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- The Physiology of Taste - 10/49 -


occasioned by taste.

The first thing we become convinced of is that man is organized so as to be far more sensible of pain than of pleasure.

In fact the imbibing of acid or bitter substances subjects us to sensations more or less painful, according to their degree. It is said that the cause of the rapid effects of hydrocyanic acid is that the pain is so great as to be unbearable by the powers of vitality.

The scale of agreeable sensations on the other hand is very limited, and if there, be a sensible difference between the insipid and that which flatters the taste, the interval is not so great between the good and the excellent. The following example proves this:--FIRST TERM a Bouilli dry and hard. SECOND TERM a piece of veal. THIRD TERM a pheasant done to a turn.

Of all the senses though with which we have been endowed by nature, the taste is the one, which all things considered, procures us the most enjoyments.

1. Because the pleasure of eating is the only one, when moderately enjoyed, not followed, by fatigue.

2. It belongs to all aeras, ages and ranks.

3. Because it necessarily returns once a day, and may without inconvenience be twice or thrice repeated in the same day.

4. It mingles with all other pleasures, and even consoles us for their absence.

5. Because the impressions it receives are durable and dependant on, our will.

6. Because when we eat we receive a certain indefinable and peculiar impression of happiness originating in instinctive conscience. When we eat too, we repair our losses and prolong our lives.

This will be more carefully explained in the chapter we devote to the pleasures of the table, considered as it has been advanced by civilization.

SUPREMACY OF MAN.

We were educated in the pleasant faith that of all things that walk, swim, crawl, or fly, man has the most perfect taste.

This faith is liable to be shaken.

Dr. Gall, relying on I know not what examinations, says there are many animals with the gustatory apparatus more developed and extended than man's.

This does not sound well and looks like heresy. Man, jure divino, king of all nature, for the benefit of whom the world was peopled, must necessarily be supplied with an organ which places him in relation to all that is sapid in his subjects.

The tongue of animals does not exceed their intelligence; in fishes the tongue is but a movable bone, in birds it is usually a membranous cartilage, and in quadrupeds it is often covered with scales and asperities, and has no circumflex motion.

The tongue of man on the contrary, from the delicacy of its texture and the different membranes by which it is surrounded and which are near to it announces the sublimity of the operations to which it is destined.

I have, at least, discovered three movements unknown to animals, which I call SPICATION, ROTATION and VERRATION (from the Latin verb verro, I sweep). The first is when the tongue, like a PIKE, comes beyond the lips which repress it. The second is when the tongue rotates around all the space between the interior of the jaws and the palate. The third is when the tongue moves up and down and gathers the particles which remain in the half circular canal formed by the lips and gums.

Animals are limited in their taste; some live only on vegetables, others on flesh; others feed altogether on grain; none know anything of composite flavors.

Man is omnivorous. All that is edible is subjected to his vast appetite, a thing which causes gustatory powers proportionate to the use he has to make of them. The apparatus of taste is a rare perfection of man and we have only to see him use it to be satisfied of it.

As soon as any esculent body is introduced into the mouth it is confiscated hopelessly, gas, juice and all.

The lips prevent its retrogression. The teeth take possession of it and crush it. The salva imbibes it; the tongue turns it over and over, an aspiration forces it to the thorax; the tongue lifts it up to suffer it to pass. The sense of smell perceives it en route, and it is precipitated into the stomach to undergo ulterior transformations, without the most minute fragment during the whole of this escaping. Every drop every atom has been appreciated.

In consequence of this perfection, gourmandise is the exclusive apanage of man.

This gourmandise is even contagious, and we impart it without difficulty to the animals we have appropriated to our use, and which in a manner associate with us, such as elephants, dogs, cats, and parrots even.

Besides taste requiring to be estimated only by the value of the sensation it communicates to the common centre, the impression received by the animal cannot be compared to that imparted to man. The latter is more precise and clear, and necessarily supposes a superior quality in the organ which transmits it.

In fine, what can we desire in a faculty susceptible of such perfection that the gourmands of Rome were able to distinguish the flavors of fish taken above and below the bridge? Have we not seen in our own time, that gourmands can distinguish the flavor of the thigh on which the partridge lies down from the other? Are we not surrounded by gourmets who can tell the latitude in which any wine ripened as surely as one of Biot's or Arago's disciples can foretell an eclipse?

The consequence then is that we must render to Caesar the things which are Caesar's and proclaim man the great GOURMAND OF NATURE, and not be surprised if the good Doctor does sometimes as Homer did:--"Much zumeilen ichlafert der gute."

METHOD OF THE AUTHOR.

As yet we have treated the taste only from the physical point of view, and in some anatomical details which none will regret, we have remained pari passu with science. This does not however conclude the task we have imposed on ourselves, for from its usual attributes especially does this reparatory sense derive its importance.

We have then arranged in analytical order the theories and facts which compose the ensemble of this history, so that instruction without fatigue will result from it.

Thus in the following chapters, we will often show how sensations by repetition and reflection have perfected the organs and extended the sphere of our powers. How the want of food, once a mere instinct, has become a passion which has assumed a marked ascendency of all that belongs to society

We will also say, how all sciences which have to do with the composition of substances, have agreed to place in a separate category all those appreciable to the taste; and how travellers have followed in the same pathway when they placed before us substances nature apparently never meant us to see.

We will follow chemistry to the very moment when it penetrated our subterraneous laboratories to enlighten our PREPARERS, to establish principles, to create methods and to unveil causes which had remained occult.

In fine we will see by the combined power of time and experience that a new science has all at once appeared, which feeds, nourishes, restores, preserves, persuades, consoles, and not content with strewing handsfull of flowers over the individual, contributes much to the power and prosperity of empires.

If, amid the grave lucubrations, a piquante anecdote, or an agreeable reminiscence of a stormy life drips from my pen, we will let it remain to enable the attention to rest for a moment, so that our readers, the number of whom does not alarm us, may have time to breathe. We would like to chat with them. If they be men we know they are indulgent as they are well informed. If women they must be charming. [Footnote: Here the Professor, full of his subject, suffers his hand to fall and rises to the seventh heaven. He ascends the torrent of ages, and takes from their cradle all sciences, the object of which is the gratification of taste. He follows their progress through the night of time and seeing that in the pleasures they procure us, early centures were not so great as those which followed them: he takes his lyre and sings in the Dorian style the elegy which will be found among the varieties at the end of the volume.]

MEDITATION III.

GASTRONOMY.

ORIGIN OF SCIENCES.

THE sciences are not like Minerva who started ready armed from the brain of Jupiter. They are children of time and are formed insensibly by the collection of the methods pointed out by experience, and at a later day by the principles deduced from the combination of these methods.

Thus old men, the prudence of whom caused them to be called to the bed-side of invalids, whose compassion taught to cure wounds, were the first physicians.

The shepherds of Egypt, who observed that certain stars after the lapse of a certain period of time met in the heavens, were the first astronomers.


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