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Erasmus argues that Philosophizing is all very well but there is also a need for there to be a Philosopher of the Kitchen (1518)

Erasmus discusses the merits of feasting with two friends, Austin and Christian. After some witty repartee Austin concludes that Christian is a true "Philosopher of the Kitchen":

Austin: And you, my Christian, that I may return the Compliment, seem to have been Scholar to Epicurus, or brought up in the Catian School. For what’s more delicate or nice than your Palate?

Christian: Nor indeed would I myself, who am but an ordinary Man, change my Philosophy for Diogenes’s; and I believe your Catius would refuse to do it too. The Philosophers of our Time are wiser, who are content to dispute like Stoicks, but in living out–do even Epicurus himself. And yet for all that, I look upon Philosophy to be one of the most excellent Things in Nature, if used moderately. I don’t approve of philosophising too much, for it is a very jejune, barren, and melancholy Thing. When I fall into any Calamity or Sickness, then I betake myself to Philosophy, as to a Physician; but when I am well again, I bid it farewell.

Austin: I like your Method. You do philosophize very well. Your humble Servant, Mr. Philosopher; not of the Stoick School, but the Kitchen.

Christian: If I understood Oratory so well as I do Cookery, I’d challenge Cicero himself.

Austin: Indeed if I must be without one, I had rather want Oratory than Cookery.

Christian: I am entirely of your Mind, you judge gravely, wisely, and truly. For what is the Prattle of Orators good for, but to tickle idle Ears with a vain Pleasure? But Cookery feeds and repairs the Palate, the Belly, and the whole Man, let him be as big as he will. Cicero says, Concedat laurea linguæ; but both of them must give place to Cookery. I never very well liked those Stoicks, who referring all things to their (I can’t tell what) honestum, thought we ought to have no regard to our Persons and our Palates. Aristippus was wiser than Diogenes beyond Expression in my Opinion.

Austin: I despise the Stoicks with all their Fasts. But I praise and approve Epicurus more than that Cynic Diogenes, who lived upon raw Herbs and Water; and therefore I don’t wonder that Alexander, that fortunate King, had rather be Alexander than Diogenes.

The PROFANE FEAST.

The Argument.

Our Erasmus most elegantly proposes all the Furniture of this Feast; the Discourses and Behaviour of the Entertainer and the Guests, &c. Water and a Bason before Dinner. The Stoics, the Epicureans; the Form of the Grace at Table. It is good Wine that pleases four Senses. Why Bacchus is the Poets God; why he is painted a Boy. Mutton very wholsome. That a Man does not live by Bread and Wine only. Sleep makes some Persons fat. Venison is dear. Concerning Deers, Hares, and Geese: They of old defended the Capitol at Rome. Of Cocks, Capons and Fishes. Here is discoursed of by the by, Fasting. Of the Choice of Meats. Some Persons Superstition in that Matter. The Cruelty of those Persons that require these Things of those Persons they are hurtful to; when the eating of Fish is neither necessary, nor commanded by Christ. The eating of Fish is condemned by Physicians. The chief Luxury of old Time consisted in Fishes. We should always live a sober Life. What Number of Guests there should be at an Entertainment. The Bill of Fare of the second Course. The Magnificence of the French. The ancient Law of Feasts. Either drink, or begone. A Variation of Phrases. Thanksgiving after Meat….

Austin: I would cut you a Slice, if I knew what would please you. I would help you, if I knew your Palate. I would help you, if I knew what you lik’d best. If I knew the Disposition of your Palate, I would be your Carver. Indeed my Palate is like my Judgment.

Christian: You have a very nice Palate. No Body has a nicer Palate than you have. I don’t think you come behind him of whose exquisite Skill the Satyrist says,

Ostrea callebat primo deprendere morsu,

Et semel aspecti dicebat littus echini.

Austin: And you, my Christian, that I may return the Compliment, seem to have been Scholar to Epicurus, or brought up in the Catian School. For what’s more delicate or nice than your Palate?

Christian: If I understood Oratory so well as I do Cookery, I’d challenge Cicero himself.

Austin: Indeed if I must be without one, I had rather want Oratory than Cookery.

Christian: I am entirely of your Mind, you judge gravely, wisely, and truly. For what is the Prattle of Orators good for, but to tickle idle Ears with a vain Pleasure? But Cookery feeds and repairs the Palate, the Belly, and the whole Man, let him be as big as he will. Cicero says, Concedat laurea linguæ; but both of them must give place to Cookery. I never very well liked those Stoicks, who referring all things to their (I can’t tell what) honestum, thought we ought to have no regard to our Persons and our Palates. Aristippus was wiser than Diogenes beyond Expression in my Opinion.

Austin: I despise the Stoicks with all their Fasts. But I praise and approve Epicurus more than that Cynic Diogenes, who lived upon raw Herbs and Water; and therefore I don’t wonder that Alexander, that fortunate King, had rather be Alexander than Diogenes. Christian: Nor indeed would I myself, who am but an ordinary Man, change my Philosophy for Diogenes’s; and I believe your Catius would refuse to do it too. The Philosophers of our Time are wiser, who are content to dispute like Stoicks, but in living out–do even Epicurus himself. And yet for all that, I look upon Philosophy to be one of the most excellent Things in Nature, if used moderately. I don’t approve of philosophising too much, for it is a very jejune, barren, and melancholy Thing. When I fall into any Calamity or Sickness, then I betake myself to Philosophy, as to a Physician; but when I am well again, I bid it farewell.

Austin: I like your Method. You do philosophize very well. Your humble Servant, Mr. Philosopher; not of the Stoick School, but the Kitchen.

Christian: Nor indeed would I myself, who am but an ordinary Man, change my Philosophy for Diogenes’s; and I believe your Catius would refuse to do it too. The Philosophers of our Time are wiser, who are content to dispute like Stoicks, but in living out–do even Epicurus himself. And yet for all that, I look upon Philosophy to be one of the most excellent Things in Nature, if used moderately. I don’t approve of philosophising too much, for it is a very jejune, barren, and melancholy Thing. When I fall into any Calamity or Sickness, then I betake myself to Philosophy, as to a Physician; but when I am well again, I bid it farewell.

Austin: I like your Method. You do philosophize very well. Your humble Servant, Mr. Philosopher; not of the Stoick School, but the Kitchen.

About this Quotation:

Erasmus was only a profound linguist and biblical scholar but also a man of great humanity and humor. He is regarded by many as the best Latin writer since the classical period and his Greek language edition of the Bible did much to encourage a much sounder critical analysis. But as one can see from quotes like the one above, he used his scholarship and humor to puncture the pomposities of theologians and philosophers alike. Above all, Erasmus believed, one should live a moral life to the fullest and enjoy every moment.

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