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NIHIL NOVUM SUB SOLE

1001 deeds, sayings, curiosities and anecdotes of the ancient world

For a healthy and balanced diet

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Approximately 800 million people worldwide have insufficient food, that is, one in nine. A few million, mainly in Europe and North America, live in abundance and the richest of them enjoy a luxury food and waste which it is nothing but a big scandal. Here some cooks enjoy enormous fame and consideration, the restaurants are qualified and distinguished not only by the quality of their food but by the novelty of the offered dishes. Specialized guides qualified and distinguished them with the famous symbols: stars, forks, etc. Something similar happened in affluent Rome (http://en.antiquitatem.com/annona-apicius-panem-circenses-petronius) , in which there are thousands of hungry people with a few greedy and gourmand without limit. Of them the most famous is Marcus Gavius Apicius, who lived in the first century and was the author of a famous cookbook titled “De re coquinaria”, "Cookbook", about I will say something another time.

The Stoic and moralist philosopher Seneca, (4 BC -65 d C), criticizes in a letter to his friend Lucilius the scandalous spending that some citizens do in their feasts and the sophistication of a kitchen that transforms food until beyond recognition.

This treatment seems me similar to the famous present food dishes of deconstructed cooking where things are not what they seem.

Seneca also criticizes the combination of dishes and foods and flavors in striking conflicting jumble and complexity which can not cause but more rare and each day  more complex diseases.

It resembles me also the continuous information and diet plans, conflicting with each other, whit which  we are daily beaten by eager of profit companies: one day the qualities of a particular food are praised and  later another day they are reviled ; some are directly demonized and banned, even though man has consumed them since his origins.

It is striking in this respect the recent recommendation  to don’t consume or to limit the intake of meat prepared by man. Curiously, there is a movement of protest what they call the "Paleolithic diet" consisting of eating raw meat, rejecting one of the greatest inventions of man, the fire, and knowing that our Paleolithic ancestors eat the carrion or meat of dead animals for a long time,  and the don’t eat hunted meat.

Anyway, once again I find that what seemed very modern, it is as old at least than  the Greco-Roman world.

Otherwise it should been known that the issue of "feeding" is incidental in  the letter, which purports to show his friend the failure of theoretical philosophy. So I advise you, for those who want it, a complete reading of the letter number 95.

Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 95, 14 et seq.
….
Undoubtedly, as you say, that ancient wisdom was in the beginning rude and Angle, no less than other arts, that in process of time grew more refined and polished. But there was no need of such choice remedies as are now presented : wickedness was not grown' to such a height, nor had it spread so wide: simple remedies were applied to simple vices. But now there is a necessity for stronger battlements, and more laboured fortifications, as the mischiefs that assault us are grown so much stronger and more powerful.

Physic formerly was nothing more than skill in the virtues of some few herbs whereby the flowing blood might be staunched, and wounds closed by degrees ; but now it is become an extensive study, and consists in a surprising multiplicity of prescriptions. No wonder it had so little to do in those antient times, when the bodies of men were hale and robust, and their diet plain and easy, uncorrupted by art and delicacies; which in after times began to be sought for, not in order to satisfy hunger, but to provoke it;  and a thousand high-seasoned sauces, were invented to raise an appetite; so that meats which before sustained, and proved wholesome nourishment to those who wanted them, serve now only to overload the full stomach. Hence proceed paleness, and trembling of the nerves relaxed by wine; and a more miserable: leanness, caused rather by crudities than hunger; hence such a tottering gait, and perpetual {tumbling, as if men were always drunk; hence the small vessels of the cuticle are filled with water, and the belly distended, being accustomed to be crammed with more than it can well; hold, hence the black jaundice; the wan countenance of such as are in a deep consumption; the crooked fingers from the stiffness of the joints; the unfeeling apoplexy, and the evershaking palsy. What need I mention the swimming of the head; the torment both of the eyes and ears, the acute pains of the raging brain; the passages of the body afflicted with ulcers ; besides numberless forts of fevers, some high and violent, others creeping on by flow degrees ; others seizing us with horror and great saking of the limbs; with a thousand other distempers, the just plagues of luxury and intemperance?

