The Indignity of Ice Cream Cones


Those of us who have followed the thinking and career of Leon Kass, the former head of President Bush's Council on Bioethics, are puzzled that Kass' well-known distaste for eating ice cream cones in public has once again surfaced in the media.

I suspect that Kass' strong views on consuming ice cream have returned to the public discourse because they are cited in a fascinating New Republic article on human dignity by Harvard linguist Steven Pinker (more on that in another blog post). For an hilarious take on it, click onto NPR's humorous quiz show "Wait, Wait" this weekend (Panel #2) quoting Kass' 1994 book, The Hungry Soul: Eating and the Perfecting of Our Nature. In that book, Kass declares:

Worst of all from this point of view are those more uncivilized forms of eating, like licking an ice cream cone --a catlike activity that has been made acceptable in informal America but that still offends those who know eating in public is offensive.

I fear I may by this remark lose the sympathy of many readers, people who will condescendingly regard as quaint or even priggish the view that eating in the street is for dogs.

In the meantime, Kass does have defenders. In any case, it's something to think about as you enjoy your Memorial Day ice creams, sherbets, and gelatos.