Studies have shown that the "appetite" is a poor forecaster of the amount of food actually needed by the body for health and function. In fact, what is perceived as "hunger" is often thirst, and, having eaten "enough" most people will not be aware of the feeling of satisfaction until about 20 minutes after the meal!
I have heard the theory advanced by an anxious forecaster of future ills, that all unnecessary food, if packed away as adipose tissue, serves to nourish the body in periods of starvation. Assuming that the average individual need consider this stress of circumstance, I am strongly of the impression that the best preparation for enforced abstinence will prove, not a layer of fat, but the habit of abstinence. The nursery poet says:

"The worry cow would have lived till now
  If she'd only saved her breath.
  She feared the hay wouldn't last all day
  So choked herself to death."

The quantity of food proved by experiment to suffice for the best work, physical or mental, is surprisingly small. A feeling of emptiness, even, is better preparation for active exercise than one of satiety.

It is a national obsession with us that no meal is complete without meat.

Order fruit, a cereal, rolls and coffee, at the hotel some morning, and the chances are ten to one that the waiter will ask what you are going to have for breakfast, though you have already ordered more than is absolutely necessary for that meal, as demonstrated by the custom upon the Continent, where the sense of fitness is as much violated by the consumption of an enormous breakfast as it is with us by the omission of a single detail.

It may be asked if it is not subversive of discipline for the hotel habitué to become too easy-going. There is doubtless a limit to the virtue of allowing ourselves to be imposed upon, but there is little fear that the individual who opens the question will err in this direction. It behooves him rather to consider the danger of his occupying the unenviable position of the "fuss-budget."

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