To Eat Or Not To Eat

Paul Rozin at the Symposium.

Paul Rozin at the Symposium. Image credit: Nanna Rögnvaldardóttir

Paul Rozin, a plenary speaker at this past summer’s offal symposium, shares a gem from his insightful and entertaining talk: a rewriting of one of the Bard’s most famous soliloquies.

To eat, or not to eat – that is the question:
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mouth to suffer
The risk of foul effects of new ingestion
Or just reject the latest foods for supper
And by refusing, live on what I know
Is best. For in this act, at once I’m blessed –
No aches from strange food dished! A consummation
devoutly to be wished. To sniff, to taste,
To chew, to eat the known; aye, there’s the grub!
Yet in that state of neophobic bliss
There are such wondrous foods that I will miss,
Which gives me pause. These are insights
That make calamities of mortal bites
For who could bear the fumes of foreign foods
That have such vicious sights: the slime of snails;
The stink of Stilton, stress of spleen, and scare
Of squid? The clash of clams? The shock of shark?
And lo – the comfort foods that doth me please:
Potato mash, majestic Mac and cheese,
And creamy custard mitigate the gloom,
They smooth and soothe and make my psyche bloom,
Familiar foods that sweetly ease my soul.
‘Tis wisdom makes me guard my buccal hole
To quell the dread of something that I ate,
The unacquainted food whose toxic mode
With pain or death transforms us with its load.
This makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of.
Thus caution does make cowards of us all –
I’ll never taste a lissome leg of frog
Or bloated blowfish, tasty but unsafe,
Or slice of snake sautéed with grace in grog;
Adieu to Roquefort, all the foods of France…
But NO! Food’s much too fun, I’ll take my chance,
I’ve come back to my taste and smelling senses
I’ll face the risk, my liver has defenses
My mouth awaits, my tongue is tightly tuned,
My jaw’s unclenched, my palate pertly primed –
For gustatory pleasure comes as well
With chances of a gustatory hell.


by Paul Rozin and William Shakespeare (authors in alphabetical order)
Thanks to Josh Evans, Virginia Valian and Bee Wilson for helpful suggestions in the editing process.