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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
From the ‘Physiology of Taste’
By Brillat-Savarin (1755–1826)
The Privations

FIRST parents of the human species, whose gormandizing is historic, you who fell for the sake of an apple, what would you not have done for a turkey with truffles? But there were in the terrestrial Paradise neither cooks nor confectioners.  1
          How I pity you!  2
  Mighty kings, who laid proud Troy in ruins, your valor will be handed down from age to age; but your table was poor. Reduced to a rump of beef and a chine of pork, you were ever ignorant of the charms of the matelote and the delights of a fricassée of chicken.  3
          How I pity you!  4
  Aspasia, Chloe, and all of you whose forms the chisel of the Greeks immortalized, to the despair of the belles of to-day, never did your charming mouths enjoy the smoothness of a meringue à la vanille or à la rose; hardly did you rise to the height of a spice-cake.  5
          How I pity you!  6
  Gentle priestesses of Vesta, at one and the same time burdened with so many honors and menaced with such horrible punishments, would that you might at least have tasted those agreeable syrups which refresh the soul, those candied fruits which brave the seasons, those perfumed creams, the marvel of our day!  7
          How I pity you!  8
  Roman financiers, who made the whole known universe pay tribute, never did your far-famed banquet-halls witness the appearance of those succulent jellies, the delight of the indolent, nor those varied ices whose cold would brave the torrid zone.  9
          How I pity you!  10
  Invincible paladins, celebrated by flattering minstrels, when you had cleft in twain the giants, set free the ladies, and exterminated armies, never, alas! never did a dark-eyed captive offer you the sparkling champagne, the malmsey of Madeira, the liqueurs, creation of this great century: you were reduced to ale or to some cheap herb-flavored wine.  11
          How I pity you!  12
  Crosiered and mitred abbots, dispensers of the favors of heaven; and you, terrible Templars, who donned your armor for the extermination of the Saracens,—you knew not the sweetness of chocolate which restores, nor the Arabian bean which promotes thought.  13
          How I pity you!  14
  Superb châtelaines, who during the loneliness of the Crusades raised into highest favor your chaplains and your pages, you never could share with them the charms of the biscuit and the delights of the macaroon.  15
          How I pity you!  16
  And lastly you, gastronomers of 1825, who already find satiety in the lap of abundance, and dream of new preparations, you will not enjoy those discoveries which the sciences have in store for the year 1900, such as esculent minerals and liqueurs resulting from a pressure of a hundred atmospheres; you will not behold the importations which travelers yet unborn shall cause to arrive from that half of the globe which still remains to be discovered or explored.  17
          How I pity you!  18
On the Love of Good Living

I HAVE consulted the dictionaries under the word gourmandise, and am by no means satisfied with what I find. The love of good living seems to be constantly confounded with gluttony and voracity; whence I infer that our lexicographers, however otherwise estimable, are not to be classed with those good fellows amongst learned men who can put away gracefully a wing of partridge, and then, by raising the little finger, wash it down with a glass of Lafitte or Clos-Vougeot.
