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Art. XII.-1. Curiosities of Literature. By J. D’Israeli, Esq.
Vol. III. Svo. London. 1817. 2. Almanach des Gourmands. Tom. I.–V. 12mo. Paris. WHEN the good Grandgousier arrived at Paris for the pur
pose of completing his son's education, he contented himself with making two inquiries; first, what learned men there were in the place, and secondly, what kind of wine the inhabitants most commonly drank: Grandgousier was, as all the world knows, somewhat addicted to the pleasures of the table. Great latitude, therefore, must be given to the second inquiry. Like those corollaries in mathematics, which sometimes swallow up in interest the main proposition that engenders them, wine seems in this case to have been substituted, by a metonymy, for the more important portion which precedes it. The inquiries, therefore, properly stated, referred first to the scholars who existed, and secondly, to the dinners which were given, in that celebrated metropolis and university; and, with submission to female readers, it may be thought that two inquiries, more confirming that reputation for wisdom which belonged to this most worthy prince, could not well have been instituted.
Some remarks recently thrown out in this Journal, have had the effect, we understand, of recovering many respectable scholars from an erroneous opinion, (countenanced, it is true, by the early Greek fables, and apparently confirmed by the sparing mention made of the female sex by the Greek writers,) that, the Athenians really sprang from the ground ready-made (QUTOX Moves); their earliest food being, of course, whatever succulent herbs might happen to be at the breast of Mother Earth at the time. Having rescued them from such an anomaly in nature, we shall next endeavour to shew, that though leguminous herbs did form a very prominent article of subsistence among the poorer Athenians, there is no reason to believe that any deficiency existed among the richer citizens of more solid articles. It is not intended to enter into vulgar details of mutton, beef and veal; but we bave an interest in remarking, that the pig formed an inexhaustible mine in the hands of an Attic cook, and that the sausages of the Grecian Athens, whether formed from the flesh of this animal, or from that of peacocks, pheasants and rabbits, obtained a celebrity, *
enjoyed * Arist. in Acharn. v. 145-7. This article of food has not wanted modern as well as ancient eulogists. Agnolo Firenzuola, distinguished among the learned for his elegant translation of Apuleius, owes all his reputation with gourmands to his song in ho nour of the Sausage. This song, printed in 1545, was accompanied by a whole volume of comments, writien by a learned academician of Florence, named Grappa. To create further respect for that degraded and persecuted animal, the pig, we may be allowed to
enjoyed even by those of the English Athens, as Dryden, apostate as he was, has chosen to call Oxford.
An action taking place with individuals of every nation, three hundred and sixty-five times in the year, possesses intrinsically an importance more than sufficient to excuse a short investigation into the materials chiefly connected with it. We shall, therefore, make no apology for taking our station for some time in the kitchens and dining-rooms of the most polished people of antiquity. We shall begin with the lower regions.
O prole alta di numi,
Pochi inomenti al cibo !- Parini. What a Greek kitchen was, the great architect of antiquity, if we recollect rightly, has left us no information. What it ought to have been, we could describe from sources,* whose authority upon such subjects admits, we believe, of no appeal. But with more facts before us than we can well crowd into our limits, it would be unpardonable to make digressions where fancy would have more play than truth. We shall only suppose, therefore, a Greek kitchen to have been large enough to contain a baker, a cook, a fishmonger, a dealer in perfumery, and a female weaver of garlands; an assemblage of persons, we have reason to believe, not unfrequently found there.
