The Atlantic Monthly/Volume 17/Number 101/A Ramble through the Market
A RAMBLE THROUGH THE MARKET.
As a man puts on the stoutness and thicksetness of middle life, he begins to find himself contemplating well-filled meat and fish stalls, and piles of lusty garden vegetables, with unfeigned interest and delight. He walks through Quincy Market, for instance, with far more pleasure than through the dewy and moonlit groves which were the scenes of his youthful wooings. Then he was all sentiment and poetry. Now he finds the gratification of the mouth and stomach a chief source of mundane delight. It is said that all the ships on the sea are sailing in the direction of the human mouth. The stomach, with its fierce assimilative power, is a great stimulator of commercial activity. The table of the civilized man, loaded with the products of so many climes, bears witness to this. The demands of the stomach are imperious. Its ukases and decrees must be obeyed, else the whole corporeal commonwealth of man, and the spirit which makes the human organism its vehicle in time and space, are in a state of trouble and insurrection.
A large part of the lower organic world, both animal and vegetable, is ground between man's molars and incisors, and assimilated through the stomach with his body. This may be called the final cause of that part of the lower organic world which is edible. Man is a scientific eater,—a cooking animal. Laughter and speech are not so distinctive traits of him as cookery. Improve his food, and he is improved both physically and mentally. His tissue becomes finer, his skin clearer and brighter, and his hair more glossy and hyacinthine. Cattle-breeders and the improvers of horticulture are indirectly improving their own race by furnishing finer and more healthful materials to be built into man's body. Marble, cedar, rosewood, gold, and gems make a finer edifice than thatch and ordinary timber and stones. So South-Down mutton and Devonian beef fattened on the blue-grass pastures of the West, and the magnificent prize vegetables and rich appetizing fruits, equal to anything grown in the famed gardens of Alcinoüs or the Hesperides, which are displayed at our annual autumnal fairs as evidences of our scientific horticulture and fructiculture, adorn the frame into which they are incorporated by mastication and digestion, as rosewood and marble and cedar and gold adorn a house or temple.
The subject of eating and drinking is a serious one. The stomach is the great motive power of society. It is the true sharpener of human ingenuity, curis acuens mortalia corda. Cookery is the first of arts. Chemistry is a mere subordinate science, whose chief value is that it enables man to impart greater relish and gust to his viands. The greatest poets, such as Homer, Milton, and Scott, treat the subject of eating and drinking with much seriousness, minuteness of detail, and lusciousness of description. Homer's heroes are all good cooks,—swift-footed Achilles, much-enduring Ulysses, and the rest of them. Read Milton's appetizing description of the feast which the Tempter set before the fasting Saviour:—
"Our Saviour, lifting up his eyes, beheld
In ample space, under the broadest shade,
A table richly spread in regal mode,
With dishes piled, and meats of noblest sort
And savor: beasts of chase or fowl of game
In pastry built, or from the spit, or boiled,
Gris-amber steamed; all fish from sea or shore,
Freshet or purling brook, of shell or fin,
And exquisitest name, for which was drained
Pontus and Lucrine bay and Afric coast;
And at a stately sideboard, by the wine
That fragrant smell diffused in order stood
Tall stripling youths, rich clad, of fairer hue
Than Ganymed or Hylas."
It is evident that the sublime Milton had a keen relish for a good dinner. Keats's description of that delicious moonlight spread by Porphyro, in the room of his fair Madeline, asleep, on St. Agnes' eve, "in lap of legends old," is another delicate morsel of Apician poetry. "Those lucent syrups tinct with cinnamon and sugared dainties" from Samarcand to cedared Lebanon, show that Keats had not got over his boyish taste for sweet things, and reached the maturity and gravity of appetite which dictated the Miltonian description. He died at twenty-four years. Had he lived longer, he might have sung of roast and boiled as sublimely as Milton has done.
