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Choice Cuts features more than two hundred pieces, from Cato to Cab Calloway. Here are essays by Plato on the art of cooking . . . Pablo Neruda on french fries . . . Alice B. Toklas on killing a carp . . . M. F. K. Fisher on the virility of Turkish desserts . . . Alexandre Dumas on coffee . . . W. H. Auden on Icelandic food . . . Elizabeth David on the downward march of English pizza . . . Claude Lévi-Strauss on "the idea of rotten" . . . James Beard on scrambled eggs . . . Balzac, Virginia Woolf, E. M. Forster, ...
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Choice Cuts features more than two hundred pieces, from Cato to Cab Calloway. Here are essays by Plato on the art of cooking . . . Pablo Neruda on french fries . . . Alice B. Toklas on killing a carp . . . M. F. K. Fisher on the virility of Turkish desserts . . . Alexandre Dumas on coffee . . . W. H. Auden on Icelandic food . . . Elizabeth David on the downward march of English pizza . . . Claude Lévi-Strauss on "the idea of rotten" . . . James Beard on scrambled eggs . . . Balzac, Virginia Woolf, E. M. Forster, Chekhov, and many other famous gourmands and gourmets, accomplished cooks, or just plain ravenous writers on the passions of cuisine.
Presented by subject-including as "Food and Sex," "Bread," "Rants," and "Dessert" -- and illustrated with Kurlansky's own pen-and-ink drawings as well as classic photographs, Choice Cuts also features such curios as a first-century dinner invitation, "The Story of Crisco" (circa 1913), and "Gelatin Hints from Knox Dainty Dishes for Delicate People." In short, his wonderful collection, like the very best meal, is both nutritious and delicious.
"Every once in awhile a writer of particular skills takes a fresh, seemingly improbable idea and turns out a book of pure delight." That's how David McCullough described Mark Kurlansky's Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World, a work that revealed how a meal can be as important as it is edible. Salt: A World History, its successor, did the same for a seasoning, and confirmed Kurlansky as one of our most erudite and entertaining food authors. Now, the winner of the James Beard Award for Excellence in Food Writing shares a varied selection of "choice cuts" by others, as he leads us on a mouthwatering culinary tour around the world and through history and culture from the fifth century B.C. to the present day.
Choice Cuts Acknowledgments
Introduction: Better Than Sex
Chapter One: Gourmets and Gourmands
Mark Kurlansky on Gourmets (1999)
Ben Sira Against Gluttony (second century B.C.)
Le Mésnagier de Paris on Gluttony (1393)
Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin on Gourmets (1825)
Alexandre-Balthazar-Laurent Grimod de la Reynière on Gourmets and gluttons (1804)
Auguste Escoffier on the Art of Cooking in Modern Society (1907)
Henri Gault and Christian Millau on Nouvelle Cuisine (1973)
A.J. Liebling on Boxing Away Glottony (1959)
Chapter Two: Food and Sex
John Ash on M.F.K. Fisher's Warm Sandwich (1999)
M.F.K. FIsher on the Virility of Turkish Desserts (1937)
Emile Roumer on Peasant Love (1930)
Brillat-Savarin on Woman Gourmets (1825)
Grimod de la Reyniè on Why Blondes Go Better Than Brunettes with Food
M.F.K. Fisher on Bachelor Cooking
Chapter Three: Memorable Meals
Eating at Cab Calloway's (1948)
Martial's Dinner Invitation (first century A.D.)
Herodotus on Egyptian Dining (fifth century B.C)
Plutarch on Lucullus Dining with Himself (first century A.D.)
Frances Calderón de la Barca on Mexican Food (1842)
Lady Nugent on Overeating in Colonial Jamaica (1802)
Giuseppe Tomasi di lampedusa on Sicilian Dining (1958)
Chiquart on Preparing a Royal Feast (1420)
Ernest Hemingway on How He Likes to Eat (1951)
Sarah Josepha Hale on Thanksgiving Dinner (1841)
Nelson Algren on the Land of the Mighty Breakfast (1940)
W.H. Auden and Louis MacNeice on Icelandic Food (1936)
Hooker on Icelandic Food (1809)
Martial on Applause for Pomponius (first century A.D.)
