Friday, March 11, 2011

Confucius Analect of the Week, March 11, 2011

Chapter X, Verse 8.  Rules of Confucius about his food.  (James Legge translation)

“....He did not eat rice which had been injured by heat or damp and turned sour, nor fish or flesh which was gone. He did not eat what was discolored, or what was of a bad flavor, nor anything which was ill-cooked, or was not in season. He did not eat meat which was not cut properly, nor what was served without its proper sauce. Though there might be a large quantity of meat, he would not allow what he took to exceed the due proportion for the rice. It was only in wine that he laid down no limit for himself, but he did not allow himself to be confused by it...He did not eat much....” (editing mine).

Confucius defined the essence of Chinese cuisine 2500 years ago.  Freshness is a must.  Meat must be cut properly (not in large chucks as in Western cuisine).  The proper sauce must accompany meat.  (The use of chopsticks allows each morsel of meat to be coated with the proper sauce.  Too much and the extra runs off; too little and the meat is not properly coated.)  The meal must have a proper balance of meat and rice.  (James R. Ware translates phrase as a proper balance of meat and vegetables.)

Drink wine to satiation but not to befuddlement.  Don’t overeat.

Small wonder that Chinese cuisine is the world’s best (sorry to Francophiles).  Its principles were laid down several millennia ago, and have withstood the test of time.

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