Epicurus, in exalting cookery and eating and drinking to a plane of philosophical importance, was a true friend of his race, and showed himself the most sensible and wisest of all the Greek philosophers. A psychometrical critic of the philosopher of the garden says:—
"The first and last necessity is eating. The animated world is unceasingly eating and digesting itself. None could see this truth clearly but an enthusiast in diet like Epicurus, who, discovering the unexceptionableness of the natural law, proceeded to the work of adaptation. Ocean, lake, streamlet, was separately interrogated, 'How much delicious food do you contain? What are your preparations? When should man partake?' In like manner did the enthusiast peregrinate through Nature's empire, fixing his chemical eye upon plant and shrub and berry and vine,—asking every creeping thing, and the animal creation also, 'What can you do for man?' And such truths as the angels sent! Sea, earth, and air were overflowing and heavily laden with countless means of happiness. 'The whole was a cupboard of food or cabinet of pleasure.' Life must not be sacrificed by man, for thereby he would defeat the end sought. Man's fine love of life must save him from taking life." (This is not doctrine to promulgate in the latitude of Quincy Market, O clairvoyant Davis!) "In the world of fruit, berries, vines, flowers, herbs, grains, grasses, could be found all proper food for 'bodily ease and mental tranquillity.'
"Behold the enthusiast! classifying man's senses to be gratified at the table. All dishes must be beautifully prepared and disposed to woo and win the sense of sight; the assembled articles must give off odors harmoniously blended to delight and cultivate the sense of smell; and each substance must balance with every other in point of flavor, to meet the natural demands of taste; otherwise the entertainment is shorn of its virtue to bless and tranquillize the soul! . . . .
"But lo, the fanatic in eating appears! Miserably hot with gluttonous debauchery. He has feasted upon a thousand deaths! Belshazzar's court fed on fish of every type, birds of every flight, brutes of every clime, and added thereto each finer luxury known in the catalogue of the temperate Epicurus. . . . .
"Behold the sceptics. A shivering group of acid ghouls at their scanty board. . . . . Bread, milk, bran, turnips, onions, potatoes, apples, yield so much starch, so much sugar, so much nitrogen, so much nutriment! Enough! to live is the end of eating, not to be pleased and made better with objects, odors, flavors. Therefore welcome a few articles of food in violation of every fine sensibility. Stuff in and masticate the crudest forms of eatables,—bad-cooking, bad-looking, bad-smelling, bad-tasting, and worse-feeling,—down with them hastily,—and then, between your headaches and gastric spasms, pride yourself upon virtues and temperance not possessed by any student in the gastronomic school of Epicurus! Let it be perpetually remembered to the credit of this apostle of alimentation and vitativeness with temperance, that, in his religious system, eating was a 'sacramental' process, and not a physical indulgence merely, as the ignorant allege."
Bravo for the seer of Poughkeepsie! In the above extracts, quoted from his "Thinker," he has vindicated the much maligned Epicurus better than his disciples Lucretius and Gassendi have done, and by some mysterious process (he calls it psychometry) he seems to know more of the old Athenian, and to have a more intimate knowledge of his doctrines, than can be found in Brucker or Ritter.
When it is considered how our mental states may be modified by what we eat and drink, the importance of good ingesta, both fluid and solid, becomes apparent. Among the good things which attached Charles Lamb to this present life was his love of the delicious juices of meats and fishes.
But these things are preliminary, although not impertinent to the main subject, which is Quincy Market. After having perambulated the principal markets of the other leading American cities, I must pronounce it facile princeps among New-World markets. A walk through it is equal to a dose of dandelion syrup in the way of exciting an appetite for one's dinner. Such a walk is tonic and medicinal, and should be prescribed to dyspeptic patients. To the hungry, penniless man such a walk is like the torture administered to the old Phrygian who blabbed to mortals the secrets of the celestial banquets. Autumn is the season in which to indulge in a promenade through Quincy Market, after the leaf has been nipped by the frost and crimson-tinted, when the morning air is cool and bracing. Then the stalls and precincts of the chief Boston market are a goodly spectacle. Athenæus himself, the classic historian of classic gluttons and classic bills of fare, could not but feel a glow at the sight of the good things here displayed, if he were alive. Quincy Market culminates at Thanksgiving time. It then attains to the zenith of good fare.
Cleanliness and spruceness are the rule among the Quincy Market men and stall-keepers. The matutinal display outside of apples, pears, onions, turnips, beets, carrots, egg-plants, cranberries, squashes, etc., is magnificent in the variety and richness of its hues. What a multitude of orchards, meadows, gardens, and fields have been laid under contribution to furnish this vegetable abundance! And here are their choicest products. The foodful Earth and the arch-chemic Sun, the great agriculturist and life-fountain, have done their best in concocting these Quincy Market culinary vegetables. They wear a healthful, resplendent look. Inside, what a goodly vista stretches away of fish, flesh, and fowl! From these white stalls the Tempter could have furnished forth the banquet the Miltonic description of which has been quoted.