Charles Dickens Dines at Delmonico's New York (1867)
Chapter Four: Favorite Restaurants
Irving Berlin on Lunching at the Automat (1932)
George G. Foster on New York Oyster Cellars (1850)
Joseph Wechsberg on Tafelspitz at Meissl and Schadn in Vienna (1948)
A.J. Liebling on Restaurant Maillabuau in Paris (1959)
M.F.K. Fisher on Monsieur Paul's (1943)
James Beard on Meier and Frank's in Portland (1964)
Lawrence Ferlinghetti's Café (1972)
Chapter Five: Markets
Émile Zola on the Triperie at Les Halles (1873)
Edna Ferber on a Chicago Market Window (1912)
Claude McKay on a Fruit Stand in Harlem (1930)
Samuel Chamberlain on the Fish Market in Marblehead, Mass. (1943)
Wole Soyinka on an Evening Market in Nigeria (1981)
Chapter Six: Not Eating
Sholum Aleichem on Yom Kippur (1902)
John Steinbeck on Starvation in California's Harvest (1938)
Mencius on Feeding China (third century B.C.)
Brillat-Savarin's Advice to Women Who Are Thin (1825)
Martial on Not Being Fed (first century A.D.)
Chapter Seven: Rants
Pellegrino Artusi Against Frying Salt Cod (1891)
Elizabeth David Against the Garlic Press (1986)
Alexis Soyer in Defense of the Frying Pan (1860)
Grimod de la Reynière Against Peacocks (1804)
Ludwig Bemelmans Against Paris Waiters (1964)
George Orwell on Paris Cooks and Waiters (1933)
A.J. Liebling Against Food That Does Not Know Its Own Mind (1959)
Karl Friedrich von Rumohr on Emotions to Be Avoided While Eating (1822)
Artial Against Poetry at the Table (first century A.D.)
Chapter Eight: On Bread Alone
Galen on Refined Bread (A.D. 180)
Platina on Bread (1465)
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings on Hot Biscuits and Dutch Oven Rolls (1942)
Clementine Paddleford on the Best Buns of 1949
Elizabeth David on Toast (1977)
Mimi Sheraton on Bialys (2000)
Chapter Nine: They Mystery of Eggs
A Baghdad Recipe for Onions and Eggs (1373)
Hanna Glasse on Making Eggs (1747)
Lydia Maria Child on Poached Eggs (1829)
Pellegrino Artusi on Drinking Eggs (1891)
James Beard on Scrambled Eggs (1974)
Angelo Pellegrini on Chicken Intestine Omelettes (1948)
Chapter Ten: Eating your Vegetables
Cato on Preserving Green Olives (second century A.D)
Pliny the Elder on Onions (first century A.D.)
M.F.K. Fisher on the Dislike of Cabbage (1937)
Cato on Cabbage Eaters (second century B.C.)
Elena Molokhovets on Borscht (1897)
James Beard on Radishes (1974)
Karl Frierich von Rumohr on Cucumbers (1822)
Jane Grigson on Laver (1978)
Giacomo Castelvetro on Spinach (1614)
Karl Friedrich von Rumohr on Spinach (1822)
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings on Okra (1942)
Annabella P. Hill's Gumbo (1872)
Giacomo Castelvetro on Artichokes (1614)
Chapter Eleven: A Hill of Beans
Galen on Beans and Peas (A.D. 180)
Waverly Root on Cassoulet (1958)
Jose Maria Busca Isusi on the Smoothness of Tolosa Beans (1972)
Chapter Twelve: The Fish That Didn't Get Away
Alice B. Toklas Murders a Carp (1954)
Taillevent's Oyster Stew (1390)
Robert May on Oyster Stew (1685)
Anton Chekhov on Oysters (1884)
Eleanor Clark on Belons (1959)
Archestratus on Small Fry Filefish, and Sowfish (330 B.C.)
