Man alone, saith Cardan, eats and drinks without appetite, and useth all his pleasure without necessity, animæ vitio, and thence come many inconveniences unto him. For there is no meat whatsoever, though otherwise wholesome and good, but if unseasonably taken, or immoderately used, more than the stomach can well bear, it will engender crudity, and do much harm. Therefore Crato adviseth his patient to eat but twice a day, and that at his set meals, by no means to eat without an appetite, or upon a full stomach, and to put seven hours' difference between dinner and supper. Which rule if we did observe in our colleges, it would be much better for our healths: but custom, that tyrant, so prevails, that contrary to all good order and rules of physic, we scarce admit of five. If after seven hours' tarrying he shall have no stomach, let him defer his meal, or eat very little at his ordinary time of repast. This very counsel was given by Prosper Calenus to Cardinal Caesius, labouring of this disease; and Platerus prescribes it to a patient of his, to be most severely kept. Guianerius admits of three meals a day, but Montanus, consil. 23. pro. Ab. Italo, ties him precisely to two. And as he must not eat overmuch, so he may not absolutely fast; for as Celsus contends, lib. 1. Jacchinus 15. in 9. Rhasis, repletion and inanition may both do harm in two contrary extremes. Moreover, that which he doth eat, must be well chewed, and not hastily gobbled, for that causeth crudity and wind; and by all means to eat no more than he can well digest. "Some think" (saith Trincavelius, lib. 11. cap. 29. de curand. part. hum.) "the more they eat the more they nourish themselves:" eat and live, as the proverb is, "not knowing that only repairs man, which is well concocted, not that which is devoured." Melancholy men most part have good appetites, but ill digestion, and for that cause they must be sure to rise with an appetite; and that which Socrates and Disarius the physicians in Macrobius so much require, St. Hierom enjoins Rusticus to eat and drink no more than, will satisfy hunger and thirst. Lessius, the Jesuit, holds twelve, thirteen, or fourteen ounces, or in our northern countries, sixteen at most, (for all students, weaklings, and such as lead an idle sedentary life) of meat, bread, &c., a fit proportion for a whole day, and as much or little more of drink. Nothing pesters the body and mind sooner than to be still fed, to eat and ingurgitate beyond all measure, as many do. "By overmuch eating and continual feasts they stifle nature, and choke up themselves; which, had they lived coarsely, or like galley slaves been tied to an oar, might have happily prolonged many fair years."
A great inconvenience comes by variety of dishes, which causeth the precedent distemperature, "than which" (saith Avicenna) "nothing is worse; to feed on diversity of meats, or overmuch," Sertorius-like, in lucem cænare, and as commonly they do in Muscovy and Iceland, to prolong their meals all day long, or all night. Our northern countries offend especially in this, and we in this island (ampliter viventes in prandiis et cænis, as Polydore notes) are most liberal feeders, but to our own hurt. Persicos odi puer apparatus: "Excess of meat breedeth sickness, and gluttony causeth choleric diseases: by surfeiting many perish, but he that dieteth himself prolongeth his life," Ecclus. xxxvii. 29, 30. We account it a great glory for a man to have his table daily furnished with variety of meats: but hear the physician, he pulls thee by the ear as thou sittest, and telleth thee, "that nothing can be more noxious to thy health than such variety and plenty." Temperance is a bridle of gold, and he that can use it aright, ego non summis viris comparo, sed simillimum Deo judico, is liker a God than a man: for as it will transform a beast to a man again, so will it make a man a God. To preserve thine honour, health, and to avoid therefore all those inflations, torments, obstructions, crudities, and diseases that come by a full diet, the best way is to feed sparingly of one or two dishes at most, to have ventrem bene moratum, as Seneca calls it, "to choose one of many, and to feed on that alone," as Crato adviseth his patient. The same counsel Prosper Calenus gives to Cardinal Caesius, to use a moderate and simple diet: and though his table be jovially furnished by reason of his state and guests, yet for his own part to single out some one savoury dish and feed on it. The same is inculcated by Crato, consil. 9. l. 2. to a noble personage affected with this grievance, he would have his highness to dine or sup alone, without all his honourable attendance and courtly company, with a private friend or so, a dish or two, a cup of Rhenish wine, &c. Montanus, consil. 24. for a noble matron enjoins her one dish, and by no means to drink between meals. The like, consil. 229. or not to eat till he be an hungry, which rule Berengarius did most strictly observe, as Hilbertus, Cenomecensis Episc. writes in his life,
------"cui non fuit unquam
Ante sitim potus, nec cibus ante famem,"
and which all temperate men do constantly keep. It is a frequent solemnity still used with us, when friends meet, to go to the alehouse or tavern, they are not sociable otherwise: and if they visit one another's houses, they must both eat and drink. I reprehend it not moderately used; but to some men nothing can be more offensive; they had better, I speak it with Saint Ambrose, pour so much water in their shoes.
It much avails likewise to keep good order in our diet, "to eat liquid things first, broths, fish, and such meats as are sooner corrupted in the stomach; harder meats of digestion must come last." Crato would have the supper less than the dinner, which Cardan, Contradict. lib. 1. tract. 5. contradict. 18. disallows, and that by the authority of Galen. 7. art. curat. cap. 6. and for four reasons he will have the supper biggest: I have read many treatises to this purpose, I know not how it may concern some few sick men, but for my part generally for all, I should subscribe to that custom of the Romans, to make a sparing dinner, and a liberal supper; all their preparation and invitation was still at supper, no mention of dinner. Many reasons I could give, but when all is said pro and con, Cardan's rule is best, to keep that we are accustomed unto, though it be naught, and to follow our disposition and appetite in some things is not amiss; to eat sometimes of a dish which is hurtful, if we have an extraordinary liking to it. Alexander Severus loved hares and apples above all other meats, as Lampridius relates in his life: one pope pork, another peacock, &c.; what harm came of it? I conclude our own experience is the best physician; that diet which is most propitious to one, is often pernicious to another, such is the variety of palates, humours, and temperatures, let every man observe, and be a law unto himself. Tiberius, in Tacitus, did laugh at all such, that thirty years of age would ask counsel of others concerning matters of diet; I say the same.
These few rules of diet he that keeps, shall surely find great ease and speedy remedy by it. It is a wonder to relate that prodigious temperance of some hermits, anchorites, and fathers of the church: he that shall but read their lives, written by Hierom, Athanasius, &c., how abstemious heathens have been in this kind, those Curii and Fabritii, those old philosophers, as Pliny records, lib. 11. Xenophon, lib. 1. de vit. Socrat. Emperors and kings, as Nicephorus relates, Eccles. hist. lib. 18. cap. 8. of Mauritius, Ludovicus Pius, &c., and that admirable example of Ludovicus Cornarus, a patrician of Venice, cannot but admire them. This have they done voluntarily and in health; what shall these private men do that are visited with sickness, and necessarily enjoined to recover, and continue their health? It is a hard thing to observe a strict diet, et qui medice vivit, misere vivit, as the saying is, quale hoc ipsum erit vivere, his si privatus fueris? as good be buried, as so much debarred of his appetite; excessit medicina malum, the physic is more troublesome than the disease, so he complained in the poet, so thou thinkest: yet he that loves himself will easily endure this little misery, to avoid a greater inconvenience; e malis minimum better do this than do worse. And as Tully holds, "better be a temperate old man than a lascivious youth." 'Tis the only sweet thing (which he adviseth) so to moderate ourselves, that we may have senectutem in juventute, et in juventute senectutem, be youthful in our old age, staid in our youth, discreet and temperate in both.