  They have utterly forgot that social love of good eating which combines in one, Athenian elegance, Roman luxury, and Parisian refinement. It implies discretion to arrange, skill to prepare; it appreciates energetically, and judges profoundly. It is a precious quality, almost deserving to rank as a virtue, and is very certainly the source of much unqualified enjoyment.  20
  Gourmandise, or the love of good living, is an impassioned, rational, and habitual preference for whatever flatters the sense of taste. It is opposed to excess; therefore every man who eats to indigestion, or makes himself drunk, runs the risk of being erased from the list of its votaries. Gourmandise also comprises a love for dainties or tit-bits; which is merely an analogous preference, limited to light, delicate, or small dishes, to pastry, and so forth. It is a modification allowed in favor of the women, or men of feminine tastes.  21
  Regarded from any point of view, the love of good living deserves nothing but praise and encouragement. Physically, it is the result and proof of the digestive organs being healthy and perfect. Morally, it shows implicit resignation to the commands of Nature, who, in ordering man to eat that he may live, gives him appetite to invite, flavor to encourage, and pleasure to reward.  22
  From the political economist’s point of view, the love of good living is a tie between nations, uniting them by the interchange of various articles of food which are in constant use. Hence the voyage from Pole to Pole of wines, sugars, fruits, and so forth. What else sustains the hope and emulation of that crowd of fishermen, huntsmen, gardeners, and others who daily stock the most sumptuous larders with the results of their skill and labor? What else supports the industrious army of cooks, pastry-cooks, confectioners, and many other food-preparers, with all their various assistants? These various branches of industry derive their support in a great measure from the largest incomes, but they also rely upon the daily wants of all classes.  23
  As society is at present constituted, it is almost impossible to conceive of a race living solely on bread and vegetables. Such a nation would infallibly be conquered by the armies of some flesh-eating race (like the Hindoos, who have been the prey of all those, one after another, who cared to attack them), or else it would be converted by the cooking of the neighboring nations, as ancient history records of the Bœotians, who acquired a love for good living after the battle of Leuctra.  24
  Good living opens out great resources for replenishing the public purse: it brings contributions to town-dues, to the custom-house, and other indirect contributions. Everything we eat is taxed, and there is no exchequer that is not substantially supported by lovers of good living. Shall we speak of that swarm of cooks who have for ages been annually leaving France, to improve foreign nations in the art of good living? Most of them succeed; and in obedience to an instinct which never dies in a Frenchman’s heart, bring back to their country the fruits of their economy. The sum thus imported is greater than might be supposed, and therefore they, like the others, will be honored by posterity.  25
  But if nations were grateful, then Frenchmen, above all other races, ought to raise a temple and altars to “Gourmandise.” By the treaty of November, 1815, the allies imposed upon France the condition of paying thirty millions sterling in three years, besides claims for compensation and various requisitions, amounting to nearly as much more. The apprehension, or rather certainty, became general that a national bankruptcy must ensue, more especially as the money was to be paid in specie.  26
  “Alas!” said all who had anything to lose, as they saw the fatal tumbril pass to be filled in the Rue Vivienne, “there is our money emigrating in a lump; next year we shall fall on our knees before a crown-piece; we are about to fall into the condition of a ruined man; speculations of every kind will fail; it will be impossible to borrow; there will be nothing but weakness, exhaustion, civil death.”  27
  These terrors were proved false by the result; and to the great astonishment of all engaged in financial matters, the payments were made without difficulty, credit rose, loans were eagerly caught at, and during all the time this “superpurgation” lasted, the balance of exchange was in favor of France. In other words, more money came into the country than went out of it.  28
  What is the power that came to our assistance? Who is the divinity that worked this miracle? The love of good living.  29
  When the Britons, Germans, Teutons, Cimmerians, and Scythians made their irruption into France, they brought a rare voracity, and stomachs of no ordinary capacity. They did not long remain satisfied with the official cheer which a forced hospitality had to supply them with. They aspired to enjoyments of greater refinement; and soon the Queen City was nothing but a huge refectory. Everywhere they were seen eating, those intruders—in the restaurants, the eating-houses, the inns, the taverns, the stalls, and even in the streets. They gorged themselves with flesh, fish, game, truffles, pastry, and especially with fruit. They drank with an avidity equal to their appetite, and always ordered the most expensive wines, in the hope of finding in them some enjoyment hitherto unknown, and seemed quite astonished when they were disappointed. Superficial observers did not know what to think of this menagerie without bounds or limits; but your genuine Parisian laughed and rubbed his hands. “We have them now!” said he; “and to-night they’ll have paid us back more than was counted out to them this morning from the public treasury!”  30
  That was a lucky time for those who provide for the enjoyments of the sense of taste. Véry made his fortune; Achard laid the foundation of his; Beauvilliers made a third; and Madame Sullot, whose shop in the Palais Royal was a mere box of a place, sold as many as twelve thousand tarts a day.  31
  The effect still lasts. Foreigners flow in from all quarters of Europe to renew during peace the delightful habits which they contracted during the war. They must come to Paris, and when they are there, they must be regaled at any price. If our funds are in favor, it is due not so much to the higher interest they pay, as to the instinctive confidence which foreigners cannot help placing in a people amongst whom every lover of good living finds so much happiness.  32
