BOOK THE FOURTH
2. Chapter II
A CLASSIC HOST, COOK, AND KITCHEN. APAECIDES SEEKS IONE. THEIR
IT was then the day for Diomed's banquet to the most select of his friends.
The graceful Glaucus, the beautiful Ione, the official Pansa, the high-born
Clodius, the immortal Fulvius, the exquisite Lepidus, the epicurean Sallust,
were not the only honourers of his festival. He expected, also, an invalid
senator from Rome (a man of considerable repute and favor at court), and a
great warrior from Herculaneum, who had fought with Titus against the Jews,
and having enriched himself prodigiously in the wars, was always told by his
friends that his country was eternally indebted to his disinterested
exertions! The party, however, extended to a yet greater number: for
although, critically speaking, it was, at one time, thought inelegant among
the Romans to entertain less than three or more than nine at their banquets,
yet this rule was easily disregarded by the ostentatious. And we are told,
indeed, in history, that one of the most splendid of these entertainers
usually feasted a select party of three hundred. Diomed, however, more
modest, contented himself with doubling the number of the Muses. His party
consisted of eighteen, no unfashionable number in the present day.
It was the morning of Diomed's banquet; and Diomed himself, though he
greatly affected the gentleman and the scholar, retained enough of his
mercantile experience to know that a master's eye makes a ready servant.
Accordingly, with his tunic ungirdled on his portly stomach, his easy
slippers on his feet, a small wand in his hand, wherewith he now directed
the gaze, and now corrected the back, of some duller menial, he went from
chamber to chamber of his costly villa.
He did not disdain even a visit to that sacred apartment in which the
priests of the festival prepare their offerings. On entering the kitchen,
his ears were agreeably stunned by the noise of dishes and pans, of oaths
and commands. Small as this indispensable chamber seems to have been in all
the houses of Pompeii, it was, nevertheless, usually fitted up with all that
amazing variety of stoves and shapes, stew-pans and saucepans, cutters and
moulds, without which a cook of spirit, no matter whether he be an ancient
or a modern, declares it utterly impossible that he can give you anything to
eat. And as fuel was then, as now, dear and scarce in those regions, great
seems to have been the dexterity exercised in preparing as many things as
possible with as little fire. An admirable contrivance of this nature may
be still seen in the Neapolitan Museum, viz., a portable kitchen, about the
size of a folio volume, containing stoves for four dishes, and an apparatus
for heating water or other beverages.