I was a glutton in a past life


I think I may be a reincarnated Benedictine Monk.

And not just any reincarnated Benedictine monk, either. A gyrovague. Oh, yes.

Several synods of the Catholic church-notably in 451 and 787- became increasingly exasperated with gyrovagues.

They didn’t have to be Benedictine but they did have to be cloisterless. They would not settle in a monastery, but travelled from place to place. And as a man they acquired the worst reputation possible. They sold confessions, and fake relics, and spent their ill-gotten gains on gluttony and the passions.

Recognise the type? He swaggers though the Canterbury Tales: here’s a rough translation of our introduction to the portly rogue:

“The rule of Maurice or Saint Benedict,

By reason it was old and somewhat strict,

This said monk let such old things slowly pace

And followed new-world manners in their place.

He cared not for that text a clean-plucked hen

Which holds that hunters are not holy men

Nor that a monk, when he is cloisterless,

Is like unto a fish that’s waterless;

That is to say, a monk out of his cloister.

But this same text he held not worth an oyster.”

The average monk, a three-year-study of Mediaeval monks found, would eat 6,000 calories on a good day. 4,500 a day when they were fasting. Which gyrovagues didn’t.

It is the whole gluttony business which convinces me I have carried my attitude to food from a past life. I do not need to by hungry to eat: I eat for pure pleasure. I arrived at for an evening restaurant meal with friends recently and confessed artlessly that I had helped the children with their chicken nuggets and chips before I came out.

My hor d’oeuvres had not the slightest effect upon my main meal.

Monks did not wear trousers. This is an important facet of knowing when enough is enough. When your trousers get tight to the point that you get cross with them, it is time to do something.

So while in another life my robes just got increasingly voluminous, in this one Marks and Spencer’s formed a strict governor greater than all the powers of Holy Mother Church.

My trousers began to enrage me.

So, with a sigh, my husband and I resolved to do something about it. And it appears that after manymanymany years of spartan diets there is one for past-life gluttonous Benedictine gyrovagues.

It is called the 2 in 7 diet, and I expect some of you are on it too. Only we never do things by halves, and we went for 4 in 7: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, we eat, drink and be merry.

So Monday is generally manageable because we’re still working off Sunday’s excesses.

By Tuesday I am thinking: “Are we nearly there yet?” and the next two days stretch out like a yawning chasm, a wasteland. Dinner seems woefully inadequate, but I am ravenous, and every mouthful achieves incredible significance.

By Wednesday, Eating has become a deeply spiritual occupation. I commune with my food. This Wednesday I got to the bottom of my chicken soup and spoke to the void. “Bye bye, soup. You were really lovely. Let’s do this again very soon.”

My daughter rolled her eyes. “Good grief, Mum’s talking to her dinner now,” she observed to the deeply attentive cat who, for the record, may also be a past-life Benedictine gyrovague because he eats everything available all of the time.

Thursday. Life is monochrome: melon has lost any charm it had at the beginning of the week. Thank God for work away from the kitchen cupboards. I send up a silent prayer of thanks Β to he whom I must have been petitioning for a thousand years if my reckoning is right.

Today I went out to the shops and bought bacon. And I shall wake tomorrow, and grill Phil and I a deeply irreligious bacon sandwich. No, two. No, make that four.

It’s tough being a former gyrovague.



40 thoughts on “I was a glutton in a past life

  1. 4 in 7 is tough. how about one up one down. One day ‘normal’ trying to make it healthy, one day down, much more restricted?

    i wonder how many of them had ever taken vows, or did they just don a habit and go walkabout? Or were they cast out, but liking the habit of unrestricted eating, remained in the habit?

    1. Four in seven IS tough. I am on Thursday and I am a little light headed. But I have three days of sinful gluttony stretching ahead of me. Culloo, cullay.

      1. Bending the rules again πŸ™‚ I am bound by the days I am away from the kitchen cupboards. There is no point in me doing it on days when I am at home because I would end up eating everything in sight.

      2. hehehe, I have a veggie and nut lunch box every day. but when I’m home I still pack it and put it next to me on the table. Most days that sorts out the eating everything in sight issue!