Jose Maria Busca Isusi on Cod and on the Basque Problem (1983)
Tabitha Tickletooth on the Dread Fried Sole (1860)
Alexandre Dumas Père on Crabs (1873)
Peter Lund Simmonds on Land Crabs (1859)
Caroline Sullivan's Jamican Land Crabs (1893)
Jose Maria Busca Isusi on Eels (1983)
Ernest Hemingway on Fish in the Seine (1964)
Chapter Thirteen: Poultry, Fowl, and Other Ill-Fated Birds
Anthimus on Chicken, Peacocks, and Other Domestic Poultry (sixth century A.D.)
Caliph al-Ma'mun on Chicken and Pistacios (1373)
Hannah Glasse on Turkey (1747)
Waverly Root on Guinea Fowl (1980)
F.T. Cheng on Bird's Nest (1954)
Ludwig Bemelmans on Poulets de Bresse (1942)
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings on Killing Birds (1942)
Rawling's Blackbird Pie (1942)
Chapter Fourteen: The Meat of the Matter
Plutarch on Eating Meat (first century A.D.)
Claude Levi-Strauss on Boiled vs. Roasted (1968)
Alexandre Dumas Père on Beefsteak (1873)
Anthimus on Eating Raw Meat (sixth century A.D.)
Nelson Algren on Nebraska Buffalo Barbeque (1940)
Samuel Chamberlain on the Sunday Evening Barbeque (1943)
M.F.K. Fisher on Tripe (1968)
Grimod de la Reynière on Pigs (1804)
Apicius on Sow's Belly and Fig-Fed Pork Liver (first century A.D.)
Mrs. Beeton on Sheep (1860)
Alexis Soyer on the Turkish Way to Roast Sheep (1857)
Le Mèsnagier de Paris on Faking Game Meat (1393)
Eliza Smith's Fake Venison (1758)
Eliza Smith on Recovering Venison When It Stinks (1758)
Neapolitan Recipe to Make a COw, Calf, or Stag Look Alive (fifteenth century)
Jane Grigson on Faggots and Peas (1974)
Apicius on Stuffed Dormice (first century A.D.)
Ludwig Bemelmans on Elephant Cutlets (1964)
Peter Martyr on Sea Turtles (1555) Alexis Soyer on Cooking Meat for Fifty Men (1857)
Chapter Fifteen: Easy on the Starch
Martino's Sicilian Macaroni (1420)
Shizuo Tsuli on Rice (1980)
Neapolitan Rice with Almonds (fifteenth century A.D.)
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings on Hush Puppies (1942)
Angelo Pellegrini on Polenta (1948)
Catherine E. Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe on Potatoes (1869)
Fannie Merritt Farmer on Potatoes (1932)
Pablo Neruda on French Fries (1954)
Chapter Sixteen: A Pinch of Seasoning
Pliny the Elder on Thyme (first century A.D.)
The Talmund on Garlic (A.D. 500)
Platina on Basil (1465)
Karl Friedrich von Rumohr on Sorrel (1822)
The Aobo Tu on Salt Making (1333-1335)
Chapter Seventeen: Just a Salad
Platina on Lettuce (1465)
François Rebelais on Eating Pilgrims in Salad (1534)
Giacomo Castelvetro Johnstone on Salads (1829)
Mrs. Beeton on Endive (1860)
Grimod de la Reynière's Warning on Celery (1804)
Chapter Eighteen: The Thing About Truffles
Waverley Root on Truffles (1980)
Giacomo Castelvetro on Truffles (1614)
Karl Friedrich von Rumohr on Edible Fungus (1822)
Ludwig Bemelmans on Pigs and Truffles (1964)
Pellegrino Artusi on Truffled Potatoes (1891)
Galen on Truffles (A.D. 180)
Chapter Nineteen: Loving Fat
Anthimus on Bacon (sixth century A.D.)
Newfies on Scrunchions (1974)
Platina on Olive Oil (1465)
Marion Harris Neil Tells the Story of Crisco (1913)
Fannie Merritt Farmer on Butter (1896)
Ludwig Bemelmans on the Buttermachine (1964)
William Verrall's Very Fat Peas (1759)
Chapter Twenty: Bearing Fruit
Roaring Lion on "Bananas" (1936)
Anthimus on Apples (sixth century A.D.)
