As our state of health varies greatly from time to time, however, so do the warnings of this last sympathetic adviser change and flicker. Sweet things are always sweet, and bitter things always bitter; vinegar is always sour, and ginger always hot in the mouth, too, whatever our state of health or feeling. But our taste for roast loin of mutton, high game, salmon cutlets, and Gorgonzola cheese varies immensely from time to time, with the passing condition of our health and digestion. In illness, and especially in sea-sickness, one gets the distaste carried to the extreme: you may eat grapes or suck an orange in the chops of the Channel, but you do not feel warmly attached to the steward who offers you a basin of greasy ox-tail, or consoles you with promises of ham sandwiches in half a minute. Under those two painful conditions it is the very light, fresh, and stimulating things that one can most easily swallow—champagne, soda-water, strawberries, peaches; not lobster salad, sardines on toast, green Chartreuse, or hot brandy-and-water. On the other hand, in robust health, and when hungry with exercise, you can eat fat pork with relish on a Scotch hillside, or dine off fresh salmon three days running without inconvenience. Even a Spanish stew, with plenty of garlic in it, and floating in olive oil, tastes positively delicious after a day’s mountaineering in the Pyrenees.
The healthy popular belief, still surviving in spite of cookery, that our likes and dislikes are the best guide to what is good for us, finds its justification in this fact, that whatever is relished will prove on the average wholesome, and whatever rouses disgust will prove on the whole indigestible. Nothing can be more wrong, for example, than to make children eat fat when they don’t want it. A healthy child likes fat, and eats as much of it as he can get. If a child shows signs of disgust at fat, that proves that it is of a bilious temperament, and it ought never to be forced into eating it against its will. Most of us are bilious in after-life just because we were compelled to eat rich food in childhood, which we felt instinctively was unsuitable for us. We might still be indulging with impunity in thick turtle, canvas-back ducks, devilled whitebait, meringues, and Nesselrode puddings, if we hadn’t been so persistently overdosed in our earlier years with things that we didn’t want and knew were indigestible.
Of course, in our existing modern cookery, very few simple and uncompounded tastes are still left to us; everything is so mixed up together that only by an effort of deliberate experiment can one discover what are the special effects of special tastes upon the tongue and palate. Salt is mixed with almost everything we eat—sal sapit omnia—and pepper or cayenne is nearly equally common. Butter is put into the peas, which have been previously adulterated by being boiled with mint; and cucumber is unknown except in conjunction with oil and vinegar. This