ACETARIA: A Discourse of Sallets – A goodly Salad

A Goodly Sallet!

Lettuce, Leeks, Mint, Rocket, Colewort-Tops, with Oyl and Eggs, and ſuch an Hotch-Pot following (as the Cook in Plautus would deſervedly laugh at). But how infinitely out-done in this Age of ours, by the Variety of ſo many rare Edules unknown to the Ancients, that there’s no room for the Compariſon. And, for Magnificence, let the Sallet dreſt by the Lady for an Entertainment made by Jacobus Catſius(deſcrib’d by the Poet Barlæus) ſhew; not at all yet out-doing what we every Day almoſt find at our Lord Mayor’s Table, and other great Perſons, Lovers of the Gardens; that ſort of elegant Cookery being capable of ſuch wonderful Variety, tho’ not altogether wanting of old, if that be true which is related to us of Nicomedes a certain King of Bithynia, whoſe Cook made him a Pilchard (a Fiſh he exceedingly long’d for) of a well diſſembl’d Turnip, carv’d in its Shape, and dreſt with Oyl, Salt, and Pepper, that ſo deceiv’d, and yet pleaſed the Prince, that he commended it for the beſt Fiſh he had ever eaten. Nor does all this exceed what every induſtrious Gardiner may innocently enjoy, as well as the greateſt Potentate on Earth.

Vitellius his Table, to which every Day

All Courtiers did a conſtant Tribute pay,

Could nothing more delicious afford

Than Nature’s Liberality.

Help’d with a little Art and Induſtry,

Allows the meaneſt Gard’ners Board,

The Wanton Taſte no Fiſh or Fowl can chuſe,

For which the Grape or Melon ſhe would loſe.

Tho’ all th’ Inhabitants of Sea and Air.

Be lifted in the Glutton’s Bill of Fare;

Yet ſtill the Sallet, and the Fruit we ſee

Plac’d the third Story high in all her Luxury.

So the Sweet Poet, whom I can never part with for his Love to this delicious Toil, and the Honour he has done me.

Verily, the infinite Plenty and Abundance, with which the benign and bountiful Author of Nature has ſtor’d the whole Terreſtrial World, more with Plants and Vegetables than with any other Proviſion whatſoever; and the Variety not only equal, but by far exceeding the Pleaſure and Delight of Taſte (above all the Art of the Kitchen, than ever Apicius knew) ſeems loudly to call, and kindly invite all her living Inhabitants (none excepted) who are of gentle Nature, and moſt uſeful, to the ſame Hoſpitable and Common-Board, which firſt ſhe furniſh’d with Plants and Fruit, as to their natural and genuine Paſture; nay, and of the moſt wild, and ſavage too ab origine: As in Paradiſe, where, as the Evangelical Prophet adumbrating the future Glory of the Catholick Church, (of which that happy Garden was theAntitype) the Wolf and the Lamb, the angry and furious Lion, ſhould eat Graſs and Herbs together with the Ox. But after all, latet anguis in herba, there’s a Snake in the Graſs; Luxury, and Exceſs in our moſt innocent Fruitions. There was a time indeed when the Garden furniſh’d Entertainments for the moſt Renown’d Heroes, virtuous and excellent Perſons; till the Blood-thirſty and Ambitious, over-running the Nations, and by Murders and Rapine rifl’d the World, to tranſplant its Luxury to its new Miſtriſs, Rome. Thoſe whom heretofore two Acres of Land would have ſatisfied, and plentifully maintain’d; had afterwards their very Kitchens almoſt as large as their firſt Territories: Nor was that enough: Entire Foreſts and Parks, Warrens and Fiſh-Ponds, and ample Lakes to furniſh their Tables, ſo as Men could not live by one another without Oppreſſion: Nay, and to ſhew how the beſt, and moſt innocent things may be perverted; they chang’d thoſe frugal and inemptas Dapes of their Anceſtors, to that Height and Profuſion; that we read of Edicts and Sumptuary Laws, enacted to reſtrain even the Pride and Exceſs of Sallets. But ſo it was not when the Peaſe-Field ſpread a Table for the Conquerors of the World, and their Grounds were cultivated Vomere laureato, & triumphali aratore: The greateſt Princes took the Spade and the Plough-Staff in the ſame Hand they held the Sceptre; and the Nobleſt Families thought it no Diſhonour, to derive their Names from Plants and Sallet-Herbs; They arriv’d, I ſay to that Pitch of ingroſſing all that was but green, and could be vary’d by the Cook (Heu quam prodiga ventris!) that, asPliny tells us (non ſine pudore, not without blushing) a poor Man could hardly find a Thiſtle to dreſs for his Supper; or what his hungry Aſs would not touch, for fear of pricking his Lips.