  Love of good living is by no means unbecoming in women. It agrees with the delicacy of their organization, and serves as a compensation for some pleasures which they are obliged to abstain from, and for some hardships to which nature seems to have condemned them. There is no more pleasant sight than a pretty gourmande under arms. Her napkin is nicely adjusted; one of her hands rests on the table, the other carries to her mouth little morsels artistically carved, or the wing of a partridge which must be picked. Her eyes sparkle, her lips are glossy, her talk is cheerful, all her movements graceful; nor is there lacking some spice of the coquetry which accompanies all that women do. With so many advantages, she is irresistible, and Cato the Censor himself could not help yielding to the influence.  33
  The love of good living is in some sort instinctive in women, because it is favorable to beauty. It has been proved, by a series of rigorously exact observations, that by a succulent, delicate, and choice regimen, the external appearances of age are kept away for a long time. It gives more brilliancy to the eye, more freshness to the skin, more support to the muscles; and as it is certain in physiology that wrinkles, those formidable enemies of beauty, are caused by the depression of muscle, it is equally true that, other things being equal, those who understand eating are comparatively four years younger than those ignorant of that science. Painters and sculptors are deeply impenetrated with this truth; for in representing those who practice abstinence by choice or duty as misers or anchorites, they always give them the pallor of disease, the leanness of misery, and the wrinkles of decrepitude.  34
  Good living is one of the main links of society, by gradually extending that spirit of conviviality by which different classes are daily brought closer together and welded into one whole; by animating the conversation, and rounding off the angles of conventional inequality. To the same cause we can also ascribe all the efforts a host makes to receive his guests properly, as well as their gratitude for his pains so well bestowed. What disgrace should ever be heaped upon those senseless feeders who, with unpardonable indifference, swallow down morsels of the rarest quality, or gulp with unrighteous carelessness some fine-flavored and sparkling wine.  35
  As a general maxim: Whoever shows a desire to please will be certain of having a delicate compliment paid him by every well-bred man.  36
  Again, when shared, the love of good living has the most marked influence on the happiness of the conjugal state. A wedded pair with this taste in common have once a day at least a pleasant opportunity of meeting. For even when they sleep apart (and a great many do so), they at least eat at the same table, they have a subject of conversation which is ever new, they speak not only of what they are eating, but also of what they have eaten or will eat, of dishes which are in vogue, of novelties, etc. Everybody knows that a familiar chat is delightful.  37
  Music, no doubt, has powerful attractions for those who are fond of it, but one must set about it—it is an exertion. Besides, one sometimes has a cold, the music is mislaid, the instruments are out of tune, one has a fit of the blues, or it is a forbidden day. Whereas, in the other case, a common want summons the spouses to table, the same inclination keeps them there; they naturally show each other these little attentions as a proof of their wish to oblige, and the mode of conducting their meals has a great share in the happiness of their lives.  38
  This observation, though new in France, has not escaped the notice of Richardson, the English moralist. He has worked out the idea in his novel ‘Pamela,’ by painting the different manner in which two married couples finish their day. The first husband is a lord, an eldest son, and therefore heir to all the family property; the second is his younger brother, the husband of Pamela, who has been disinherited on account of his marriage, and lives on half-pay in a state but little removed from abject poverty.  39
  The lord and lady enter their dining-room by different doors, and salute each other coldly, though they have not met the whole day before. Sitting down at a table which is magnificently covered, surrounded by lackeys in brilliant liveries, they help themselves in silence, and eat without pleasure. As soon, however, as the servants have withdrawn, a sort of conversation is begun between the pair, which quickly shows a bitter tone, passing into a regular fight, and they rise from the table in a fury of anger, and go off to their separate apartments to reflect upon the pleasures of a single life.  40
  The younger brother, on the contrary, is, on reaching his unpretentious home, received with a gentle, loving heartiness and the fondest caresses. He sits down to a frugal meal, but everything he eats is excellent; and how could it be otherwise? It is Pamela herself who has prepared it all. They eat with enjoyment, talking of their affairs, their plans, their love for each other. A half-bottle of Madeira serves to prolong their repast and conversation, and soon after they retire together, to forget in sleep their present hardships, and to dream of a better future.  41
  All honor to the love of good living, such as it is the purpose of this book to describe, so long as it does not come between men and their occupations or duties! For, as all the debaucheries of a Sardanapalus cannot bring disrespect upon womankind in general, so the excesses of a Vitellius need not make us turn our backs upon a well-appointed banquet. Should the love of good living pass into gluttony, voracity, intemperance, it then loses its name and advantages, escapes from our jurisdiction, and falls within that of the moralist to ply it with good counsel, or of the physician who will cure it by his remedies.  42
On People Fond of Good Living

THERE are individuals to whom nature has denied a refinement of organs, or a continuity of attention, without which the most succulent dishes pass unobserved. Physiology has already recognized the first of these varieties, by showing us the tongue of these unhappy ones, badly furnished with nerves for inhaling and appreciating flavors. These excite in them but an obtuse sentiment; such persons are, with regard to objects of taste, what the blind are with regard to light. The second class are the absent-minded, chatterboxes, persons engrossed in business or ambition, and others who seek to occupy themselves with two things at once, and eat only to be filled. Such, for example, was Napoleon; he was irregular in his meals, and ate fast and badly. But there again was to be traced that absolute will which he carried into everything he did. The moment appetite was felt, it was necessary that it should be satisfied; and his establishment was so arranged that, in any place and at any hour, chicken, cutlets, and coffee might be forthcoming at a word.