Here is a stall of ripe, juicy mutton, perhaps from the county of St. Lawrence, in Northeastern New York. This is the most healthful and easily digested of all meats. Its juiciness and nutritiousness are visible in the trumpeter-like cheeks of the well-fed John Bull. The domestic Anglo-Saxon is a mutton-eater. Let his offshoots here and elsewhere follow suit. There is no such timber to repair the waste of the human frame. It is a fuel easily combustible in the visceral grate of the stomach. The mutton-eater is eupeptic. His dreams are airy and lightsome. Somnus descends smiling to his nocturnal pillow, and not clad in the portentous panoply of indigestion, which rivals a guilty conscience in its night visions. The mutton department of Quincy Market is all that it should be.
Next we come upon "fowl of game," wild ducks, pigeons, etc.—What has become of those shoals of pigeons, those herrings of the air, which used in the gloom and glory of a breezy autumnal day to darken the sun in their flight, like the discharge of the Xerxean arrows at Thermopylæ? The eye sweeps the autumnal sky in vain now for any such winged phenomenon, at least here in New England. The days of the bough-house and pigeon-stand strewn with barley seem to have gone by. Swift of flight and shapely in body is the North American wild pigeon, running upon the air fleeter than Anacreon's dove. He can lay any latitude under contribution in a few hours, flying incredible distances during the process of digestion. He is an ornament to the air, and the pot also.—Here might be a descendant of Bryant's waterfowl; but its journeyings along the pathless coast of the upper atmosphere are at an end.
"All flesh is not the same flesh; but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds." The matter composing the vegetables and the lower animals is promoted, as it were, by being eaten by man and incorporated into his body, which is a breathing house not made with hands built over the boundary-line of two worlds, the sensible and noumenal. "The human body is the highest chemical laboratory which matter can reach. In that body the highest qualities and richest emoluments are imparted to it, and it is indorsed with a divine superscription." It there becomes part and parcel of the eye, the organ of light and the throne of expression,—of the blood, which is so eloquent in cheek and brow,—of the nerves, the telegraph-wires of the soul,—of the persuasive tongue,—of the tear-drop, the dew of emotion, which only the human eye can shed,—of the glossy tresses of beauty, the nets of love.
The provision markets of a community are a good index of the grade of its civilization. Tell me what a nation eats, what is its diet, and I will tell you what is its literature, its religious belief, and so forth. Solid, practical John Bull is a mutton, beef, and pudding eater. He drinks strong ale or beer, and thinks beer. He drives fat oxen, and is himself fat. He is no idealist in philosophy. He hates generalization and abstract thought. He is for the real and concrete. Plain, unadorned Protestantism is most to the taste of the middle classes of Great Britain. Music, sculpture, and painting add not their charms to the Englishman's dull and respectable devotions. Cross the Channel and behold his whilom hereditary foeman, but now firm ally, the Frenchman! He is a dainty feeder and the most accomplished of cooks. He etherealizes ordinary fish, flesh, and fowl by his exquisite cuisine. He educates the palate to a daintiness whereof the gross-feeding John Bull never dreamed. He extracts the finest flavors and quintessential principles from flesh and vegetables. He drinks light and sparkling wines, the vintage of Champagne and Burgundy. Accordingly the Frenchman is lightsome and buoyant. He is a great theorist and classifier. He adheres to the ornate worship of the Mother Church when religiously disposed. His literature is perspicuous and clear. He is an admirable doctrinaire and generalizer,—witness Guizot and Montesquieu. He puts philosophy and science into a readable, comprehensible shape. The Teutonic diet of sauer-kraut, sausages, cheese, ham, etc., is indigestible, giving rise to a vaporous, cloudy cerebral state. German philosophy and mysticism are its natural outcome.