Verily the Luxury of the Eaſt ruin’d the greateſt Monarchies; firſt, the Perſian, then the Grecian, and afterwards Rome her ſelf: By what Steps, ſee elegantly describ’d in Old Gratius the Faliſcian, deploring his own Age compar’d with the former:

O quantum, & quoties decoris fruſtrata paterni!

At qualis noſtris, quam ſimplex menſa Camillis!

Qui tibi cultus erat poſt tot, ſerrane, triumphos?

Ergo illi ex habitu, virtutiſq; indole priſcæ,

Impoſuere orbi Romam caput:——

Neighb’ring Exceſſes being made thine own,

How art thou fall’n from thine old Renown!

But our Camilli did but plainly fare,

No Port did oft triumphant Serran bear:

Therefore ſuch Hardſhip, and their Heart ſo great

Gave Rome to be the World’s Imperial Seat.

But as theſe were the Senſual and Voluptuous, who abus’d their Plenty, ſpent their Fortunes and ſhortned their Lives by their Debauches; ſo never did they taſte the Delicaces, and true Satisfaction of a ſober Repaſt, and the infinite Conveniences of what a well-ſtor’d Garden affords; ſo elegantly deſcrib’d by the Naturaliſt, as coſting neither Fuel nor Fire to boil, Pains or time to gather and prepare, Res expedita & parata ſemper: All was ſo near at hand, readily dreſt, and of ſo eaſie Digeſtion; as neither to offend the Brain, or dull the Senſes; and in the greateſt Dearth of Corn, a little Bread ſuffic’d. In all Events,

Panis ematur, Olus, Vini Sextarius adde

Queis humana ſibi doleat natura negatis.

Bread, Wine and wholſome Sallets you may buy,

What Nature adds beſides is Luxury.

They could then make an honeſt Meal, and dine upon a Sallet without ſo much as a Grain, of Exotic Spice; And the Potagere was in ſuch Reputation, that ſhe who neglected her Kitchen-Garden (for that was ſtill the Good-Woman’s Province) was never reputed a tolerable Huſ-wife: Si veſpertinus ſubitò te oppreſſerit hoſpes, ſhe was never ſurpriz’d, had all (as we ſaid) at hand, and could in a Trice ſet forth an handſome Sallet: And if this was Happineſs, Convictus facilis ſine arte menſa (as the Poet reckons) it was here in Perfection. In a Word, ſo univerſal was the Sallet, that the Un-bloody Shambles (as Plinycalls them) yielded the Roman State a more conſiderable Cuſtom (when there was little more than honeſt Cabbage and Worts) than almoſt any thing beſsides brought to Market.

They ſpent not then ſo much precious time as afterwards they did, gorging themſelves with Fleſh and Fiſh, ſo as hardly able to riſe, without reeking and reeling from Table.

——Vides ut pallidus omnis

Cœna deſurgat dubia? quin corpus onuſtum

Heſternis vitiis, animum quoque prægravat unà,

Atque affigit humo divinæ particulam auræ.