  There is a privileged class of persons who are summoned to the enjoyments of taste by a physical and organic predisposition. I have always believed in physiognomy and phrenology. Men have inborn tendencies; and since there are some who come into the world seeing, hearing, and walking badly, because they are short-sighted, deaf, or crippled, why should there not be others who are specially predisposed to experience a certain series of sensations? Moreover, even an ordinary observer will constantly discover faces which bear the unmistakable imprint of a ruling passion—such as superciliousness, self-satisfaction, misanthropy, sensuality, and many others. Sometimes, no doubt, we meet with a face that expresses nothing; but when the physiognomy has a marked stamp it is almost always a true index. The passions act upon the muscles, and frequently, although a man says nothing, the various feelings by which he is moved can be read in his face. By this tension, if in the slightest degree habitual, perceptible traces are at last left, and the physiognomy thus assumes its permanent and recognizable characteristics.  44
  Those predisposed to epicurism are for the most part of middling height. They are broad-faced, and have bright eyes, small forehead, short nose, fleshy lips, and rounded chin. The women are plump, chubby, pretty rather than beautiful, with a slight tendency to fullness of figure. It is under such an exterior that we must look for agreeable guests. They accept all that is offered them, eat without hurry, and taste with discrimination. They never make any haste to get away from houses where they have been well treated, but stay for the evening, because they know all the games and other after-dinner amusements.  45
  Those, on the contrary, to whom nature has denied an aptitude for the enjoyments of taste, are long-faced, long-nosed, and long-eyed: whatever their stature, they have something lanky about them. They have dark, lanky hair, and are never in good condition. It was one of them who invented trousers. The women whom nature has afflicted with the same misfortune are angular, feel themselves bored at table, and live on cards and scandal.  46
  This theory of mine can be verified by each reader from his own personal observation. I shall give an instance from my own personal experience:—  47
  Sitting one day at a grand banquet, I had opposite me a very pretty neighbor, whose face showed the predisposition I have described. Leaning to the guest beside me, I said quietly that from her physiognomy, the young lady on the other side of the table must be fond of good eating. “You must be mad!” he answered; “she is but fifteen at most, which is certainly not the age for such a thing. However, let us watch.”  48
  At first, things were by no means in my favor, and I was somewhat afraid of having compromised myself, for during the first two courses the young lady quite astonished me by her discretion, and I suspected we had stumbled upon an exception, remembering that there are some for every rule. But at last the dessert came,—a dessert both magnificent and abundant,—and my hopes were again revived. Nor did I hope in vain: not only did she eat of all that was offered her, but she even got dishes brought to her from the farthest parts of the table. In a word, she tasted everything, and my neighbor at last expressed his astonishment that the little stomach could hold so many things. Thus was my diagnosis verified, and once again science triumphed.  49
  Whilst I was writing the above, on a fine winter’s evening, M. Cartier, formerly the first violinist at the Opera, paid me a visit, and sat down at the fireside. Being full of my subject, I said, after looking at him attentively for some time, “How does it happen, my dear professor, that you are no epicure, when you have all the features of one?” “I was one,” he replied, “and among the foremost; but now I refrain.” “On principle, I suppose?” said I; but all the answer I had was a sigh, like one of Sir Walter Scott’s—that is to say, almost a groan.  50
  As some are gourmands by predestination, so others become so by their state in society or their calling. There are four classes which I should signalize by way of eminence: the moneyed class, the doctors, men of letters, and the devout.  51
  Inequality of condition implies inequality of wealth, but inequality of wealth does not imply inequality of wants; and he who can afford every day a dinner sufficient for a hundred persons is often satisfied by eating the thigh of a chicken. Hence the necessity for the many devices of art to reanimate that ghost of an appetite by dishes which maintain it without injury, and caress without stifling it.  52
