Eat, Pray, Love Author So Spiritual She Eats Veal

Early in the pages of Eat, Pray, Love, on her way to India, author Elizabeth Gilbert drops an ominous omen: she recounts a Gandhi joke.

Dining on the intestines of a newborn lamb she says she observed to her companion that Gandhi “never ate lamb intestines in his life.”

“But vegetarians can eat this,” responds Luca. “Intestines aren’t even meat, Liz. They’re sh–.” Ha Ha!

A few pages later, buying a fur hat, Gilbert sees humor in the disappointing veal she recently ate for dinner. “Are these called Mrs. Paul’s Veal Sticks” she and a friend chortle.

Visitors to Gilbert’s web site used to be greeted by an image of a little girl covered with flies in keeping with Gilbert’s spiritual quest and what she calls her “peace summit.”

But nowhere on the site will visitors see the sequestration of the newborn veal calf– or harvesting of “intestines of a newborn lamb”–behind the meals she extols.

Writing a book about looking for God–and finding him and having him talk directly to you!–always puts someone at risk of hubris. Not only do you violate the axiom “those who speak don’t know; those who know don’t speak,” you probably violate the axiom, “don’t think less of yourself; think of yourself less.”

Especially because when God “tells” you to go back to bed as he does to Gilbert twice in Eat, Pray, Love, you’re one step away of saying he found you a parking space or spared your bingo game rain.

Critics have assailed Gilbert’s Italy/India/Indonesia travelogue as a rich woman’s sojourn. It’s not too hard to find God, they say, biking on the beach at sunset on the island of Bali on a big book advance.

But it isn’t Gilbert’s upper middle class hauteur in which scrubbing floors and mosquito bites are the Long Night Of The Soul that makes Eat, Pray, Love a spiritual blasphemy.

It isn’t her aren’t-I-complex-and-interesting! disquisitions that blot almost every page like this passage where she ponders the source of her despair:

Was it psychological. (Mom and Dad’s fault?) Was it temporal, a “bad time” in my life? (When the divorce ends, will the depression end with it?) Was it genetic? (Melancholy, called by many names, has run through my family for generations, along with its sad bride, Alcoholism.) Was it cultural? (Is this just the fallout of a postfeminist American career girl trying to find balance in an increasingly stressful and alienating urban world?) Was it astrological? (Am I so sad because I’m a think-skinned Cancer whose major signs are all ruled by unstable Gemini?) Was it artistic? (Don’t creative people always suffer from depression because we’re so supersensitive and special?) Was it evolutionary? (Do I carry in me the residual panic that comes after millennia of my species’ attempting to survive a brutal world?) Was it karmic? (Are all these spasms of grief just the consequences of bad behavior in previous lifetimes, the last obstacles before liberation?) Was it hormonal? Dietary? Philosophical? Seasonal? Environmental? Was I tapping into a universal yearning for God? Did I have a chemical imbalance? Or did I just need to get laid?

No, what makes Eat, Pray, Love a spiritual blasphemy is the progression of veal, pork, rabbits, turkeys, lambs, sausages, sardines, octopuses, oxtails and newborns’ intestines that adorn Gilbert’s spiritual plate.

Gilbert knows all about Yoga, mantras, Brahmans, Buddhism, Hinduism, Zen, the Hopi Indians and Apollonius of Tyana; she’s down with St. Theresa, St. Francis, the Kabbalah and Sufism.

But she was absent the day they taught Ahimsa–the doctrine of refraining from causing pain, injury or violence to any living thing. The doctrine that guides most spiritual leaders–and spiritual paths.

It’s not like Gilbert didn’t think about it. A friend told her eating meat amounted to “eating the fear of the animal at the moment of its death”–a fact confirmed by “red bird” chickens and “PSE pork” (Pale, Soft, and Exudative) which result from the animal facing slaughter terror.

It’s just that she decided it was so much gobbledygook–like wearing “orange colored panties, to rebalance my sexual charkas.”

Besides, says Gilbert after leaving the meat-free ashram in India and digging into some pork, “I could never be a vegetarian, not with food like this in the world,” throwing out compassion and self-denial–the basis of spiritual observance–in one fell swoop.

“There is no such thing in this universe as hell, except maybe in our own terrified minds,” she gushes at the end of Eat, Pray, Love, all warm and fuzzy with God, tucking into her veal.

Martha Rosenberg is a columnist/cartoonist who writes about public health. Her first book, titled Born with a Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp the Public Health, has just been released by Prometheus Books. She can be reached at: martharosenberg@sbcglobal.net. Read other articles by Martha.

13 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Gary S. Corseri said on August 20th, 2010 at 9:59am #

    It’s a measure of the cesspoool decadence of our culture that a book like “Eat, Pray, Love” can be taken half-seriously and made into a major movie. At this point in our history, probably best to think in opposites: whatever the mass-media promulgate as “sacred” stuff is surely the devil’s spawn! (And I’m not even, you know, “religious”!) No hell but in our own “terrified minds” writes Gilbert? Well… yeah… isn’t that the point? And aren’t we constantly shoving more and more hell into our minds, consuming food, people, things and the planet itself with the utter murderous abandonment of children playing cowboys and Indians! When… when shall we grow up?

    Much thanks, Martha!