See but how pale they look, how wretchedly,

With Yeſterday’s Surcharge diſturb’d they be!

Nor Body only ſuff’ring, but the Mind,

That nobler Part, dull’d and depreſs’d we find.

Drowſie and unapt for Buſineſs, and other nobler Parts of Life.

Time was before Men in thoſe golden Days: Their Spirits were brisk and lively.

——Ubi dicto citius curata ſopori

Membra dedit, Vegetus præſcripta ad munera ſurgit.

With ſhorter, but much ſweeter Sleep content,

Vigorous and freſh, about their Buſineſs went.

And Men had their Wits about them; their Appetites were natural, their Sleep molli ſub arbore, ſound, ſweet, and kindly: That excellent Emperour Tacitus being us’d to ſay of Lettuce, that he did ſomnum ſe mercari when he eat of them, and call’d it a ſumptuous Feaſt, with a Sallet and a ſingle Pullet, which was uſually all the Fleſh-Meat that ſober Prince eat of; whilſt Maximinus (a profeſs’d Enemy to Sallet) is reported to have ſcarce been ſatisfied, with ſixty Pounds of Fleſh, and Drink proportionable.

There was then alſo leſs expenſive Grandure, but far more true State; when Conſuls, great Stateſmen (and ſuch as atchiev’d the most renown’d Actions) ſup’d in their Gardens; not under coſtly, gilded, and inlaid Roofs, but the ſpreading Platan; and drank of the Chryſtal Brook, and by Temperance, and healthy Frugality, maintain’d the Glory of Sallets, Ah, quanta innocentiore victu! with what Content and Satisfaction! Nor, as we ſaid, wanted there Variety; for ſo in the moſt bliſsful Place, and innocent State of Nature, See how the firſt Empreſs of the World Regal’s her Celeſtial Gueſt:

With ſav’ry Fruit of Taſte to pleaſe

True Appetite, —— and brings

Whatever Earth’s all-bearing Mother yields

——Fruit of all kinds, in Coat

Rough, or ſmooth-Rind, or bearded Husk, or Shell.

Heaps with unſparing Hand: For Drink the Grape

She cruſhes, inoffenſive Mouſt, and Meaches

From many a Berry, and from ſweet Kernel preſt,

She temper’d dulcid Creams.——

Then for the Board.

——Rais’d of a graſſy Turf

The Table was, and Moſſy Seats had round;

And on the ample Meaths from Side to Side,

All Autumn pil’d: Ah Innocence,

Deſerving Paradiſe!

Thus, the Hortulan Proviſion of the Golden Age fitted all Places, Times and Perſons; and when Man is reſtor’d to that State again, it will be as it was in the Beginning.

But now after all (and for Cloſe of all) Let none yet imagine, that whilſt we juſtifie our preſent Subject through all the Topics of Panegyric, we would in Favour of the Sallet, dreſt with all its Pomp and Advantage turn Mankind to Graſs again; which were ungratefully to neglect the Bounty of Heaven, as well as his Health and Comfort: But by theſe Noble Inſtances and Examples, to reproach the Luxury of the preſent Age; and by ſhewing the infinite Bleſſing and Effects of Temperance, and the Vertues accompanying it; with how little Nature, and a Civil Appetite may be happy, contented with moderate things, and within a little Compaſs, reſerving the reſt, to the nobler Parts of Life. And thus of old,

Hoc erat in votis, modus agri non ita magnus, &c.

He that was poſſeſs’d of a little Spot of Ground, and well-cultivated Garden, with other moderate Circumſtances, had Hæredium. All that a modeſt Man could well deſire. Then,

Happy the Man, who from Ambition freed,

A little Garden, little Field does feed.

The Field gives frugal Nature what’s requird;

The Garden what’s luxuriouſly deſir’d:

The ſpecious Evils of an anxious Life,

He leaves to Fools to be their endleſs Strife.

O Fortunatos nimium bona ſi ſua norint Horticulos!