  The causes which act upon doctors are very different, though not less powerful. They become epicures in spite of themselves, and must be made of bronze to resist the seductive power of circumstances. The “dear doctor” is all the more kindly welcomed that health is the most precious of boons; and thus they are always waited for with impatience and received with eagerness. Some are kind to them from hope, others from gratitude. They are fed like pet pigeons. They let things take their course, and in six months the habit is confirmed, and they are gourmands past redemption.  53
  I ventured one day to express this opinion at a banquet in which, with eight others, I took a part, with Dr. Corvisart at the head of the table. It was about the year 1806.  54
  “You!” cried I, with the inspired tone of a Puritan preacher; “you are the last remnant of a body which formerly covered the whole of France. Alas! its members are annihilated or widely scattered. No more fermiers-généraux, no abbés nor knights nor white-coated friars. The members of your profession constitute the whole gastronomic body. Sustain with firmness that great responsibility, even if you must share the fate of the three hundred Spartans at the Pass of Thermopylæ.”  55
  At the same dinner I observed the following noteworthy fact. The doctor, who, when in the mood, was a most agreeable companion, drank nothing but iced champagne; and therefore in the earlier part of the dinner, whilst others were engaged in eating, he kept talking loudly and telling stories. But at dessert, on the contrary, and when the general conversation began to be lively, he became serious, silent, and sometimes low-spirited.  56
  From this observation, confirmed by many others, I have deduced the following theorem:—“Champagne, though at first exhilarating, ultimately produces stupefying effects;” a result, moreover, which is a well-known characteristic of the carbonic acid which it contains.  57
  Whilst I have the university doctors under my grasp, I must, before I die, reproach them with the extreme severity which they use towards their patients. As soon as one has the misfortune to fall into their hands, he must undergo a whole litany of prohibitions, and give up everything that he is accustomed to think agreeable. I rise up to oppose such interdictions, as being for the most part useless. I say useless, because the patient never longs for what is hurtful. A doctor of judgment will never lose sight of the instinctive tendency of our inclinations, or forget that if painful sensations are naturally fraught with danger, those which are pleasant have a healthy tendency. We have seen a drop of wine, a cup of coffee, or a thimbleful of liqueur, call up a smile to the most Hippocratic face.  58
  Those severe prescribers must, moreover, know very well that their prescriptions remain almost always without result. The patient tries to evade the duty of taking them; those about him easily find a good excuse for humoring him, and thus his death is neither hastened nor retarded. In 1815 the medical allowance of a sick Russian would have made a drayman drunk, and that of an Englishman was enough for a Limousin. Nor was any diminution possible, for there were military inspectors constantly going round our hospitals to examine the supply and the consumption.  59
  I am the more confident in announcing my opinion because it is based upon numerous facts, and the most successful practitioners have used a system closely resembling it.  60
  Canon Rollet, who died some fifty years ago, was a hard drinker, according to the custom of those days. He fell ill, and the doctor’s first words were a prohibition of wine in any form. On his very next visit, however, our physician found beside the bed of his patient the corpus delicti itself, to wit, a table covered with a snow-white cloth, a crystal cup, a handsome-looking bottle, and a napkin to wipe the lips. At this sight he flew into a violent passion and spoke of leaving the house, when the wretched canon cried to him in tones of lamentation, “Ah, doctor, remember that in forbidding me to drink, you have not forbidden me the pleasure of looking at the bottle!”  61
  The physician who treated Montlusin of Pont de Veyle was still more severe, for not only did he forbid the use of wine to his patient, but also prescribed large doses of water. Shortly after the doctor’s departure, Madame Montlusin, anxious to give full effect to the medical orders and assist in the recovery of her husband’s health, offered him a large glass of the finest and clearest water. The patient took it with docility, and began to drink it with resignation; but stopping short at the first mouthful, he handed back the glass to his wife. “Take it, my dear,” said he, “and keep it for another time; I have always heard it said that we should not trifle with remedies.”  62
