Actions Louder Than Groans, Part 3: Beyond Thunderdome.

well folks, because apparently nobody seems to know:

crapula (n)  “the sickness or indisposition following upon a drunken or gluttonous debauch.”


crapulent (adj) – to be sick, or, as it were, indisposed by having eaten or drank too much. i particularly enjoy this, from Blount (1656): “surfeiting or oppressed with surfeit


there is also something quite satisfying about the employment of “indisposition,” above. “disposition,” of course, refers to arrangement, order, being put-together (from L. disposito, one thinks also of Foucault’s dispositif, for the discourses, texts, instruments, institutions and practices arrayed about a particular object that give it its sense, its meaning and efficacy), but if one thinks also of “disposition” in terms of what one is disposed toward, what one is prepared to do, the use of indisposition to mean “unwell” becomes particularly evocative: to occupy a general state of not being willing, prepared, or inclined toward anything. what better description of the truly, wretchedly ill; or for that matter, the truly, wretchedly full?

this Thanksgiving train of thought was all set off by me having the singular experience this year of leaving a Thanksgiving table not grossly, unpleasantly overfed. not because i did not eat enough, or because the food was sub-par, quite the opposite. in fact, i believe it may have been the first time that i was truly satisfied by what i ate at such a dinner. i make no attempt to generalize from my experience; this is merely a way of making sense of my own situation, but it occurs to me that it is a combination of the ritualistic gluttony of the holiday with a certain banality of its average fare that produces a situation where we feel compelled to dispatch plate after plate of turkey and mashed potatoes as if each time we are expecting to find writ across the freshly-scraped surface of the plate some longed-for truth. it is the dissonance between a meal which is supposed to be “special”, but is comprised of food that is not itself totally compelling, so that one ironically feels compelled to plow through it, questing for that ever-elusive satiety, that we are denied and given surfeit in its stead. it is perhaps a mercy that we are too stultified by the end of the affair to acutely register our disappointment.

Jonathan Meades wrote similarly about Christmas for The Guardian last year, although his is more polemic against the overdressing of the traditional British meal, and is a little more on the snobbish side than i am comfortable being. but his description of such holiday cooking as “centrifugal” touches on the same idea of a sort of an ‘absent centre’ around which the maelstrom of food and festivity swirls.

perhaps this is irremediable? or perhaps the food just needs to be better. i found myself at this dinner actually quite happy with what i had eaten, happy in a way that did not demand that i eat more. i had, in a sense, been lucky enough to find the food’s measure*, and in the process, not be fooled into thinking that more of a delicious thing (or worse, a merely half-decent thing) was necessarily going to get me anywhere i wanted to be. i suppose that is what they call satisfaction.


to think, after all these years…




* pace Charlie Fortnum in Graham Greene’s The Honorary Consul, who argued “above all else – know your proper measure.” which should not be mistaken for a philosophy of moderation; rather, it is the basis of his belief that each and every alcohol has its measure, one needed only to find it and abide, and one would stay happily afloat, not consumed by drunkenness.


2 thoughts on “Actions Louder Than Groans, Part 3: Beyond Thunderdome.

  1. Pingback: Jonah Campbell: Food and the imaginary | Afterword | Arts | National Post

  2. Pingback: Aim Low, the Chariot May Swing to Meet Your Mark. | still crapulent

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