Open main menu

Page:Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.djvu/1877

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
1683
MEALS: THEIR IMPORTANCE AND ARRANGEMENT

occasions of public rejoicing. Then, among the young people, sub- scription dinners, very much after the manner of modern times, were always being got up, only they would be eaten not at an hotel, but pro- bably at the house of some leader of fashion. A Greek dinner-party was a handsome, well-regulated affair. The guests arrived elegantly dressed and crowned with flowers. A slave, approaching each person as he entered, took off his sandals and washed his feet. During the repast, the guests reclined on couches with pillows, among and along which were set small tables. After the solid meal came the "sympo- sium" proper, a scene of music, merriment and dancing, the two latter being supplied chiefly by young girls. There was a chairman, or "symposiarch," appointed by the company to regulate the drinking, and it was his duty to mix the wine in the " mighty bowl." From this bowl the attendants ladled the liquor into goblets, and with the goblets went round and round the tables, filling the cups of the guests.

Although poets in all ages have lauded wine more than solid food, pos- sibly because of its more directly stimulating effect on the intellect, yet there have not been wanting those who considered the subject of food not unworthy their consideration, as is shown by the following lines, in which Lord Byron refers to the curious complexity of the results produced by human cleverness and application catering for the modi- fications which occur in civilised life:—

"The mind is lost in mighty contemplation
Of intellect expanded on two courses;
And indigestion's grand multiplication
Requires arithmetic beyond my forces.
Who would suppose, from Adam's simple ration,
That cookery would have called forth such resources,
As form a science and a nomenclature
From out the commonest demands of nature?"

Adam's ration, however, is a matter on which poets have given con- trary judgments. When the angel Raphael paid that memorable visit to Paradise—which we are expressly told by Milton he did exactly at dinner-time—Eve seems to have prepared " a little dinner " wholly destitute of complexity, and to have added ice-creams and perfumes. Nothing can be clearer than the testimony of the poets on these points:—

"And Eve within, due at her home prepared
For dinner savoury fruits, of taste to please
True appetite, ana not disrelish thirst
Of nectarous draughts between. . . .
. . . With dispatchful looks in haste
She turns, on hospitable thoughts intent.
What choice to choose for delicacy best,
What order so contrived as not to mix
Tastes not well joined, inelegant, but bring
Taste after taste, upheld with kindliest change

***

She tempers dulcet creams . . ,
then strut's the ground
With rose and odours."

There is infinite zest in theabove passage from Milton, and even more