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1940s Archive

An Alphabet for Gourmets

continued (page 5 of 8)

It is safe to say, I think, that never again in our civilization will gluttony be condoned, much less socially accepted, as it was at the height of Roman decadence, when a vomitorium was as necessary a part of any well-appointed home as a powder room is today, and throat ticklers were no novelty at all. That was, as one almost forgotten has said in an unforgettable phrase, the “period of insatiable voracity and the peacock's plume” … and I am glad it is far behind me, for I would make but a weak social figure of a glutton, no matter to what excesses of hunger I can confess.

My capacity is very limited, perhaps fortunately for my inward as well as outer economy, so that what gluttonizing I have indulged in has resulted in biliousness more spiritual than physical. It has, like almost everyone's in this century, been largely secret. I think it reached its peak of purely animal satisfaction when I was about seventeen.

I was cloistered then in a school where each avid, yearning female was allowed to feed at least one of her several kinds of hunger with a daily chocolate bar. I evolved for myself a strangely voluptuous pattern of borrowing, hoarding, begging, and otherwise collecting about seven or eight of these noxious sweets, and then eating them alone upon a pile of pillows, when all the other girls were on the hockey field or some other healthful place. If I could eat at the same time a nickel-priced box of soda crackers, brought to me by a stooge among the day girls, my orgiastic pleasure was complete.

I find, in confessing this far-distant sensuality, that even the cool detachment acquired with time does not keep me from feeling both embarrassed and disgusted, no matter how slightly. What a pig I was!

I am a poor figure of a glutton today, in comparison with that frank adolescent cramming. In fact, I can think of nothing quite like it in my present make-up. It is true that I overeat at times, through carelessness or a deliberate prolonging of my pleasure in a certain taste, but I do not do it with the voracity of youth. I am probably incapable, really, of such lust. I rather regret it: one more admission of my dwindling powers.

Perhaps the nearest I come to gluttony is with wine. As often as possible, when a really beautiful bottle is before me, I drink all I can of it, even when I know that I have had more than I want physically. That is gluttonous.

But I think: When again will I have this taste upon my tongue? Where else in the world is there just such wine as this, with just this bouquet, at just this heat, in just this crystal cup? And when again will I be alive to do it as I am this very minute, sitting here on a green hillside above the sea, or here in this dim, murmuring, richly odorous restaurant, or here in this fishermen's café on the wharf? More, more, I think … all of it, to the last exquisite drop, for there is no satiety for me, nor ever has been, in such drinking.

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