When after supper we begged Philinus to discover what he had to urge against variety of food, he thus began: I am not the author of this opinion, but our friend Philo here is ever now and then telling us, first, that wild beasts, feeding on one sort only and simple diet, are much more healthy than men are; and that those which are kept in pens are much more subject to diseases and crudities, by reason of the prepared variety we usually give them. Secondly, no physician is so daring, so venturous at new experiments, as to give a feverish patient different sorts of food at once. No, simple food, and without sauce, as more easy to be digested, is the only diet they allow. Now food must be wrought on and altered by our natural powers; in dyeing, cloth of the most simple color takes the tincture soonest; the most inodorous oil is soonest by perfumes changed into an essence; and simple diet is soonest changed, and soonest yields to the digesting power. For many and different qualities, having some contrariety, when they meet disagree and corrupt one another; [p. 291] as in a city, a mixed rout are not easily reduced into one body, nor brought to follow the same concerns; for each works according to its own nature, and is very hardly brought to side with another's quality. Now this is evident in wine; mixed wine inebriates very soon, and drunkenness is much like a crudity rising from undigested wine; and therefore the drinkers hate mixed liquors, and those that do mix them do it privately, as afraid to have their design upon the company discovered. Every change is disturbing and injurious, and therefore musicians are very careful how they strike many strings at once; though the mixture and variety of the notes would be the only harm that would follow. This I dare say, that belief and assent can be sooner procured by disagreeing arguments, than concoction by various and different qualities. But lest I should seem jocose, waving this, I will return to Philo's observations again. We have often heard him declare that it is the quality that makes meat hard to be digested; that to mix many things together is hurtful, and begets unnatural qualities; and that every man should take that which by experience he finds most agreeable to his temper. Now if nothing is by its own nature hard to be digested, but it is the quantity that disturbs and corrupts, I think we have still greater reason to forbear that variety with which Philo's cook, as it were in opposition to his master's practice, would draw us on to surfeits and diseases. For, by the different sorts of food and new ways of dressing, he still keeps up the unwearied appetite, and leads it from one dish to another, till tasting of every thing we take more than is sufficient and enough; as Hypsipyle's foster-child,
Who, in a garden placed, plucked up the flowers,[p. 292] But more, methinks, Socrates is here to be remembered, who adviseth us to forbear those junkets which provoke those that are not hungry to eat; as if by this he cautioned us to fly variety of meats. For it is variety that in every thing draws us on to use more than bare necessity requires. This is manifest in all sorts of pleasures, either of the eye, ear, or touch; for it still proposeth new provocatives; but in simple pleasures, and such as are confined to one sort, the temptation never carries us beyond nature's wants. In short, in my opinion, we should more patiently endure to hear a musician praise a disagreeing variety of notes, or a perfumer mixed ointments, than a physician commend the variety of dishes; for certainly such changes and turnings as must necessarily ensue will force us out of the right way of health.
One after one, and spent delightful hours;
But still his greedy appetite goes on,
And still he plucked till all the flowers were gone.