  2. mary said on August 20th, 2010 at 11:58am #

    I see that the name of the film (mercifully not yet released in the UK) is abbreviated to ‘Love” in this piece.

    http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKTRE67C1UU20100813

    For Love say Greed. A massive marketing exercise is attached to this film within the US and in the other countries where it will be shown.

    The people of Bali were told to ‘Be quiet and do nothing’ when the location shots were being filmed. Ms Roberts put on 11 lbs in Italy (shock horror!)and the Hindu locals were aggravated when one of their religious festivals was interrupted. I gleaned these snippets trawling for a review but there seem to be none in the UK press.

    Total triviality and trash is being offered yet again by the financial mafiosa of the film industry. I recall John Pilger’s words on some of the recent Hollywood output.

    http://www.newstatesman.com/film/2010/02/pilger-iraq-oscar-american-war

  3. Don Hawkins said on August 20th, 2010 at 1:12pm #

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s0bh77k2Wdk&feature=player_embedded

    And aren’t we constantly shoving more and more hell into our minds and if you watch this note the subliminal and where they say “were coming after you”. Oh no you’re not wise ones. The games these few play with one another in the cesspoool decadence of our culture and how many day’s until the election talk about a headache. “Were coming after you”, you can’t make this stuff up then again maybe they can. The music was different.

  4. Deadbeat said on August 20th, 2010 at 5:38pm #

    Yeah this book is “spiritual” alright. It amazes me how such bullshit can be taken so seriously and make mad money that it can only be spiritual.

  5. BartFargo said on August 20th, 2010 at 9:12pm #

    I’m surprised she didn’t go for gold and wolf down some foie gras just so she could try to give foodies the ethical justification they so sorely lack.

  6. mary said on August 21st, 2010 at 3:33am #

    Obamerama flew Michelle to New York for dinner not long after he became GWB Mk II. They ate at the Blue Hill restaurant and then went to a ‘show’ about the emancipation of slaves.

    Perhaps Michelle chose this item off the menu which I have just consulted -

    Rabbi Bob’s Veal
    peaches, nectarines, preserved tomatoes, squash stalks and ratatouille
    35

    I assume that 35 means $35. How the other half live!

    Is she becoming the Marie Antoinette of Amerika? There is lots of stuff on the net about what she eats and with whom eg organic lobster and lamb with Oprah recently. As Gary Corseri said recently, Something’s Wrong Somewhere.

  7. Mulga Mumblebrain said on August 21st, 2010 at 9:09am #

    I’m not sure whether to attach more ‘significance’ to Gilbert’s self-obsession (such a hallmark of our Yankee masters)and pathological egotism, or to its symbolism.After all, scarcely a couple of hundred years of unrestrained and thoughtless conspicuous consumption by the likes of Gilbert and the other Western elites (and their various compradores around the world), has transported us to within decades of self-destruction. We’ve destroyed the natural world, exterminated all the large wild animals,emptied the seas of fish,even decimated the insects save in the shrinking refuges of tropical forests, and filled the void with every type of filth excreted from our individual and industrial digestive apparatuses. Gilbert, with her meaty diet, no doubt leaves behind a particularly sticky and tenacious (and malodorous)residue.
    The insatiable elites who can travel the world consuming ravenously as the planet’s biospheres rapidly collapse represent the ghastly union of scatology and eschatology,as our rapidly dementing (literally and metaphorically) species drowns in its own excrescence, filling its planetary nest with that one ubiquitous product of all our hubris and self-adoration, that simple,undifferentiated substance into which we have transformed all the incredible diversity of life on earth -shit.

  8. Charlie said on August 21st, 2010 at 2:33pm #

    On Ms. Gilbert’s “official” website, she favors us with this little tidbit: “I believe that – if you are serious about a life of writing, or indeed about any creative form of expression – that you should take on this work like a holy calling. I became a writer the way other people become monks or nuns. I made a vow to writing, very young. I became Bride-of-Writing. I was writing’s most devotional handmaiden. I built my entire life around writing.”

    The bride of writing? I think Eat, Pray, Love serves nicely as the notice of an annulment.

  9. Hue Longer said on August 21st, 2010 at 2:51pm #

    Mulga,

    Nice to see you back, poet

  10. kalidas said on August 23rd, 2010 at 1:52pm #

    I wonder if the Dalai Lamawas in the front row at the opening.

    http://www.harekrsna.com/sun/editorials/08-10/editorials6458.htm

  11. mary said on August 23rd, 2010 at 3:04pm #

    Good on Norm Phelps for exposing, and challenging, a hypocrite.

    Kalidas did you ever read Hello Dalai by Gary Corseri? I remember when typing my comment that there was a thunderclap and a lightning strike and the computer crashed. Down the road a cottage was struck and caught fire.

    http://dissidentvoice.org/2008/04/hello-dalai/

  12. kalidas said on August 23rd, 2010 at 4:42pm #

    I remember that well, Mary.

    I always enjoy Gary’s inspired words and how he always gives thanks for this appreciation and compliments to a good thought.

  13. mary said on September 13th, 2010 at 4:06pm #

    Have we reached the nadir?
    An animal died for this exhibitionist.

    http://content.usatoday.com/communities/entertainment/post/2010/09/lady-gaga-explains-her-vma-raw-meat-dress/1