Baked beans, pumpkin pie, apple-sauce, onions, codfish, and Medford rum,—these were the staple items of the primitive New England larder; and they were an appropriate diet whereon to nourish the caucus-loving, inventive, acute, methodically fanatical Yankee. The bean, the most venerable and nutritious of lentils, was anciently used as a ballot or vote. Hence it symbolized in the old Greek democracies politics and a public career. Hence Pythagoras and his disciples, though they were vegetable-eaters, eschewed the bean as an article of diet, from its association with politics, demagogism, and ochlocracy. They preferred the life contemplative and the fallentis semita vitæ. Hence their utter detestation of beans, the symbols of noisy gatherings, of demagogues and party strife and every species of political trickery. The primitive Yankee, in view of his destiny as the founder of this caucus-loving nation and American democracy, seems to have been providentially guided in selecting beans for his most characteristic article of diet.
But to move on through the market. The butter and cheese stalls have their special attractions. The butyraceous gold in tubs and huge lumps displayed in these stalls looks as though it was precipitated from milk squeezed from Channel Island cows, those fawn-colored, fairest of dairy animals. In its present shape it is the herbage of a thousand clover-blooming meads and dewy hill-pastures in old Berkshire, in Vermont and Northern New York, transformed by the housewife's churn into edible gold. Not only butter and cheese are grass or of gramineous origin, but all flesh is grass,—a physiological fact enunciated by Holy Writ and strictly true.
Porcine flesh is too abundant here. How the New-Englander, whose Puritan forefathers were almost Jews, and hardly got beyond the Old Testament in their Scriptural studies, has come to make pork so capital an article in his diet, is a mystery. Small-boned swine of the Chinese breed, which are kept in the temple sties of the Josses, and which are capable of an obeseness in which all form and feature are swallowed up and lost in fat, seem to be plenty in Quincy Market. They are hooked upright upon their haunches, in a sitting posture, against the posts of the stall. How many pots of Sabbath morning beans one of these porkers will lubricate!
Beef tongues are abundant here, and eloquent of good living. The mighty hind and fore quarters and ribs of the ox,
"With their red and yellow,
Lean and tallow,"
appeal to the good-liver on all sides. They seem to be the staple flesh of the stalls.
But let us move on to the stalls frequented by the ichthyophagi. Homer calls the sea the barren, the harvestless! Our Cape Ann fishermen do not find it so.
"The sounds and seas, with all their finny droves,
That to the Moon in wavering morrice move,"
are as foodful as the most fertile parts of terra firma. Here lie the blue, delicate mackerel in heaps, and piles of white perch from the South Shore, cod, haddock, eels, lobsters, huge segments of swordfish, and the flesh of various other voiceless tenants of the deep, both finned and shell-clad. The codfish, the symbol of Puritan aristocracy, as the grasshopper was of the ancient Athenians, seems to predominate. Our frutti di mare, in the shape of oysters, clams, and other mollusks, are the delight of all true gastronomers. What vegetable, or land animal, is so nutritious? Here are some silvery shad from the Penobscot, or Kennebec, or Merrimac, or Connecticut. The dams of our great manufacturing corporations are sadly interfering with the annual movements of these luscious and beautiful fish. Lake Winnipiseogee no longer receives these ocean visitors into its clear, mountain-mirroring waters. The greedy pike is also here, from inland pond and lake, and the beautiful trout from the quick mountain brook, "with his waved coat dropped with gold." Who eats the trout partakes of pure diet. He loves the silver-sanded stream, and silent pools, and eddies of limpid water. In fact, all fish, from sea or shore, freshet or purling brook, of shell or fin, are here, on clean marble slabs, fresh and hard. Ours is the latitude of the fish-eater. The British marine provinces, north of us, and Norway in the Old World, are his paradise.
Man is a universal eater.
"He cannot spare water or wine,
Tobacco-leaf, or poppy, or rose,
From the earth-poles to the line,
All between that works and grows.
Give him agates for his meat;
Give him cantharids to eat;
From air and ocean bring him foods,
From all zones and altitudes;—
From all natures sharp and slimy,
Salt and basalt, wild and tame;
Tree and lichen, ape, sea-lion,
Bird and reptile, be his game."
Quincy Market sticks to the cloven hoof, I am happy to say, notwithstanding the favorable verdict of the French savans on the flavor and nutritious properties of horse-flesh. The femurs and tibias of frogs are not visible here. At this point I will quote in extenso from Wilkinson's chapter on Assimilation and its Organs.
