NO rule is so general, which admits not some exception; to this, therefore, which hath been hitherto said (for I shall otherwise put most men out of commons), and those inconveniences which proceed from the substance of meats, an intemperate or unseasonable use of them, custom somewhat detracts and qualifies, according to that of Hippocrates 2, Aphorism. 50, "Such things as we have been long accustomed to, though they be evil in their own nature yet they are less offensive." Otherwise it might well be objected that it were a mere tyranny to live after those strict rules of physic; for custom doth alter nature itself, and to such as are used to them it makes bad meats wholesome, and unseasonable times to cause no disorder. Cider and perry are windy drinks, so are all fruits windy in themselves, cold most part, yet in some shires of England, Normandy in France, Guipuscoa in Spain, 'tis their common drink, and they are no whit offended with it. In Spain, Italy, and Africa, they live most on roots, raw herbs, camel's milk, and it agrees well with them: which to a stranger will cause much grievance. In Wales, lacticiniis vescuntur, as Humphrey Llwyd confesseth, a Cambro-Briton himself, in his elegant epistle to Abraham Ortelius, they live most on white meats: in Holland on fish, roots, butter, and so at this day in Greece, as Bellonius observes, they had much rather feed on fish than flesh. With us, Maxima pars victus in carne consistit, we feed on flesh most part, saith Polydor Virgil, as all northern countries do; and it would be very offensive to us to live after their diet, or they to live after ours. We drink beer, they wine; they use oil, we butter; we in the north are great eaters; they most sparing in those hotter countries; and yet they and we following our own customs are well pleased. An Ethiopian of old seeing an European eat bread, wondered, quomodo stercoribus vescentes viverimus, how we could eat such kind of meats: so much differed his countrymen from ours in diet, that as mine author infers, si quis illorum victum apud nos æmulari vellet; if any man should so feed with us, it would be all one to nourish, as Cicuta, Aconitum, or Hellebore itself. At this day in China, the common people live in a manner altogether on roots and herbs, and to the wealthiest, horse, ass, mule, dogs, cat-flesh, is as delightsome as the rest, so Mat. Riccius the jesuit relates, who lived many years amongst them. The Tartars eat raw meat, and most commonly horse-flesh, drink milk and blood, as the Nomades of old. Et lac concretum cum sanquine potat equino. They scoff at our Europeans for eating bread, which they call tops of weeds, and horse meat, not fit for men; and yet Scaliger accounts them a sound and witty nation, living a hundred years; even in the civilest country of them they do thus, as Benedict the jesuit observed in his travels, from the great Mogul's Court by land to Pekin, which Riccius contends to be the same with Cambula in Cataia. In Scandia their bread is usually dried fish, and so likewise in the Shetland isles; and their other fare, as in Iceland, saith Dithmarus Bleskenius, butter, cheese, and fish; their drink water, their lodging on the ground. In America in many places their bread is roots, their meat palmitos, pinas, potatoes, &c., and such fruits. There be of them too that familiarly drink salt sea-water all their lives, eat raw meat, grass, and that with delight. With some, fish, serpents, spiders; and in divers places they eat man's flesh, raw and roasted, even the Emperor Montezuma himself. In some coasts, again, one tree yields them cocoa-nuts, meat and drink, fire, fuel, apparel; with his leaves, oil, vinegar, cover for houses, &c., and yet these men going naked, feeding coarse, live commonly a hundred years, are seldom or never sick; all which diet our physicians forbid. In Westphalia they feed most part on fat meats and wourts, knuckle deep, and call it cerebrum Iovis: in the low countries with roots, in Italy frogs and snails are used. The Turks, saith Busbequius, delight most in fried meats. In Muscovy, garlic and onions are ordinary meat and sauce, which would be pernicious to such as are unaccustomed to them, delightsome to others; and all is because they have been brought up unto it. Husbandmen, and such as labour, can eat fat bacon, salt gross meat, hard cheese, &c. (O dura messorum ilia), coarse bread at all times, go to bed and labour upon a full stomach, which to some idle persons would be present death, and is against the rules of physic, so that custom is all in all. Our travellers find this by common experience when they come in far countries and use their diet, they are suddenly offended, as our Hollanders and Englishmen when they touch upon the coasts of Africa, those Indian capes and islands are commonly molested with calentures, fluxes, and much distempered by reason of their fruits. Peregrina, etsi suavia, solent vescentibus perturbationes insignes adferre, strange meats, though pleasant, cause notable alterations and distempers. On the other side, use or custom mitigates or makes all good again. Mithridates by often use, which Pliny wonders at, was able to drink poison, and a maid, as Curtius records, sent to Alexander from K. Porus, was brought up with poison from her infancy. The Turks, saith Bellonius, lib. 3, c. 15, eat opium familiarly, a drachm at once, which we dare not take in grains. Garcius ab Horto writes of one whom he saw at Goa in the East Indies, that took ten drachms of opium in three days; and yet consulto loquebatur, spake understandingly, so much can custom do. Theophrastus speaks of a shepherd that could eat hellebore in substance. And therefore Carcian concludes out of Galen, Consuetudinem utcunque ferendam, nisi valde malam. Custom is howsoever to be kept, except it be extremely bad: he adviseth all men to keep their old customs, and that by the authority of Hippocrates himself, Dandum aliquid tempori, ætati, regioni, consuetudini, and therefore continue as they began, be it diet, bath, exercise, &c., or whatsoever else.
Another exception is delight, or appetite, to such and such meats; though they be hard of digestion, melancholy; yet as Fuchsius excepts cap. 6. lib. 2. Institut. sect. 2. "The stomach doth really digest, and willingly entertain such meats we love most, and are pleasing to us, abhors on the other side such as we distaste." Which Hippocrates confirms, Aphorism. 2, 38. Some cannot endure cheese out of a secret antipathy, or to see a roasted duck, which to others is a delightsome meat.
The last exception is necessity, poverty, want, hunger, which drives men many times to do that which otherwise they are loth, cannot endure, and thankfully to accept of it: as beverage in ships, and in sieges of great cities, to feed on dogs, cats, rats, and men themselves. Three outlaws in Hector Boethius, being driven to their shifts, did eat raw flesh, and flesh of such fowl as they could catch, in one of the Hebrides for some few months. These things do mitigate or disannul that which hath been said of melancholy meats, and make it more tolerable; but to such as are wealthy, live plenteously, at ease, may take their choice, and refrain if they will, these viands are to be forborne, if they be inclined to, or suspect; melancholy, as they tender their healths: Otherwise if they be intemperate, or disordered in their diet, at their peril be it. Qui monet amat, Ave et cave.
He who advises is your friend,
Farewell and to your health attend.