NPR’s The Salt ran a great piece that reminds us of the power of food.
Did you know that Thomas Edison used soup as an interviewing tool? He had prospective job applicants taste while he observed them carefully. Those who seasoned the soup — with pepper, for instance — before tasting it were rejected outright. They had too many assumptions.
Leonardo da Vinci, Gandhi, George Bernard Shaw and the Nobel Prize-winning mathematician Norbert Wiener were all vegetarians, some say the list also includes Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein.
Aristophanes, the ancient Greek satirist, stated that the keen Athenian intellect was due to to their low-calorie diet.
Charles Darwin not only studied exotic animals, he also ate them. While studying at Cambridge University, he headed the Glutton Club, whose members met weekly to eat "strange flesh," including owls, hawks and bittern.
And talking about restaurants, The Salt suggests that it might not be food and drink that fosters creativity but, rather, the conviviality and intellectual cross-fertilization that a good meal engenders.
A centerpiece of city life in Athens was the symposia, literally "drinking together." In 18th century Edinburgh, center of The Scottish Enlightenment, it was an establishment called the Oyster Club that served as intellectual blender. The club's founders — economist Adam Smith and philosopher David Hume — consumed bushels of oysters and cases of claret, while they discussed anything and everything.
And today we come full circle from the 1900’s golden age in Vienna, where the coffeehouse, we would call them Starbucks, was the greatest example of a dining establishment as creativity engine where anyone could join in for the price of a cheap cup of coffee. They supplied the day's newspapers, carefully mounted on long wooden poles. This is where you went to find out what was happening around the corner, or halfway around the world. The Salt calls it “the Internet of its day.”
Perhaps a lesson for those contemplating “grocerants” and underscoring that the food is important, but the social aspect is key to success.