Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 23

How the Queen was served at dinner, and of her way of eating.

Queen Whims after this said to her gentlemen: The orifice of the ventricle, that ordinary embassador for the alimentation of all members, whether superior or inferior, importunes us to restore, by the apposition of idoneous sustenance, what was dissipated by the internal calidity’s action on the radical humidity. Therefore spodizators, gesinins, memains, and parazons, be not culpable of dilatory protractions in the apposition of every re-roborating species, but rather let them pullulate and superabound on the tables. As for you, nobilissim praegustators, and my gentilissim masticators, your frequently experimented industry, internected with perdiligent sedulity and sedulous perdiligence, continually adjuvates you to perficiate all things in so expeditious a manner that there is no necessity of exciting in you a cupidity to consummate them. Therefore I can only suggest to you still to operate as you are assuefacted indefatigably to operate.

Having made this fine speech, she retired for a while with part of her women, and we were told that ’twas to bathe, as the ancients did more commonly than we use nowadays to wash our hands before we eat. The tables were soon placed, the cloth spread, and then the queen sat down. She ate nothing but celestial ambrosia, and drank nothing but divine nectar. As for the lords and ladies that were there, they, as well as we, fared on as rare, costly, and dainty dishes as ever Apicius wot or dreamed of in his life.

When we were as round as hoops, and as full as eggs, with stuffing the gut, an olla podrida [’Some call it an Olio. Rabelais Pot-pourry.’— Motteux.] was set before us to force hunger to come to terms with us, in case it had not granted us a truce; and such a huge vast thing it was that the plate which Pythius Althius gave King Darius would hardly have covered it. The olla consisted of several sorts of pottages, salads, fricassees, saugrenees, cabirotadoes, roast and boiled meat, carbonadoes, swingeing pieces of powdered beef, good old hams, dainty somates, cakes, tarts, a world of curds after the Moorish way, fresh cheese, jellies, and fruit of all sorts. All this seemed to me good and dainty; however, the sight of it made me sigh; for alas! I could not taste a bit on’t, so full I had filled my puddings before, and a bellyful is a bellyful you know. Yet I must tell you what I saw that seemed to me odd enough o’ conscience; ’twas some pasties in paste; and what should those pasties in paste be, d’ye think, but pasties in pots? At the bottom I perceived store of dice, cards, tarots [’Great cards on which many different things are figured.’— Motteux.], luettes [’Pieces of ivory to play withal.’— Motteux.], chessmen, and chequers, besides full bowls of gold crowns, for those who had a mind to have a game or two and try their chance. Under this I saw a jolly company of mules in stately trappings, with velvet footcloths, and a troop of ambling nags, some for men and some for women; besides I don’t know how many litters all lined with velvet, and some coaches of Ferrara make; all this for those who had a mind to take the air.

This did not seem strange to me; but if anything did ’twas certainly the queen’s way of eating, and truly ’twas very new, and very odd; for she chewed nothing, the good lady; not but that she had good sound teeth, and her meat required to be masticated, but such was her highness’s custom. When her praegustators had tasted the meat, her masticators took it and chewed it most nobly; for their dainty chops and gullets were lined through with crimson satin, with little welts and gold purls, and their teeth were of delicate white ivory. Thus, when they had chewed the meat ready for her highness’s maw, they poured it down her throat through a funnel of fine gold, and so on to her craw. For that reason they told us she never visited a close-stool but by proxy.

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Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 15:33