Alexandre Dumas Père on Apples (1873)
Apicus on Preserving Fruit (first century A.D.)
Platina on Figs (1465)
Henry David Thoreau on European Cranberries (1859)
Henry David Thoreau on Watermelons (1859)
Ferdinand Hèdiard on Mangoes (1890)
Christopher Columbus on Pinapples (1493)
Lionel Wafer on Pinapples (1699)
Chapter Twenty-One: The Dark Side of Chocolate
Fransico de Quevedo on the Curse of Tobacco and Chocolate (1628)
Edward Kidder on Chocolate Cream (1730)
Brillat-Savarin on Chocolate (1825)
Alice B. Toklas on Hot Chocolate (1954)
James Beard on Hot Chocolate (1974)
Chapter Twenty-Two: Their Just Desserts
Pliny the Elder on Bees and honey (first century A.D.)
Galen on Pastry (A.D. 180)
Apicus on Rose Patina (first century A.D.)
A Baghdad Recipe for Meat, Sweets, and Bananas (1373)
Amelia Simmons's Independence Cake (1796)
Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa on Rum Jelly (1958)
Gelatin Hints fro Knox (1929)
Pellegrino Artusi on Ice Cream (1891)
M.F.K. Fisher on Gingerbread (1937)
Jane Grigson on English Puddings (1974)
William Ellis on Apple Pie (1750)
Hannah Glasse's Apple Pie (1747)
Chapter Twenty-Three: A Good Drink
Alexandre Dumas Père on Coffee (1873)
Sarah Josepha Hale on Drinking (1841)
Alexis Soyer on Soda Water (1857)
Brillat-Savarin on Water (1825)
Alexandre Dumas Père on Water (1873)
The Talmud on the Right amount of Wine (A.D. 500)
Maimonides on the Benefits of Wine (twelfth century)
A.J. Liebling on Rose Wine (1959)
George Sand on Eau-de-Vie (1959)
Anton Chekhov's Menu for Jountalists (c. 1880)
Frances Calderón de la Barca on Pulque (1840)
Malcolm Lowry on Mescal (1947)
Robert Rose-Rosette on Martinique Punch (1986)
Martial on Drinking Mates (first century A.D.)
Chapter Twenty-Four: Bugs
Frances Calderó de la barca on Mosquito Eggs (1840)
Peter Lund Simmonds on Edible Spiders (1859)
Vincent M. Holt on Eating Insects (1885)
Chapter Twenty-Five: The French
Jérôme Lippomano on How Parisians Eat (1577)
George Orwell on Being Hungry in Paris (1933)
Virginia Woolf on French Cooking (1927)
Alice B. Toklas on French Cooking (1954)
Thomas Jefferson on French Produce (1785)
Hannah Glasse on French Cooking (1747)
M.F.K. Fisher on Leaving France (1932)
Chapter Twenty-Six: The English
George Orwell on English Food (1933)
Jane Grigson on English Food (1970)
Elizabeth David on the Onward (and Downward) March of the English Pizza (1977)
E.M. Forster on Prunes and English Food (1944)
Giacomo Castelvetro on Prunes and England (1614)
Chapter Twenty-Seven: The Americans
Louis Prima on the Pizzeria (1944)
Larousse Gastronomique on American Food (1938)
Louis Diat's Oyster Crabs (1941)
Angelo Pellegrini on the Abundance of America (1948)
Joseph Wechsberg on Cooking for Americans (1948)
Alice B. Toklas on Gertrude Stein's Return to America (1954)
Chapter Twenty-Eight: The Germans
Tacitus on Germans (A.D. 98)
Joseph Wechsberg on Austrians (1948)
Karl Friedrich von Rumohr on Teaching Germans to Cook (1822)
Chapter Twenty-Nine: The Politics of Food
Honoré de Balzac on Eating (1828)
Curnonsky on Political Catagories for Gourmets (1950)
Émile Zola on Fat and Thin People at Les Halles (1873)
Lu Wenfo on Revolutionary Cuisine (1982)
Chapter Thirty: What Does It Mean?
