But Nicomachus, in his Ilithyia, himself also introduces a cook, who in arrogance and conceit goes far beyond the artists on the stage. This cook then speaks to the man who has hired him in this way,—
A. You do display a gentlemanlike taste
And kind; but one thing still you have omitted.
B. How so?
A. You never have inquired it seems
How great a man I am. Or had you heard it
From some one else who was acquainted with me,
And so was that the reason you engaged me?
B. By Jove I never heard or thought about it.
A. Perhaps you do not know how great the difference
Is that exists between one cook and another?
B. Not I, but I shall know now, if you tell me.
A. To take some meat that some one else has bought,
And then to dress it tolerably, is
What any cook can do.
B. O Hercules!
[p. 457] A. A perfect cook is quite another thing.
For there are many admirable arts,
All of which he must master thoroughly
Who would excel in this. He first must have
A smattering of painting; and indeed
Many the sciences are which he must learn
Before he's fit to begin learning cookery,—
And you should know them ere you talk to me,—
Astrology, and Medicine, and Geometry.
For by these arts you'll know the qualities
And excellences of the various fish.
You'll learn to guide your dishes by the seasons;
And when this fish is in, and this is out,
For there is great variety in the pleasures
That from the table spring. Sometimes, for instance,
A boax will be better than a tunny.
B. Perhaps; but what on earth has that to do
With your geometry
A. Why this. We say
The kitchen is a sphere; this we divide,
And take one portion, as may suit our art,
Borrowing the principles of mensuration.
B. I understand; that's quite enough of that.
Where does your medical skill display itself?
A. Know there are meats hard, indigestible,
Pregnant with flatulence, causing only torture
To the unhappy eater, and no nourishment.
Yet those who sup at other folks' expense
Are always greedy and not temperate.
For these and similar viands, remedies
Must come from the resources of our art;
And how to marshal everything in order
With wisdom and propriety, we learn
By borrowing from the science of the General.
To count the guests requires arithmetic.
And no one else has all these parts of knowledge
B. Now in your turn, awhile
Listen to me.
A. Say on.
B. Give no more trouble
To me nor to yourself: but just keep quiet,
And rest yourself all day for all I care.