Persons, who have travelled much on the continent, assure us that our neighbours have the art of throwing much more variety and gratification of the palate into that article of subsistence which has been emphatically called the staff of life, than we possess. The French, and still more the German bread, it is said, is often delicious, forming of itself an agreeable article of food, and not serving, like our own, as a mere companion to pair off with so many mouthfuls of meat. But the Athenians, we suspect, surpassed our neighbours, still more than they do us, in the variety and excellence of their farinaceous compositions: Archestratus, a decisive authority upon these matters, and the earliest we can find, made the gods trade with Lesbos for their barley meal: for wheaten bread, at least of one kind, (the aptos ayopanol, he allowed, that mere mortals could not go to a better market than the Athenian. Those who read the Greek authors will not perhaps be displeased with us for recalling to their thoughts some of the terms, which parti
remark, that the mysteries of Ceres connected him with the religion of Grecce (vid. Aristoph. in Pace, 374.) as much as that midnight, or rather morning, supper, known in the French Catholic church by the name of Réveillon, associates him with one of the most sacred festivals of Christianity. . * Almanach des Gourmands, t. v. p. 27. A slight notice on the subject of culinary architecture may be found in a fragment of Sosipater, the comic poet.
cularize cularize a portion of the farinaceous substances in use among the Athenians, and the manner of preparing them. Besides the usual divisions of wheaten and barley bread, the Athenians appear to have made use of millet, (vedovn,) of zea, (the triticum spelta of Linnæus and the far of the Romans,) and of a corn called tiphë, in the composition of bread. The species of grain denominated olyra, with which Homer feeds his heroes' horses, formed, in later ages, a sort of brown bread. Rice (opuša) and an Ethiopic grain resembling the seed of the plant sesame, whose fruit still furnishes a valuable oil in the East, supplied a species, called Orindes. But the chief attention was confined to the wheaten and the barley bread, (aptos, maśc). Into the details of each of these the copious language of the Greeks entered very minutely. The meal of the latter (unfitor*) was accurately distinguished from the meal of the former, (adeupov,) and the act of kneading them into dough had also their separate terms, (πεττειν, μασσειν). Meal unboulted bore the name of Syncomistos; boulted to an extreme degree, it was termed Semidalis : a third name was imparted from the boulting cloth (xeproepee), which, according to Photius, was often made of wool, and bore the same name as the fine net with which the Athenian anchovy was caught. If leaven was used, the bread received the appellation of Zymites; if not, that of Azymos. The operation of baking, as performed by the oven, the hearth, by live coals without fame, by ashes heaped up round the dough, or by placing the dough on a roaster, introduced a fresh change of names. Ιπνιτης, εσχαριτης, απανθρακις, εγκρυφιας were terms appropriated to these several operations. But the favourite mode of baking was that performed by the cribanus, or clibanus, an earthen or iron pot broader below than above. The dough shut up in this vessel, and surrounded with coal, or placed over a fire, was thought to warm more equally; and the bread thereby acquired a more delicious flavour.
We pass over the Chondrites, the cheek-filling' Tabyrites, the Dramis, the Etuitas, the Ericitas, the Cyllastis, and a multitude of other breads, both wheaten and barley, † to come to a few of the former, possessing something peculiar in their preparation or appropriations. The bread made of the first corn after the harvest was called Thargelus. The Homoros was a bread on which goddesses supped; as the Hemiartium, or half-circle, appeased the coarser appetite of Hecate. The bread given to children was, ac
From the barley meal was formed the powder with which the Canephoræ (the virgins elected to the proud honour of carrying the holy basket at the festivals of Ceres, Bacchus and Minerva) powdered themselves.
+ From a passage in Pkato's Republic (Lib. ii. 427. D.) it appears that wheaten bread was served up at table on a layer of leaves, barley bread on one of reeds.