Claude Levi-Strauss on the Idea of Rotten (1968)
Margaret Mead on the Meaning of Food (1970)
Plato on the Art of Cooking (387 B.C.)
Marcel Proust on Madeleines (1913)
A.J.Liebling on Proust (1959)
M.F.K. Fisher on Why She Writes About Food (1943)
Gourmets and Gourmands
Mark Kurlansky on Gourmets
No one ever knows when he is well-off. Whenever I was called a gourmet, I suspected I was being accused of something at least slightly unpleasant. But that was before I heard the term "foodie." I am still not sure that a gourmet is a good thing to be, but it must be better than a foodie.
Although I cannot say exactly what a gourmet is, like Justice Stewart said of pornography, I know it when I see it, and I am slipping into contemplation of the meaning of the word "gourmet" because I am clearly in the company of a couple of them. The two gourmets who have invited me to lunch in a rural Basque restaurant in the green mountains of Vizcaya province are a small, red-faced, and energetic author of a popular Spanish food guide and an enormously round and well-fed man of unclear profession whose business card labels him as "gastronomic adviser."
The enthusiastic author rates all his food from one to ten. He wants all of us to do the same. He gives the lomo, the thinly sliced burgundy-colored prime cut of cured pork, only an eight. The gastronomic adviser had ventured a nine, and so they turned to me, the indecisive Hamlet of the group, who requested clearer definitions of both eight and nine.
A gourmet, according to Webster's dictionary, is "a judge of choice foods." It comes from an old French word for a wine-tasting servant and is generally confused with the word "gourmand"--an old French word meaning glutton. From this it appears that medieval Frenchmen knew the difference between a judge--someone guided by intellect--and aglutton--someone guided by appetite. But contemporary Americans are somehow getting the two notions confused. In French, by the way, the two words are still distinct. When I wrote for the International Herald Tribune in Paris, the French accountant who processed my expenses used to delight in pointedly calling me "Monsieur Gourmand."
Is it a lingering Puritanism that causes Americans to suspect the analysis of a physical pleasure? In 1901, Picasso depicted in blue paint a little girl reaching up to a table to scrape a bowl. It is usually labeled by its French title, le gourmet. But at a recent show in New York it was translated into English as The Greedy Child. Is a gourmet greedy? In truth, most people who are labeled gourmets, like my two lunch companions, go beyond the act of judging and analyzing. They are arriving at their judgments by eating a lot of food. Is the discussion an excuse for the real act, which is eating? Picasso's little girl did eat all the contents of the bowl.
My gourmets are discussing the lobster. The red-faced author has given it a ten and is trying to get me to concede that these tough little clawed creatures shipped from northern Europe are far better than the lobster that come from what he does not realize is my native New England, which in fact they are not.
Plato would not have thought much of these two. He mistrusted any interest in the preparation or presentation of food. In The Republic he states that the enjoyment of food is not a true pleasure because the purpose of eating is to relieve pain--hunger. To turn it into more than that through culinary skills, to him, was the use of artifice to disguise the true nature of food and eating. In Gorgias he states that cooking "is a form of flattery . . . a mischievous, deceitful, mean and ignoble activity, which cheats us by shapes and colors, by smoothing and draping. . . ." Was Plato right that gourmetism is morally and intellectually suspect or was he simply one of those unfortunates with a rubber palate incapable of appreciating food's pleasures? Or both?
Gourmet is a word with dangerous boundaries. In itself it may be a worthwhile pursuit. Food is a central activity of mankind and one of the single most significant trademarks of a culture. Shouldn't someone be examining it? But the discipline risks perilous proximity to both physical and intellectual overindulgence. In his 1996 novel The Debt to Pleasure, John Lancaster toys with our suspicion of gourmets. The narrator of the book is a man who, as the character himself puts it, is engaged in "the application of intelligence to pleasure." While telling the story of his life he rambles on about soups, stocks, and curry. Discussion of the perfect vinaigrette leads to analysis of the perfect seven-to-one martini. The perfect everything must be espoused, declared, and examined. By instinct, the reader does not like this rambling dilettante full of unsolicited opinions. The beauty of this novel is that the writer makes the readers doubt themselves. At first we struggle to like him and the book, but we find him pompous, then unbearable. Just as we are growing angry with this book and its smug narrator, we start to realize that he is obsessive. The fault is not with the book nor with the reader. There truly is something "not right" about this man. His gourmetism is not about a universal pleasure, the common human experience of eating, but about setting himself apart, eating special foods, having special pleasures, being answerable only to special laws. Finally we realize that we were right to have suspected this gourmet, that he truly is deranged, in fact, a dangerous psychopath.