"In this late age, the human home has one universal season and one universal climate. The produce of every zone and month is for the board where toil is compensated and industry refreshed. For man alone, the universal animal, can wield the powers of fire, the universal element, whereby seasons, latitudes, and altitudes are levelled into one genial temperature. Man alone, that is to say, the social man alone, can want and duly conceive and invent that which is digestion going forth into nature as a creative art, namely, cookery, which by recondite processes of division and combination,—by cunning varieties of shape,—by the insinuation of subtle flavors,—by tincturings with precious spice, as with vegetable flames,—by fluids extracted, and added again, absorbed, dissolving, and surrounding,—by the discovery and cementing of new amities between different substances, provinces, and kingdoms of nature,—by the old truth of wine and the reasonable order of service,—in short, by the superior unity which it produces in the eatable world,—also by a new birth of feelings, properly termed convivial, which run between food and friendship, and make eating festive,—all through the conjunction of our Promethean with our culinary fire raises up new powers and species of food to the human frame, and indeed performs by machinery a part of the work of assimilation, enriching the sense of taste with a world of profound objects, and making it the refined participator, percipient, and stimulus of the most exquisite operations of digestion. Man, then, as the universal eater, enters from his own faculties into the natural viands, and gives them a social form, and thereby a thousand new aromas, answering to as many possible tastes in his wonderful constitution, and therefore his food is as different from that of animals in quality as it is plainly different in quantity and resource. How wise should not reason become, in order to our making a wise use of so vast an apparatus of nutrition! . . . .
"There is nothing more general in life than the digestive apparatus, because matter is the largest, if not the greatest, fact in the material universe. Every creature which is here must be made of something, and be maintained by something, or must be landlord of itself. . . . . The planetary dinner-table has its various latitudes and longitudes, and plant and animal and mineral and wine are grown around it, and set upon it, according to the map of taste in the spherical appetite of our race. . . . . Hunger is the child of cold and night, and comes upwards from the all-swallowing ground; but thirst descends from above, and is born of the solar rays. . . . . Hunger and thirst are strong terms, and the things themselves are too feverish provocations for civilized man. They are incompatible with the sense of taste in its epicureanism, and their gratification is of a very bodily order. The savage man, like a boa-constrictor, would swallow his animals whole, if his gullet would let him. This is to cheat the taste with unmanageable objects, as though we should give an estate to a child. On the other hand, civilization, house-building, warm apartments and kitchen fires, well-stored larders, and especially exemption from rude toil, abolish these extreme caricatures; and keeping appetite down to a middling level by the rote of meals, and thus taking away the incentives to ravenous haste, they allow the mind to tutor and variegate the tongue, and to substitute the harmonies and melodies of deliberate gustation for such unseemly bolting. Under this direction, hunger becomes polite; a long-drawn, many-colored taste; the tongue, like a skilful instrument, holds its notes; and thirst, redeemed from drowning, rises from the throat to the tongue and lips, and, full of discrimination, becomes the gladdening love of all delicious flavors. . . . . In the stomach, judging by what there is done, what a scene we are about to enter! What a palatial kitchen and more than monasterial refectory! The sipping of aromatic nectar, the brief and elegant repast of that Apicius, the tongue, are supplanted at this lower board by eating and drinking in downright earnest. What a variety of solvents, sauces, and condiments, both springing up at call from the blood, and raining down from the mouth into the natural patines of the meats! What a quenching of desires, what an end and goal of the world is here! No wonder; for the stomach sits for four or five assiduous hours at the same meal that the dainty tongue will despatch in a twentieth portion of the time. For the stomach is bound to supply the extended body, while the tongue wafts only fairy gifts to the close and spiritual brain."
So far Wilkinson, the Milton of physiologists.