The antients were free from these dreadful evils ; who had not as yet debauched themselves with the most delicate viands; who were their own mailers, and their own servants : they harden’d their bodies with toil and useful labour; and when tired with running, or hunting, or
tilling the ground, they sate down to such a repast, as would not have been relished, had they not been hungry. There was no need therefore! in those days of shops full of drugs, nor of so many instruments, gallipots and boxes. Simple was their health, from a simple cause,
but variety of dishes introduced a variety of diseases (d). Only observe what a strange mixture of things, luxury,, having ravaged both the land and sea, hath provided for the swallow of one gormandizing throat. Things of such different qualities can never agree, in, or with the stomach : it is impossible they should digest, as one thing prevents another. No wonder then that uncertain and various diseases should arise from such discordant meats ; and that humours, collected from such opposite parts of nature, and now conjoined in one, should redound as they do; for as we live by no rule, we sicken by none.

The greatest physician, and founder of the profession, observed, that women never shed their hair, nor were ever lame with the gout : but now are they both gouty and bald. The nature of women however is not changed, but the manner of life : for by taking the fame liberties with men, they have subjected themselves to the fame disorders; they keep as bad hours (e); they drink as deep; and challenge them as well in the use of oyl, as of strong wine ; they alike eat without an appetite; and are not ashamed of discharging an overloaded stomach by the mouth (f ) ; they likewife make their teeth chatter with ice, by way of cooling and refreshing the overheated liver ; nor in any lustful action will they suffer men to surpass them; may all the Gods and Goddesses confound them for their abominable practices! What wonder is it then that the greatest physician and most experienced naturalist, should be liable to a mistake, since we now see women afflicted both with the gout and baldness ? They have lost the privilege of their sex by their vices, and, having thrown aside the woman, subjected themselves to the diseases of debauchees.

The antient physicians knew not to prescribe frequent eating, or to drench the flagging veins with wine; they knew not the art of cupping or scarifying or to ease a chronic disorder by bathing or sweating; they knew not, by binding the legs and arms to recall the vital heat from the central parts to the extreme. There was no need of consultations, or to hunt after various kinds of remedies, when the dangers of their patients were few, and in a narrow compass. But now, alas ! to what a degree are disorders multiplied ? Such is the interest we pay for the irrational and inordinate pleasures that we indulge ourselves in !

But do you wonder that diseases multiply ? Count the cooks. All study is given over; the professors of the liberal arts fit in some lonely corner without an audience; the schools of rhetoric and philosophy are quite deserted; while the taverns and cook-shops are full : what a crowd of young fellows surround the hearth of some spendthrift ? I pass by the troops of poor boys, natives or foreign, distinguished by their nation, and complexions, and ranged according to their size, their age, and even their hair, those who have lank and straight locks not being admitted among the curled: I omit likewise the crew of bakers and confectioners, and other serving men whose business it is, at a sign given (g), to bring in the supper. Good gods! what a number of men does one belly employ !

But can you think those mushrooms (a tasteful poyson) do not secretly and gradually operate, though no bad effect is immediately perceived from them ? Do you think that the summer-ice does not chill, and by degrees make the liver callous ? or that those oysters, a molt
inert kind of flesh in itself, being fattened with mud, engender not viscous and muddy humours ? or that soy (A), or the pickle made of the gravy of unwholesome fish, does not burn up the entrails with its feline and poysonous particles ? or that those strong soups which are swallowed down hot from the fire, can without doing any prejudice, be extinguished in die bowels ? How filthy and pestilent are their belches ! How do they loth themselves, while disgorging their last surfeit ! Know, that such eatables as the luxurious are now fond of, may putrefy, but digest not.