My tablemates don't like the monkfish, and only give it a five.
What should a gourmet look like? I'm afraid most Chinese would not accept my friend the fat gastronomic adviser as a gourmet. A true gourmet--a judge--has the wisdom to know when to stop eating. From Confucius to Mao, most Chinese philosophy has contended that excess is unnatural, wasteful, and alien to proper dining. Chinese food writing emphasizes the healthiness of gourmets and their choices. Otherwise gourmetism is suspect. The contemporary Chinese writer Lu Wenfu in his novella "The Gourmet" writes: "The word gourmet is pleasing to the ear, perhaps also to the eye. If you explain it in simple everyday language, however, its not so appealing. A gourmet is a person who is totally devoted to eating."
Karl Friedrich von Rumohr, an early-nineteenth-century gourmet, known in his language as a feinschmecker, literally a fine taster, not only separated gourmands and gourmets but perhaps shed some light on Plato when he wrote in 1822, "Dull witted brooding people love to stuff themselves with quantities of heavy food, just like animals for fattening. Bubbly intellectual people love foods which stimulate the taste buds without overloading the belly. Profound, meditative people prefer neutral foods which do not have an assertive flavor and are not difficult to digest, and therefore do not demand too much attention."
Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, the French lawyer, politician, and self-declared gourmet, also insisted that a true gourmet was health conscious. It is interesting to note that in France, gourmets, like intellectuals, are often self-declared. Curiously Brillat-Savarin rejected any distinction between the words "gourmet" and "gourmand," consistently calling the epicurean judges of food gourmands but denying that it had anything to do with gluttony. He did not have the American awkwardness about celebrating physical pleasure.
But plump men were of little appeal to Brillat-Savarin and so he denounced overeating by men while stating that women gourmets "are plump, chubby, pretty rather than beautiful, with a slight tendency to fullness of figure." In another work he wrote, "Gourmandism is far from unbecoming to women," and so we have a good idea of how Brillat-Savarin liked his gourmets.
Having finished and rated a light fruity young Basque Rioja, my well-fed, arithmetical lunch-mates opened a big imposing garnet-colored Rioja just as a thick, rare, salted, and grilled steak, a chuleta, is brought to our table. After giving it a ten, the food guide author placed the bone on my plate. "Take that," he says. "It's the best part, but you have to pick it up with your hands and gnaw on it." And he was right. A gourmet knows that the best part is not always the expensive part, and he will find that part, and then he will share it. A gourmet should want to share. Brillat-Savarin insisted on gourmets sharing.
I took the bone in my hands.
Judging foods without regard to price is a rich man's game, and yet poor people can be gourmets able to discern a good potato from a bad one. As though to underscore this point, the steak was followed by an oxtail stew, and this black-sauced peasant dish met with the double-digit rating as well. But not everyone could afford to be so tested. Only the rich can follow a thick, aged, choice steak with a stew from the tail. And so I sometimes wonder if it does not behoove those who have that luxury to talk less about it. It comes back to Plato's point. Fundamentally, gourmetism, unlike judging the fine points of art or
music, is focused on a biological need designed to ease the pain of hunger, and lifting it above this level implies overlooking the sad fact that some people do not have the means to assuage that pain.
Dessert arrives, a white mousse with a berry sauce, and my two friends are engaged in lively discourse over whether it contains queso de filadelfia, which further descends into competing eulogies in praise of cream cheese.
