ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

THE ART OF DINING

Updated on December 18, 2010
Manchu Eight Big-Bowls
Manchu Eight Big-Bowls
Manchu Han Imperial Feast was one of the grandest meals ever documented in Chinese cuisine
Manchu Han Imperial Feast was one of the grandest meals ever documented in Chinese cuisine

EVERYTHING has its own original constitution, just as each man has certain natural characteristics. If a man's natural abilities are of a low order, Confucius and Mencius themselves would teach him to no purpose. And if an article of food is in itself bad, the greatest chef of all ages could not cook a flavour into it.


A ham is a ham; but in point of goodness two hams will be as widely separated as sea and sky. A mackerel is a mackerel; but in point of excellence two mackerel will differ as much as ice and live coals. And other things in the same way. So that the credit of a good dinner should be divided between the cook and the steward, -- forty per cent, to the steward, and sixty per cent, to the cook. Cookery is like matrimony. Two things served together should match. Clear should go with clear, thick with thick, hard with hard, and soft with soft. I have known people mix grated lobster with birds'-nest, and mint with chicken or pork ! The cooks of to-day think nothing of mixing in one soup the meat of chicken, duck, pig, and goose. But these chickens, ducks, pigs, and geese, have doubtless souls; and these souls will most certainly file plaints in the next world as to the way they have been treated in this.


Let salt food come first, and afterwards food of a more negative flavour. Let the heavy precede the light. Let dry dishes precede those with gravy. No flavour should dominate. If a guest eats his fill of savouries, his stomach will be fatigued. Salt flavours must be relieved by bitter or hot-tasting foods, in order to restore the palate. Too much wine will make the stomach dull. Sour or sweet food will be required to rouse it again into vigour. In winter we should eat beef and mutton; in summer dried and preserved meats. As for condiments, mustard belongs specially to summer; pepper to winter.


Don't eat with your ears! By this I mean do not aim at having extraordinary out-of-the-way foods, just to astonish your guests. For that is to eat with the ears, not with the mouth. Beancurd, if good, is actually nicer than birds'-nest. And better than sea-slugs (beche-de-mer) , if not first-rate, is a dish of bamboo shoots. The chicken, the pig, the fish, the duck, -- these are the four heroes of the table. Sea-slugs and birds'-nest have no characteristic flavours of their own. They are but usurpers in the house. I once dined with a friend who gave us birds'-nest in bowls more like vats, holding each about four ounces of the plain-boiled article. The other guests applauded vigorously, but I smiled and said, " I came here to eat birds'-nest, not to take delivery of it wholesale."


Don't eat with your eyes! By this I mean do not cover the table with innumerable dishes and multiply courses indefinitely. For this is to eat with the eyes, not with the mouth.


To know right from wrong, a man must be sober. And only a sober man can distinguish good flavours from bad. It has been well said that words are inadequate to describe the various shades of taste. How much less then must a stuttering sot be able to appreciate them!


To make good tea, the water must be poured on at the moment of boiling. If allowed to go on boiling, the water will lose its flavour. If the water is allowed to go off the boil, the tea-leaves will float.


I am not much of a wine-drinker, but this makes me all the more particular. Wine is like scholarship. It ripens with age, and it is best from a fresh-opened jar, " The top of the wine-jar, the bottom of the tea-pot," as the saying has it.


[Author: YUAN MEL (A.D. 1715-1797) , an official-who got into trouble with his superiors and went into retirement at the early age of 40. Chiefly known as a poet, he wrote prose in a fascinating style, and his witty and amusing letters are widely read. He also composed a famous cookery-book, which amply entitles him to be regarded as the Brillat-Savarin of China.

GEMS of CHINESE LITERATURE, translated by H. A. GILES, p255]


Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • lilibees profile image

      lilibees 

      7 years ago

      Very well written thank you for this wonderful Hub. I enjoyed it ghreatly!

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)