Art, Food and Mental Illness: Why Van Gogh Should Have Eaten More Bacon

bacon mental illness van gogh Mar 29, 2014

Vincent Van Gogh’s birthday is coming up March 30th, and I sure wish he’d eaten more bacon, the ultimate “feel good” food.   Van Gogh spent most of his short life lonely, impoverished and certifiably mad, with self-mutilating behaviors that included burning his fingers, cutting off part of his ear, killing his brain cells with absinthe, and ending it all at age 37 with a gun.

Would bacon have made everything better?  Hard to say, but it’s certainly possible.

Bacon could have increased his Vitamin D levels, improved his fatty acid profile, helped his body detoxify turpentine, aided his attempts to quit absinthe, stabilized his blood sugar, stopped the mood swings, reduced anxiety, enhanced his coping skills and even him helped him sleep.  What’s more, bacon’s salt and savory sweetness could have reduced any feelings of deprivation and lack.

Van Gogh though preferred not to eat meat.  In W. H. Auden’s  1961 book Van Gogh: A Self-Portrait; Letters Revealing His Life as a Painter, we learn he would eat only a “little morsel on Sundays, and then only after being urged by our landlady for a long time.   Four potatoes with a suspicion of gravy and a mouthful of vegetable constituted his whole dinner.”   No wonder he was mentally and physically malnourished.   Vegans, I suppose, will claim the fault lay in that “little morsel” of meat and the “suspicion of gravy.”

Would Van Gogh have been pleased to see “Starry Night,” his most famous work, swirling about the internet in a version done with strips of bacon?  Probably not, but the good news is if he’s rolling in his grave, he might get up and start painting again.  As for the rest of us, laughter is good medicine, an invitation not to take ourselves too seriously, and a much needed reminder that bacon the “feel good” food might be just the thing to support our inner pig.

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