I wonder: Are people who spend all their time meticulously dissecting a physical pleasure far from needing a twelve-step program? In 1997 the American Academy of Neurology announced the discovery of something called gourmet syndrome: "a new eating disorder in which some patients with right anterior brain lesions suddenly become compulsively addicted to thinking about and eating fine foods." In this study of 723 patients with brain lesions, 36 were observed becoming gourmets, and of those, 34 were found to have lesions in the right anterior part of the brain. A businessman who preferred a good tennis match to dinner suffered a brain hemorrhage and afterward "couldn't stop talking or writing about food." One patient had been a political journalist until a brain hemorrhage led him to become a food writer. Maybe I should go to a doctor now for my scan.
Things are getting worse at the table. Over brandy and Cuban cigars they have turned from the cream cheese debate to the rating of Cuban versus Brazilian woman. I notice by the physical descriptions offered to bolster their arguments that they both like their women pretty much the way Brillat-Savarin did. That must be what gourmets like. Or is it gourmands?
--based on an article from Food & Wine magazine, October 1999
Ben Sira Against Gluttony
In the second century b.c., according to legend, Simeon Ben Sira was born already speaking and with his teeth fully formed. After reaching a more acceptable age he began writing a series of maxims and proverbs. --M.K.
If you are sitting at a grand table, do not lick your lips and exclaim, "What a spread!"
Remember, it is a vice to have a greedy eye.
There is no greater evil in creation than the eye; that is why it must shed tears at every turn.
Do not reach for everything you see, or jostle your fellow-guest at the dish; judge his feeling by your own and always behave considerately.
Eat what is set before you like a gentleman; do not munch and make yourself objectionable.
Be the first to stop for good manners' sake and do not be insatiable, or you will give offense.
If you are dining in a large company, do not reach out your hand before others.
A man of good upbringing is content with little, and he is not short of breath when he goes to bed.
The moderate eater enjoys healthy sleep; he rises early, feeling refreshed.
But sleeplessness, indigestion, and colic are the lot of the glutton.
If you cannot avoid overeating at a feast, leave the table and find relief by vomiting.
--The Wisdom of Ben Sira,
second century b.c.,
translated from the Hebrew
Le Mesnagier de Paris on Gluttony
This sin of gluttony has two aspects and is divided into five types. The first type is when someone eats sooner than is appropriate, that is to say too early in the morning or before the hour of praying, or before going to church, before having heard the words and commandments of God. Every creature should have the good sense and discretion to know that you shouldn't eat before the hour of tierce, except in cases of sickness, weakness, or some such constraint.
The second type of gluttony is eating more often than one should or when there is no need to eat. The Scriptures say, "To eat once a day is angelic, eating twice a day is human, eating three, four, or more times a day is living like an animal and not a human being."
The third type of gluttony is eating and drinking so much during the course of a day that it makes one sick, so ill as to be bedridden.
The fourth type of gluttony is eating so greedily that one doesn't stop to chew the food but swallows it whole and soon becomes, as the Scriptures say of Esau, the first born of his brothers, that he ate with such haste that he nearly choked.
The fifth type of gluttony is the search for delicacies, no matter what the price, when one could do with less and thereby afford to help one or a few people who are in need. We read of this sin in the Gospels--the evil rich man, dressed in purple, who ate copiously every day but had nothing to give to poor lepers. It is said that he was damned for having lived too delicately while refusing to share in the name of God as was his duty.
--from Le Mesnagier de Paris, 1393,
translated from the French by Mark Kurlansky
Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin on Gourmets
I have thumbed every dictionary for the word gourmandism, without ever being satisfied with the definitions I have found. There is a perpetual confusion of gourmandism in its proper connotation with gluttony and voracity: from which I have concluded that lexicographers, no matter how knowing otherwise, are not numbered among those agreeable scholars who can munch pleasurably at a partridge wing au supreme and then top it off, little finger quirked, with a glass of Lafitte or Clos Vougeot.
They have completely, utterly forgotten that social gourmandism which unites an Attic elegance with Roman luxury and French subtlety, the kind which chooses wisely, asks for an exacting and knowing preparation, savors with vigor, and sums up the whole with profundity: it is a rare quality, which might easily be named a virtue, and which is at least one of our surest sources of pure pleasure.