In Aurora Leigh (1856) by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora's cousin Romney Leigh complains about the character of the times:
We’re too materialistic,—eating clay,
(Like men of the west) instead of Adam’s corn
And Noah’s wine; clay by handfuls, clay by lumps,
Until we’re filled up to the throat with clay,
And grow the grimy colour of the ground
On which we are feeding.
Book VIII, lines 630–635.
Who are the “men of the west” who eat clay? The Oxford University Press edition says:
Philistines were men of the west, attacking the children of Israel. Adam’s wheat and Noah’s wine were given by God, and were not merely material things like the dust that the serpent in the garden of Eden was condemned to eat. Carlyle complained in ‘Signs of Times’ (1829) that the nineteenth century was a materialist and not a religious age.
Josie Billington & Philip Davis, eds. (2014). Elizabeth Barrett Browning, p. 548. Oxford University Press.
I don’t find this at all convincing. Ancient Philistia was to the west of Judea, but were Philistines really known as “men of the west”? The serpent in Genesis 3:14 is cursed to “eat dust all the days of your life”, not clay, and in any case the text says that it is the “men of the west” who eat clay, not the serpent, who is not mentioned or alluded to (unless you think “Adam” is sufficient to bring it to mind). Is there a better explanation?