I remember to have heard of a famous dish (i), into which a lickerish glutton, hastening his own destruction, was wont to gather all the dainties that were used to be served up at the tables of great men ; all kinds of shell-fish, cockels, muscles, and oysters with their beards cut off, are intermixed with sea-urchins (k)„ and poulets crimped and boned; no one can now eat of a single dish (l), they muff all be mingled together, and such an hotch-potch prepared for supper, as we may suppose made in the belly after a full meal. For my part, I expect soon that the visuals will be served up already chewed: for there is but little difference in having things so mangled and ,mashed together, and having a cook perform the office of our teeth.

It is thought tedious to indulge the taste with one thing after another ; all things must be set on together and disguised with one flavour: it would be too much trouble to reach out the hand for any particular thing; every thing must come on at once: the garnishing of many dishes must unite, and be blended together; and let those, who lay that all this is by way of grandeur and ostentation, know, that the fame excesses are committed not only in public but in private. Tho' a man sups alone, upon one mess of soup, it is compounded of various ingredients, that used to serve for so many dishes; but now there must be no difference between oysters and muscles ; and sea-crabs must be mixed, and cooked up with mullets; so that the light of it, if thrown up again, could not be more confused, (as I before observed). Now,as these viands are thus mixed and confounded, no single disorder can be supposed to arise therefrom, but several, unaccountable, different, and multiplied diseases, against which physic hath begun to arm herself, with many remedies founded on observations and experiments.

The fame I say of philosophy-it was once of a more simple nature, among those whole fins were not so enormous, but curable with flight and easy remedies. Against such a degeneracy and corruption of manners as now reigns, every thing is to be tried; and I wish that even so,
this dreadful malady may be overcome.

If the criticisms were insufficient  to the waste,  shortly after he adds  another element that also reminds us  the exorbitant price currently paid for a good fish for bluefin tuna for example in Japan, or for the first salmon of an Asturian river, when the famous restaurants in the area compete for it.

Seneca says in the same letter, paragraphs 41 et seq .:

What can be more scandalous than to spend at one supper a knight’s yearly revenue (2000ls.Sterling!) what more worthy censorial reprehension, than for a man thus to treat, or, in the language of a debauched, joyously indulge himself ? Yet there have been men,
otherwise of a frugal temper, who, on some extraordinary occasion, have made an entertainment which cost 30000 sesterces. Now if such a sum was expended merely by way of feasting and gluttony, nothing could be more scandalous ; but if it was in honour of some great personage, and a noble assembly, it may well escape censure ; for then it it is not extravagant luxury, but a grand and solemn treat. 

Tiberius Caesar ordered that a mullet of an extraordinary size, (why should I not mention the weight, to make gluttons gape ? it weighed four pounds and an half,) which was sent him for a present, to be carried into the market, and sold, saying, I should be much mistaken , my friends,if either Appius or P. Octavius buy not this fish . The thing sell out beyond his expectation : these very two men bid upon one another for it: Octavius got it, and not only the fish, but great glory among his companions, for having bought a fish for 5ooo sesterces, which Caesar had sold, and Apicius could not buy : now it was shameful in Octavius to buy it at such a price; but not in the person who bought it for a present to Tiberius, whatever it cost him; though I do not think it altogether excusable; it was vanity that made him admire a thing which he thought worthy Caesar. (Published 1786. Public Domain Mark 1.0 https://archive.org/details/SenecaLetters.)