But lest these lucubrations should seem to be those of a mere glutton and gastrolater,—of one like the gourmand of old time, who longed for the neck of an ostrich or crane that the pleasure of swallowing dainty morsels might be as protracted as possible,—let me assume a vegetable, Pythagorean standpoint, and thence survey this accumulation of creature comforts, that is, that portion of them which consists of dead flesh. The vegetables and the fruits, the blazonry of autumn, are of course ignored from this point of view. Thus beheld, Quincy Market presents a spectacle that excites disgust and loathing, and exemplifies the fallen, depraved, and sophisticated state of human nature and human society. In those juicy quarters and surloins of beef and those fat porcine carcasses the vegetable-eater, Grahamite or Brahmin, sees nothing but the cause of beastly appetites, scrofula, apoplexy, corpulence, cheeks flushed with ungovernable propensities, tendencies downward toward the plane of the lower animals, bloodshot eyes, swollen veins, impure blood, violent passions, fetid breath, stertorous respiration, sudden death,—in fact, disease and brutishness of all sorts. A Brahmin traversing this goodly market would regard it as a vast charnel, a loathsome receptacle of dead flesh on its way to putrescence. His gorge would rise in rebellion at the sight. To the Brahmin, the lower animal kingdom is a vast masquerade of transmigratory souls. If he should devour a goose or turkey or hen, or a part of a bullock or sheep or goat, he might, according to his creed, be eating the temporary organism of his grandmother. The poet Pope wrote in the true Brahminical spirit, when he said,—"Nothing can be more shocking and horrid than one of our kitchens sprinkled with blood, and abounding with cries of creatures expiring, or with the limbs of dead animals scattered or hung up there. It gives one an image of a giant's den in romance, bestrewed with the scattered heads and mangled limbs of those who were slain by his cruelty." Think of the porcine shambles of Cincinnati, with their swift-handed swine-slayers!
"What loud lament and dismal miserere,"
ear-deafening and horrible, must issue from them. How can a Jew reside in that porkopolitan municipality? The brutishness of the Bowery butchers is proverbial. A late number of Leslie's Pictorial represents a Bowery butcher's wagon crowded with sheep and calves so densely that their heads are protruded against the wheels, which revolve with the utmost speed, the brutal driver urging his horse furiously.
The first advocate of a purely vegetable diet was Pythagoras, the Samian philosopher. His discourse delivered at Crotona, a city of Magna Græcia, is ably reported for posterity by the poet Ovid. From what materials he made up his report, it is impossible now to say. Pythagoras says that flesh-eaters make their stomachs the sepulchres of the lower animals, the cemeteries of beasts. About thirty years ago there was a vegetable diet movement hereabouts, which created some excitement at the time. Its adherents were variously denominated as Grahamites, and, from the fact of their using bread made of unbolted wheat-meal, bran-eaters. There was little of muscular Christianity in them. They were a pale, harmless set of valetudinarians, who were, like all weakly persons, morbidly alive to their own bodily states, and principally employed in experimenting on the effects of various insipid articles of diet. Tea and coffee were tabooed by these people. Ale and wine were abominations in their Index Expurgatorius of forbidden ingesta. The presence of a boiled egg on their breakfast-tables would cause some of the more sensitive of these New England Brahmins to betake themselves to their beds for the rest of the day. They kept themselves in a semi-famished state on principle. One of the most liberal and latitudinarian of the sect wrote, in 1835,—"For two years past I have abstained from the use of all the diffusible stimulants, using no animal food, either flesh, fish, or fowl, nor any alcoholic or vinous spirits, no form of ale, beer, or porter, no cider, tea, or coffee; but using milk and water as my only liquid aliment, and feeding sparingly, or rather moderately, upon farinaceous food, vegetables, and fruit, seasoned with unmelted butter, slightly boiled eggs, and sugar and molasses, with no condiment but common salt."
These ultra-temperance dietetical philosophers never flourished greatly. They were too languid and too little enthusiastic to propagate their rules of living and make converts. In a country where meat is within reach of all, a vegetable dietary is not popular. Doubtless a less frequent use of fleshly food would be greatly to our advantage as a people. But utter abstinence is out of the question. A vegetable diet, however, has great authorities in its favor, both ancient and modern. Plautus, Plutarch, Porphyry of Tyre, Lord Bacon, Sir William Temple, Cicero, Cyrus the Great, Pope, Newton, and Shelley have all left their testimony in favor of it and of simplicity of living. Poor Shelley, who in his abstract moods forgot even to take vegetable sustenance for days together, makes a furious onslaught upon flesh-eating in his Notes to "Queen Mab." The notes, as well as the poem, are crude productions, the outgivings of a boy; but that boy was Shelley. It was said that he was traceable, in his lonely wanderings in secluded places in Italy, by the crumbs of bread which he let fall. Speculative thinkers have generally been light feeders, eschewing stimulants, both solid and liquid, and preferring mild food and water for drink. Those who lead an interior life sedentary and contemplative need not gross pabulum, but would find their inward joy at the contemplation and discovery of truth seriously qualified and deadened by it. Spare fast is the companion of the ecstatic moods of a high truth-seeker such as Newton, Malebranche, etc. Immanuel Kant was almost the only profound speculative thinker who was decidedly convivial, and given to gulosity, at least at his dinner. Asceticism ordinarily reigns in the cloister and student's bower. The Oxford scholar long ago, as described by Chaucer, was adust and thin.
