The Organic Food Placebo

Last month my parents threw a party to mark their 50th wedding anniversary. After dinner, dad gave a speech recalling their honeymoon, for which they traveled from Scotland to Port Bou, a village on the France-Spain border squeezed between the Mediterranean Sea and the Pyrenees. While he was discretely sketchy about certain aspects of the adventure, he vividly described meals as though he'd just eaten them.Food rationing was just ending in the Britain of 1954. After years of compulsory restricti

Richard Gallagher
Oct 10, 2004

Last month my parents threw a party to mark their 50th wedding anniversary. After dinner, dad gave a speech recalling their honeymoon, for which they traveled from Scotland to Port Bou, a village on the France-Spain border squeezed between the Mediterranean Sea and the Pyrenees. While he was discretely sketchy about certain aspects of the adventure, he vividly described meals as though he'd just eaten them.

Food rationing was just ending in the Britain of 1954. After years of compulsory restriction, people were free again to indulge in meat, butter, sugar, eggs, and white bread. This probably helps explain why his memories of those dinners were so clear.

But the availability of food and contemplation of its pleasures have always been important for one reason or another. These days, for the relatively affluent – which includes many readers of The Scientist but, sadly, not the majority of our fellow human...