Fuit sine dubio, ut dicitis, vetus illa sapientia cum maxime nascens rudis non minus quam ceterae artes, quarum in processu subtilitas crevit. Sed ne opus quidem adhuc erat remediis diligentibus. Nondum in tantum nequitia surrexerat nec tam late se sparserat. Poterant vi tus simplicibus obstare remedia simplicia; nunc necesse est tanto operosiora esse munimenta, quanto vehementiora sunt, quibus petimur.
Medicina quondam paucarum fuit scientia herbarum, quibus sisteretur fluens sanguis, vulnera coirent; paulatim deinde in hanc pervenit tam multiplicem varietatem. Nec est mirum tunc illam minus negotii habuisse firmis adhuc solidisque corporibus et facili cibo nec per artem voluptatemque corrupto, qui postquam coepit non ad tollendam, sed ad inritandam famem quaeri et inventae sunt mille conditurae, quibus aviditas excitaretur, quae desiderantibus ali menta erant, onera sunt plenis.
Inde pallor et nervorum vino madentium tremor et miserabilior ex cruditatibus quam ex fame macies. Inde incerti  labantium  pedes et semper qualis in ipsa ebrietate titubatio. Inde in totam cutem umor admissus distentusque venter, dum male adsuescit plus capere quam poterat. Inde suffusio luridae bilis et decolor vultus tabesque in se putrescentium et retorridi digiti articulis obrigescentibus nervorumque sine sensu iacentium torpor aut palpitatio  sine intermissione vibrantium.
Quid capitis vertigines dicam ? Quid oculorum auriumque tormenta et cerebri exaestuantis verminationes et omnia, per quae exoneramur, internis ulceribus adfecta ? Innumerabilia praeterea febrium genera, aliarum impetu saevientium, aliarum tenui peste repentium, aliarum eum horrore et multa membrorum quassatione venientium ?
Quid alios referam innumerabiles morbos, supplicia luxuriae ?
Immunes erant ab istis malis, qui nondum se deliciis solverant, qui sibi imperabant, sibi ministrabant. Corpora opere ac vero labore durabant aut cursu defatigati aut venatu aut tellure  versanda.  excipiebat illos cibus, qui nisi esurientibus placere non posset. Itaque nihil opus erat tam magna medicorum supellectile nec tot ferramentis atque pyxidibus. Simplex erat ex causa simplici valitudo; multos morbos multa fericula fecerunt.
Vide, quantum rerum per unam gulam transiturarum permisceat luxuria, terrarum marisque vastatrix. necesse est itaque inter se tam diversa dissideant et hausta male  male digerantur aliis alio nitentibus. Nec mirum, quod inconstans variusque ex discordi cibo morbus est et illa ex contrariis naturae partibus in eundem compulsa redundant. Inde tam multo  aegrotamus genere quam vivimus.
Maximus ille medicorum et huius scientiae conditor feminis nec capillos defluere dixit nec pedes laborare; atqui et capillis destituuntur et pedibus aegrae sunt. Non mutata feminarum natura, sed victa est; nam cum virorum licentiam aequaverint, corporum quoque virilium incommoda aequarunt.
Non minus pervigilant, non minus potant, et oleo et mero viros provocant; aeque invitis ingesta visceribus per os reddunt et vinum omne vomitu remetiuntur; aeque nivem rodunt, solacium stomachi aestuantis. Libidine vero ne maribus quidem cedunt, pati natae, di illas deaeque male perdant! Adeo perversum commentae genus inpudicitiae viros ineunt. Quid ergo mirandum est maximum medicorum ac naturae peritissimum in mendacio prendi, cum tot feminae podagricae calvaeque sint ? Beneficium sexus sui vitiis perdiderunt et, quia feminam exuerant, damnatae sunt morbis virilibus.
Antiqui medici nesciebant dare cibum saepius et  vino fulcire venas cadentes, nesciebant sanguinem mittere et diutinam aegrotationem balneo sudoribusque laxare, nesciebant crurum vinculo brachiorumque latentem vim et in medio sedentem ad extrema revocare. Non erat necesse circumspicere multa auxiliorum genera, eum essent periculorum paucissima.
