And the cook in the Thesmophorus of Dionysius, my revellers, (for it is worth while to mention him also,) says—
You have said these things with great severity,
(And that's your usual kindness, by the Gods);
You've said a cook should always beforehand
Know who the guests may be for whom he now
Is dressing dinner. For he should regard
This single point—whom he has got to please
While seasoning his sauces properly;
And by this means he'll know the proper way
And time to lay his table and to dress
His meats and soups. But he who this neglects
Is not a cook, though he may be a seasoner.
But these are different arts, a wondrous space
Separates the two. It is not every one
That's called a general who commands an army,
But he who can with prompt and versatile skill
Avail himself of opportunities,
And look about him, changing quick his plans,
He is the general. He who can't do this
Is only in command. And so with us.
To roast some beef, to carve a joint with neatness,
To boil up sauces, and to blow the fire,
Is anybody's task; he who does this
Is but a seasoner and broth-maker:
A cook is quite another thing. His mind
Must comprehend all facts and circumstances:
Where is the place, and when the time of supper;
Who are the guests, and who the entertainer;
What fish he ought to buy, and when to buy it.
. . . . . For all these things
You'll have on almost every occasion;
But they're not always of the same importance,
[p. 639] Nor do they always the same pleasure give.
Archestratus has written on this art,
And is by many people highly thought of,
As having given us a useful treatise;
But still there's much of which he's ignorant,
And all his rules are really good for nothing,
So do not mind or yield to all the rules
Which he has laid down most authoritatively,
For a more empty lot of maxims you
Will hardly find. For when you write a book
On cookery, it will not do to say,
“As I was just now saying;” for this art
Has no fix'd guide but opportunity,
And must itself its only mistress be.
But if your skill be ne'er so great, and yet
You let the opportunity escape,
Your art is lost, and might as well be none.
BO man, you're wise. But as for this man who
You just now said was coming here to try
His hand at delicate banquets, say, does he
Forget to come?
A. If I but make you now
One forced meat ball, I can in that small thing
Give you a specimen of all my skill.
And I will serve you up a meal which shall
Be redolent of the Athenian breezes.
* * * * *
Dost fear that I shall fail to lull your soul
With dishes of sufficient luxury?