"As lene was his hors as is a rake, And he was not right fat, I undertake." The ancient anchorets of the East, the children of St. Anthony, were a long-lived sect, rivalling the many-wintered crow in longevity. Yet their lives were vapid monotonies, only long in months and years. They were devoid of vivid sensations, and vegetated merely. Milk-eaters were, in the days of Homer, the longest-lived of men.
Without the ministry of culinary fire, man could not gratify his carnivorous propensities. He would be obliged to content himself with a vegetable diet; for, according to the comparative anatomists, man is not structurally a flesh-eater. At any rate he is not fanged or clawed. His teeth and nails are not like the natural cutlery found in the mouths and paws of beasts of prey. He cannot eat raw flesh. Digger Indians are left to do that when the meat is putrescent. Prometheus was the inventor of roast and boiled beef, and of cookery generally, and therefore the destroyer of the original simplicity of living which characterized primitive man, when milk and fruits cooked by the sun, and acorns, were the standing repasts of unsophisticated humanity. Per contra, Horace makes man, in his mast-eating days, a poor creature.
"Forth from the earth when human kind
First crept, a dull and brutish herd, with nails
And fists they fought for dens wherein to couch,
Don Quixote, however, in his eloquent harangue to the shepherds in the Sierra Morena, took a different view of man during the acorn period. He saw in it the golden age.
There are vast rice-eating populations in China and India, who are a low grade of men, morally and physically. Exceptional cases of longevity, like those of old Parr, Jenkins, Francisco, Pratt, and Farnham, are often-times adduced as the results of abstemiousness and frugality of living. These exceptional cases prove nothing whatever. These individuals happened to reach an almost antediluvian longevity, thanks to their inherited vitality and their listless, uneventful, monotonous lives. Their hearts beat a dull funeral march through four or five generations, and finally stopped. But the longevity of such mighty thinkers and superb men as Humboldt and Goethe is glorious to contemplate. They were never old, but were vernal in spirit to the last, and, for aught that appears to the contrary, generous livers, not "acid ghouls" or bran-eating valetudinarians. Shakespeare died at fifty-one, but great thinkers and poets have generally been long-lived. "Better fifty years of Europe" or America "than a cycle of" rice-eating "Cathay."
The value of the animals slaughtered in this country in 1860 was, in round numbers, $212,000,000, a sum to make the vegetable feeder stare and gasp. How many thousands and tens of thousands of acres of herbage, which could not be directly available for human consumption as food, had these slaughtered animals incorporated into their frames, and rendered edible for man! "The most fertile districts of the habitable globe," says Shelley, "are now actually cultivated by men for animals, at a delay and waste of aliment absolutely incalculable." On the contrary, the close-feeding sheep and the cow and ox utilize for man millions of acres of vegetation which would otherwise be useless. The domestic animals which everywhere accompany civilized man were a part of them intended as machines to convert herbage into milk and flesh for man's sustenance. The tame villatic fowl scratches and picks with might and main, converting a thousand refuse things into dainty human food. A vegetable diet is out of the question for the blubber-eating Esquimaux and Greenlander, even if it would keep the flame of life burning in their Polar latitudes.
The better and more nutritious the diet, the better the health. It is to the improved garden vegetables and domestic animals that man will hereafter owe the superior health and personal comeliness which he will undoubtedly enjoy as our planet becomes more and more humanized, and man asserts his proper lordship over Nature. This matter of vegetable and animal food is dictated by climate. In the temperate zone they go well mixed. In the tropics man is naturally a Pythagorean, but he is not so strong, or so healthy, or moral, or intellectual, as the flesh-eating nations of northern latitudes.