Nunc vero quam longe processerunt mala valitudinis ! Has usuras voluptatium pendimus ultra modum fasque concupitarum. Innumerabiles esse morbos non miraberis: cocos numera. Cessat omne studium et liberalia professi sine ulla frequentia desertis angulis praesident. In rhetorum ac philosophorum scholis solitudo est; at quam celebres culinae sunt, quanta circa nepotum focos iuventus premitur !
Transeo puerorum infelicium greges, quos post transacta convivia aliae cubiculi contumeliae exspectant. Transeo agmina exoletorum per nationes coloresque discripta, ut eadem omnibus levitas sit, eadem primae mensura lanuginis, eadem species capillorum, ne quis, cui rectior est coma, crispulis misceatur. Transeo pistorum turbam, transeo ministratorum, per quos signo dato ad inferendam cenam discurritur. Di boni, quantum hominum unus venter exercet! Quid ? Tu illos boletos, voluntarium venenum, nihil occulti operis iudicas facere, etiam si praesentanei non fuerunt ?
Quid ? Tu illam aestivam nivem non putas callum iocineribus obducere ?  Quid ? Illa ostrea, inertissimam carnem caeno saginatam, nihil existimas limosae gravitatis inferre ? Quid ? Illud sociorum garum, pretiosam malorum piscium saniem, non credis urere salsa tabe praecordia ? Quid ? Illa purulenta et quae tantum non ex ipso igne in os transferuntur, iudicas sine noxa in ipsis visceribus extingui ? Quam foedi itaque pestilentesque ructus sunt, quantum fastidium sui exhalantibus crapulam veterem ! Scias putrescere sumpta, non concoqui.
Memini fuisse quondam in sermone nobilem patinam, in quam quicquid apud lautos solet diem ducere, properans in damnum suum popina congesserat; veneriae spondylique et ostrea eatenus circumcisa, qua eduntur, intervenientibus distinguebantur echinis. Totam dissecti structique  sine ullis ossibus mulli constraverant.
Piget esse iam singula; coguntur in unum sapores. In cena fit, quod fieri debebat  in ventre. Expecto iam, ut manducata ponantur. Quantulo autem hoc minus est, festas excerpere atque ossa et dentium opera cocum fungi ? " Gravest luxuriari per singula; omnia semel et in eundem saporem versa ponantur. Quare ego ad unam rem manum porrigam ? Plura veniant simul,  multorum ferculorum ornamenta coeant et cohaereant.
Sciant protinus hi, qui iactationem ex istis peti et gloriam aiebant, non ostendi ista, sed conscientiae dari. Pariter sint, quae disponi solent, uno iure perfusa. Nihil intersit: ostrea, echini, spondyli, mulli perturbati concoctique ponantur." Non esset confusior vomentium cibus.
Quomodo ista perplexa sunt, sic ex istis non singulares morbi nascuntur, sed inexplicabiles, diversi, multiformes, adversus quos et medicina armare se coepit multis generibus, multis observationibus.
Idem tibi de philosophia dico. Fuit aliquando simplicior inter minora peccantes et levi quoque cura remediabiles; adversus tantam morum eversionem omnia conanda sunt. Et utinam sic denique lues ista vindicetur !
……
Párr.. 41 y ss.
Quid est cena sumptuosa flagitiosius et equestrem censum consumente ? Quid tam dignum censoria nota, si quis, ut isti ganeones loquuntur, sibi hoc et genio suo praestet ? Et deciens  tamen sestertio aditiales cenae frugalissimis viris constiterunt. Eadem res, si gulae datur, turpis est; si honori, reprensionem effugit. Non enim luxuria, sed inpensa sollemnis est.
Mullum ingentis formae—quare autem non pondus adicio et aliquorum gulam inrito ? quattuor pondo et selibram fuisse aiebant—Tiberius Caesar missum sibi cum in macellum deferri et veniri iussisset: " amici," inquit, " omnia me fallunt, nisi istum mullum aut Apicius emerit aut P. Octavius." Ultra spem illi coniectura processit: liciti sunt, vicit Octavius et ingentem consecutus est inter suos gloriam, cum quinque sestertiis emisset piscem, quem Caesar vendiderat, ne Apicius quidem emerat. Numerare tantum Octavio fuit turpe, non illi,  qui emerat, ut Tiberio mitteret, quamquam illum quoque reprenderim; admiratus est rem, qua putavit Caesarem dignum.

   
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