cording to the scholiast on Aristophanes, called Collyra. The poor, who wished to fill the stomach expeditiously, we conclude, bought the bread called Panias. The bread made of new springwheat, and which in figure resembled the pegs or pins by which harpstrings were tightened, was called Collabus.* A large bread prepared for the ladies of Delos, when celebrating the feast of Ceres and Proserpine, took the name of Achaïnas: its size gave a name to the festival; and from an exclamation put into the mouths of those who carried it, it appears to have been of a very greasy composition. The Cyprian bread was chiefly dangerous to hungry horsemen travelling in a hurry; for having the effect of a magnet, it necessarily impeded expedition. The Encryphias, placed at Alexandria in the temple of Chronus for any person to eat that pleased, ranked, as we have seen, among the Athenians, with the bread baked on live coals. The Obelias, deriving its name from its price, or the manner in which it was baked, was a bread carried on men's shoulders in sacred processions, and was invented by Bacchus on his military expeditions. From a caution of Pherecrates against its purchase, the god was probably hard put to for food, when the idea first entered his head, The Stætites had a mixture of fat in it; the Meconis a strong tincture of a favourite edible among the ancients, the poppy; the Encris was composed of farina, oil and honey;. the Dipyrus (synonymous with the modern Biscuit) of water and farina, boiled in broth, with an addition of pepper, cinnamon, and saffron : cheese, that universal ingredient in Greek cookery=much to the discomfiture of Archestratus—also entered into its composition. But the two favourite breads were the Escharites of the Rhodians, and the Cribanites. The latter was said to surpass all the rest, as being juicy, agreeable to the stomach, and easy of digestion ; but gourmands must have been inexcusable in not preferring the former: for, surpassing even the aptos ayopason of the Athenians, it is said to have been so delicious as to cause appetitet by eating. A Lydian, a Phænician, and in later ages, when the excellencies of the art had been thoroughly discriminated, a Cappadocian baker was recommended. Thearion, one of the profession, could command honourable mention even from such a man as Plato;
The Athenians, very attentive to times and seasons in their food, considered a hot Collabus, eaten with a piece of the under-belly" of an autumnal pig, as an excellerit antidote against repletion with anchovies.
+ If the reader have ever eaten Gaufres in the neighbourhood of Brussels, he may have some idea of the Escharites; as in the opinion of the French commentators they closely resemble each other. Lynceus of Samos, who sets it up as a rival against the aptos ayopatos of Athens, uses a very strong expression in order to recommend its merits : απειρηκοτων δε' και πεπληρωμενων, ήδις ην επεισαγεσι « διατριβην,” τον διακρηςον εσχαριτην καλεμενον. .
his exhibitions at the Panathenaic festival, where contending artisans displayed the prodigies of their crafts, and fought for victory as well as poets, had a cleverness in them that appeared almost miraculous to the astonished spectators : even the wellborn,' according to Antiphanes, found it difficult to drag themselves from baking-shops, conducted on the principles of the admirable Thearion.
The mysteries of pastry, confectionary, and sweetmeats (Telepeceτα, πλακοντες, τραγηματα) may be dismissed with a slight notice.
The great father of criticism has not thought it below his dignity to record* that the latter were much in request at the theatres; but he also takes care to add that these little sensualities of the palate were always kept by the audience in due subordination to their mental pleasures. When the interest on the stage flagged, the demand for sweetmeats rose high ; at the representation of the Edipus Tyrannus, if the actors kept pace with the poet, we will venture to say that there was not a single cheesecake or bonbon disposed of. The makers of these more delicate provocatives of the palate claimed the title of demiurgists, or artists par ercellence: the task was generally entrusted to female hands. Great houses, it may be presumed, maintained a woman ad hoc, there being but two things in which mere mediocrity is allowed by ., all to be infamous—the productions of the Muse and those of the Petit-Four. Guests wiped their hands on pieces of soft bread, called apomygdalia : Aristophanes feeds his sausage-seller upon morsels of this kind, and the rogue, in spite of his dramatic pleasantry, deserved no better food. The apomygdaliæ were generally thrown to dogs.
The Greek cook is too important a person to be considered' lightly; and with the copious materials upon our hands, we fear this is the only mode in which we can at present treat him. Some amusing notices on the subject may be found in Cumberland's Observer, and others in the volume placed at the head of these remarks. There are few subjects indeed, on which the multifarious reading of Mr. D’Israeli does not enable him to say something of interest or'amusement; and the zeal with which he has rescued the Grecian cookery, from the erroneous pleasantry in Smollett's admirable banquet, deserves particular commendation. A few additional remarks may still be admitted, and the subject yet remain unexhausted.
In their earlier and more important tragedies, (for the practice altered about the time of Aristotle,) the Greek poets generally confined themselves to a few leading historical or mythical events for