This fear of food can be hard to swallow
BEHAVIORAL scientists, which is to say, scientists who study behavior, not scientists who behave, have identified a new eating disorder, "orthorexia nervosa," a pathological obsession for biologically pure food.
People with orthorexia nervosa are happy to finally have a complicated Greek word assigned to their condition because, until now, they were simply known as "picky eaters."
We all know orthorexiacs, or whatever you call them. They are the crazy aunties who compulsively wash an apple until the red comes off or put a stalk of broccoli at the supermarket through a forensic examination worthy of a CSI investigator searching for the tiniest hint of pesticide residue.
Orthorexia nervosa can now share the stage with such well-known eating disorders as anorexia nervosa, bulimia and, I suppose, good old-fashioned gluttony.
I SUSPECT that any country that is home to a wide range of eating disorders probably has too much food.
For instance, you don't find anorexia -- literally the "fear of food" -- in places such as Bangladesh, where inhabitants are more concerned with the "fear of starving." Nor would you find many orthorexiacs there because an apple, whether tainted with pesticides, herbicides or Red Dye No. 23 is still an apple and so, better to eat than a dirt clod. (A famous Bangladeshi saying is "An apple a day keeps the coroner away.")
With so much food being consumed in the United States, even more eating disorders soon will be discovered. Here are a few to look for:
Mayorexia nervosa: The perfectly normal revulsion to mayonnaise, characterized by screaming hissy fits whenever a cook contaminates your cheeseburger with the dreaded white slime.
Bulimia liverosa: A childhood disorder related to being forced to consume liver. When forced to eat liver, bulimia liverosa sufferers involuntarily "eject" it from their stomachs in a dramatic projectile fashion in which chunks of the gamy fried organ have been known to travel great distances.
Brusselssproutsorexia: The deadly fear of small, green cabbage-like objects.
Coldpizzamamamiathatsamore: The love of cold pizza for breakfast.
Spamorexia suprema: The obsessive, unconditional adoration of canned luncheon meat, particularly when properly cooked (iron skillet, high heat until the smoke alarm goes off).
Musubiphobia: The unreasonable dread of any food product placed on a clump of rice and wrapped in seaweed.
Manapua ridiculosia: A disturbing obsessive-compulsive need to have every food item wrapped in dough, steamed into a bun and then stamped with a little red Chinese mark before eating. If you see a family member making a tater tot or marinated artichoke manapua, get him to a behavioral scientist right away.
Charles Memminger, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists' 2004 First Place Award winner for humor writing, appears Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org