  2. 4?
    I admire your dedication. I survive the second day only by not eating at all until about 4pm, then eating all my calories in a few hours- porridge, M&S low cal meal (why make the effort of cooking something tasteless and not filling?) and fruit. Four days, no, I couldn’t sustain that.
    Well done you!
    Also, I want the monk’s fast πŸ™‚

  3. 80-20 rule for me. 80% of the time very healthy foods, red wine, dark chocolate. 20% of the time don’t even worry about it, eat what you want. Seems to work and then one never has to “diet”.

  4. Never heard of a gyrovague. Mind you, perhaps I am one, because I get a very vague sense of direction after any time spent on the merry-go-round with the kids.
    The communion with chicken soup had me disturbing the others here present with guffaws.

    1. Sounds like you have the perfect credentils to be a gyrovague, Col. And I can reveal I have been talking to food again this week.

      Gluttony tomorrow once again.Huzzah.

  5. I’m still doing Dukan. Whatever one does, it’s the lifestyle part that gets them. I admire you and Phil for 4 out of 7. I may go have a couple of pieces of thick cut applewood smoked bacon in your honor……..enjoy your bacon sandwiches, Kate.

  6. 4 out of 7 sounds like a good idea. It’s certainly not as extreme as some diets. Did you ever hear about Christian Bale’s apples only diet for his role in The Machinist? Those monks really were greedy. They must have been eating a massive amount to consume that many calories in a pre-chocolate and chips world.

    1. Apples only. Sounds positively Narnian: that’s what the children had to survive on when they bumped off an English railway station and into Cair Paravel in ‘Prince Caspian’.

      I’m rambling, because I’m on day 4 again. Food tomorrow. Now. The Monks diet consisted of things like suet, lard and butter which were ‘wolfed down in startling quantities…’ You think that might have done the trick, Guy?

  7. Now I have an explanation for my behavior. Thank you. I’m a reincarnated gyrovague. I love bacon. Haven’t bought any for several months because we’re supposed to keep only healthy things in the house because we’re such gyrovagues.

    1. There is a 105-year-old woman who attributes her longevity to . . . BACON! Oscar Meyer sent the weinermobile round to wish her a Happy Birthday and give her lots of FREE bacon. πŸ˜€

    2. These days they don’t give gyrovagues a chance, Gale; they’re in their with their calorie counting and their low-fat recipes. I say, bring me the voluminous sackcloth!

  8. I love bacon, too, Kate, but I only seem to eat it when I visit my sister over the holidays. She serves it every year with Xmas breakfast. I have so many dietary restrictions due to the severity of my gastrointestinal ills (everything’s completely under control) I’m lucky that I’m allowed to eat anything at all. But unfortunately, food with flavor dominates the “You Can’t Eat This Ever or You Will Surely Suffer” list. Thank you for adding gyrovague to my vocabulary. Milton has a bit of that in him, especially when he’s around cake.

  9. Those monks had the right idea wearing flowing robes to hide their mead bellies! Good Luck on your 4-3 diet. Enjoy that soup . . . “my precious, my precious.”

    1. Ha! My family are laighing at me tonight because my conversation is suffused by mentions of foodstuffs. I have just referred to a favourite skirt as ‘chocolate brown’.

  10. Dear Kate, that’s a new word for me. I simply use that old word “syrabite” to describe my delight in food–the taste, the texture, the smell, the sight of it. I’m doing Weight Watchers and have lost 18 pounds, but last week my will gave in to my cravings and I ate a whole sleeve of saltines with peanut butter one night; a whole bag of corn chips another night; and handfuls of dried cranberries and blueberries mixed with walnut on the third night. Today I had a banana and fresh strawberries with soy milk. Yum! Yum! Ah, so now I’m a gryovague–a gyrating wandered…..among the food aisles and the refrigerator and the pantry! Peace.

  11. 4 in 7! Yep, that just about describes it perfectly. Add my name to the list of those who didn’t know the word gryovague! I must figure out how to discreetly drop that into a sentence from time to time. πŸ™‚ I hope the bacon was wonderful!!

  12. Kate, my hubby and I try to follow the Mediterranean diet. We have chicken twice a week, fish twice a week, and the rest is vegetarian – if you don’t count the shrimp tempura sushi I have on Fridays. We also practice portion control and had a food journal which did make me more mindful about what – and how much – I was eating. It did help.

    Best wishes to you and your hubby.

    1. Portion control is just an undiscovered country to me, Judy. The thought of not being able to eat as much of what I want as I want is traumatising. I fear the inner glutton has his sandals under the table…

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