GASTRONOMY owes its name to Gaster, the most important part of our anatomy. We may be sound of brain, heart and lungs, but only so long as Gaster—the belly—keeps the whole of our inner self working properly, and this it cannot do if we are mean or stupid—if we do not give it enough food, or the right kind of food. In the bad old days, the rich ate too much and drank too much while the poor ate too little—but still drank too much.
Dr. Johnson loved his food and brandy, but he was no gastronome. There is no ' gastronomy' in his Dictionary. It was only during the Victorian age, when serious efforts were made to check excessive drinking at all social levels, that Gastronomie was accepted in England and in English as Gastronomy. Gastronomy means the intelligent choice and appreciation of whatever is best in food and drink for Gaster the belly, as well as a lively sensual satisfaction to our sense and sight, smell and taste. There cannot be any intelligent choice nor real appreciation where there is excess.
Gastronomy stands or falls by moderation. No gourmand and no glutton can be a gastronome. No hard drinker can be a gastronome. His taste/-buds get blurred and seared by alcohol. Of course, there are gastronomes who are extravagant and who spend more than they should to have the best, just as there are motorists who buy cars beyond their means. But wealth is no more indispensable to be a gastronome than to be a motorist.
What is quite indispensable is to be born with good senses of smell and taste, gifts that no money can buy. Some people are born colour blind, and others are born with a defective or no sense of smell or taste. The great Duke of Wellington, for instance,
could not tell beef from mutton or pork—he had no taste and he knew it. But he insisted on having a good chef for the sake of his friends.
But whilst the blind cannot pretend to see, nor the deaf pretend to hear, the man and woman with no sense of smell or taste, or poor defective ones, may pose as connoisseurs, and sometimes do. I could name a few, but I had better not. What I can record, many years ago however, is having a bet with Stephen Walter, the younger brother of John, of The Times, when dining at his London flat. He had excellent senses of smell and taste, and knew a good deal about wine. He was responsible for the first Wine Supplement ever published by The Times, in June 1914. I bet that he could not taste wine from water by taste alone, with a napkin over his eyes. We filled three glasses, all exactly the same of course, with Sherry, Port, and water, and gave him Port and Sherry to sip and sip again, and he named them correctly. Then we gave him the glass of water, and without any hesitation he said 'Sherry again'. Off came the napkin over his eyes and he was left staring at the glass of water in his hand! It made us laugh, but it did not make any difference to our opinion that he was a good judge of wine under normal conditions.
Is Gastronomy really necessary? Yes and No. Yes in England, France and highly civilized nations with a high standard of living, but No elsewhere. A high standard of living depends upon both the quantity and quality of available food and drink, and there is no difficulty in the right measuring of quantity in tons or ounces, yards and inches, not enough or too much. But who and where are the people we can trust to tell what is bad, good or indifferent, what is best and the next best? There is no yardstick for quality and nobody can reasonably expect anything but praise, deserved or not, from the salesman for whatever he has to sell. That is why Gastronomy is necessary. The gastronome knows what is best and demands the
best in both food and drink. The best is not necessarily the dearest; it is not the cheapest as a rule either, although it may be accidentally so. The true gastronome can definitely tell us what is the best. That is a fact; the best value is a matter of personal opinion; a matter of taste and circumstance, two greatly varying factors. Without gastronomes, without people who know and who care for the best, quality would soon go down to the level of what pays the seller best to sell.
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SOME LECTURES AND ADDRESSES WHICH HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED
Wine and the Wine Trade in England. Retrospect and prospect. A lecture delivered at the Vintners' Hall, on 11 October 1952, under the auspices of the Education Committee of the Wine Trade Club. London. Crozier Press. 1932.
Wine and the Wine Trade. A paper read at the thirteenth Congress of the Ligue Internationale des adversaires de la prohibition, at Vintners' Hall, London, June 1933.
The value of wine. Address to the Hotelkeepers Conference, Bournemouth, 1934.
Vendangeset Vin. B.B.C. French Talks. The Listener. 21 October 1936.
The art of good living. A lecture delivered at The Royal Society of
Arts, 15 December 1937. Journal of the R.S.4. No. 4440. 24 December
Unusual Vegetables. A lecture delivered at The Royal Horticultural
Society. 12 April 1938. Journal of the R.H.S. Vol. LXIII. Part 6. 1938.
Wine, leisure and personality. Address to the Hotelkeepers Conference, Southport. 1938.
Wine: to know and to serve. Lecture delivered at the First Management refresher Course of the Hotels and Restaurants Association. London. January 1948.
Wine makes the meal. Address to the Hotelkeepers Conference, Harrogate. October 1950.