  In the domain of gastronomy the men of letters are near neighbors to the doctors. A hundred years ago literary men were all hard drinkers. They followed the fashion, and the memoirs of the period are quite edifying on that subject. At the present day they are gastronomes, and it is a step in the right direction. I by no means agree with the cynical Geoffroy, who used to say that if our modern writings are weak, it is because literary men now drink nothing stronger than lemonade. The present age is rich in talents, and the very number of books probably interferes with their proper appreciation; but posterity, being more calm and judicial, will see amongst them much to admire, just as we ourselves have done justice to the masterpieces of Racine and Molière, which were received by their contemporaries with coldness.  63
  Never has the social position of men of letters been more pleasant than at present. They no longer live in wretched garrets; the fields of literature are become more fertile, and even the study of the Muses has become productive. Received on an equality in any rank of life, they no longer wait for patronage; and to fill up their cup of happiness, good living bestows upon them its dearest favors. Men of letters are invited because of the good opinion men have of their talents; because their conversation has, generally speaking, something piquant in it, and also because now every dinner-party must as a matter of course have its literary man.  64
  Those gentlemen always arrive a little late, but are welcomed, because expected. They are treated as favorites so that they may come again, and regaled that they may shine; and as they find all this very natural, by being accustomed to it they become, are, and remain gastronomes.  65
  Finally, amongst the most faithful in the ranks of gastronomy we must reckon many of the devout—i.e., those spoken of by Louis XIV. and Molière, whose religion consists in outward show;—nothing to do with those who are really pious and charitable.  66
  Let us consider how this comes about. Of those who wish to secure their salvation, the greater number try to find the most pleasant road. Men who flee from society, sleep on the ground, and wear hair-cloth next the skin, have always been, and must ever be, exceptions. Now there are certain things unquestionably to be condemned, and on no account to be indulged in—as balls, theatres, gambling, and other similar amusements; and whilst they and all that practice them are to be hated, good living presents itself insinuatingly in a thoroughly orthodox guise.  67
  By right divine, man is king of nature, and all that the earth produces was created for him. It is for him that the quail is fattened, for him that Mocha possesses so agreeable an aroma, for him that sugar has such wholesome properties. How then neglect to use, within reasonable limits, the good things which Providence presents to us; especially if we continue to regard them as things that perish with the using, especially if they raise our thankfulness towards the Author of all!  68
  Other equally strong reasons come to strengthen these. Can we be too hospitable in receiving those who have charge of our souls, and keep us in the way of safety? Should those meetings with so excellent an object not be made pleasant, and therefore frequent?  69
  Sometimes, also, the gifts of Comus arrive unsought—perhaps a souvenir of college days, a present from an old friend, a peace-offering from a penitent or a college chum recalling himself to one’s memory. How refuse to accept such offerings, or to make systematic use of them? It is simply a necessity.  70
  The monasteries were real magazines of charming dainties, which is one reason why certain connoisseurs so bitterly regret them. Several of the monastic orders, especially that of St. Bernard, made a profession of good cheer. The limits of gastronomic art have been extended by the cooks of the clergy, and when M. de Pressigni (afterwards Archbishop of Besançon) returned from the Conclave at the election of Pius VI., he said that the best dinner he had had in Rome was at the table of the head of the Capuchins.  71
  We cannot conclude this article better than by honorably mentioning two classes of men whom we have seen in all their glory, and whom the Revolution has eclipsed—the chevaliers and the abbés. How they enjoyed good living, those dear old fellows! That could be told at a glance by their nervous nostrils, their clear eyes, their moist lips and mobile tongues. Each class had at the same time its own special manner of eating: the chevalier having something military and dignified in his air and attitude; while the abbé gathered himself together, as it were, to be nearer his plate, with his right hand curved inward like the paw of a cat drawing chestnuts from the fire, whilst in every feature was shown enjoyment and an indefinable look of close attention.  72
  So far from good living being hurtful to health, it has been arithmetically proved by Dr. Villermé in an able paper read before the Académie des Sciences, that other things being equal, the gourmands live longer than ordinary men.  73

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