THE JAPANESE CATECHISM;
Or, An Indian and Japanese Dialogue
INDIAN. Is it so, that formerly, the Japanese knew nothing of cookery; that they had submitted their kingdom to the great Lama; that this great Lama arbitrarily prescribed what they should eat and drink; that he used, at times, to send to you an inferior Lama for receiving the tributes, who, in return, gave you a sign of protection, which he made with his two forefingers and thumb?
JAPANESE. Alas! It is but too true; nay, all the places of the Canusi, or chief cooks of our island, were disposed of by the Lama, and the love of God was quite out of the question. Further, every house of our seculars paid annually an ounce of silver to this head cook of Tibet, whilst all the amends we had, were some small plates of relics, and these none of the best tasted; and, on every new whim of his--as making war against the people of Tangut--we were saddled with fresh subsidies. Our nation frequently complained, but all we got by it, was to pay the more for presuming to complain. At length, love, which does every thing for the best, freed us from this galling thraldom. One of our emperors quarreled with the great Lama, about a woman; but it must be owned, that they who, in this affair, did us the best turn, were our Canusi, or Pauxcospies. It is to them that, in fact, we owe our deliverance; and it happened in this manner. The great Lama, forsooth, insisted on being always in the right. Our Dairi and Canusi would have it, that sometimes, at least, they might not be in the wrong. This claim the great Lama derided as an absurdity; on which, our gentry, being as stiff as he was haughty, broke with him forever.
INDIAN. Well, ever since you have had golden days, I suppose?
JAPANESE. Far from it: for nearly two hundred years, there was nothing but persecution, violence, and bloodshed among us; and though our Canusi pretended to be in the right, it is but a hundred years since they have had their proper reason; but, from that time, we may boldly esteem ourselves one of the happiest nations on the earth.
INDIAN. How can that be, if, as is reported, you have no less than twelve different sects of cookery among you? Why you must always be at daggers-drawing?
JAPANESE. Why so? If there be twelve cooks, and each have a different receipt, shall we, instead of dining, cut each other's throats? No, every one may regale himself at that cook's table whose manner of dressing victuals he likes best.
INDIAN. True; tastes are not to be disputed about. Yet people will make them a matter of contention, and all sides grow warm.
JAPANESE. After long disputing, men come to see the mischiefs of these wranglings, and at length agree upon a reciprocal toleration; and, certainly, they can do nothing better.
INDIAN. And pray, what are those cooks, who make such a stir in your nation about the art of eating and drinking?
JAPANESE. First, there is the Breuxehs, who never allow any pork or pudding. They hold with the old-fashioned cookery; they would as soon die, as lard a fowl; then they deal much in numbers, and if an ounce of silver be to be divided between them and the eleven other cooks, they instantly secure one-half to themselves, and the remainder take who will.
INDIAN. I fancy you do not often foul a plate with these folks.
JAPANESE. Never. Then there are the Dispates, who will, on some days of the week, and even for a considerable time of the year, will gormandize on turbot, trout, salmon, sturgeon, be they ever so dear, yet would not, for the world, touch a sweetbread of veal, which may be had for a groat.
As for us Canusi, we are very fond of beef and a kind of pastry ware, in Japanese called pudding. Now, all the world allows our cooks to be infinitely more knowing than those of the Dispates. Nobody has gone farther than we, in finding out what was the garum of the Romans. We surpass all others in our knowledge of the onions of ancient Egypt, the locust paste of the primitive Arabs, the Tartarian horse-flesh; and there is always something to be learned in the books of those Canusi, commonly known by the name of Pauxcospies.
I shall omit those who eat only in Tarluh, those who observe the Vincal diet, the Bastistans, and others; but the Quekars deserve particular notice. Though I have very often been at table with them, I never saw one get drunk, or heard him swear an oath. It is a hard matter to cheat them, but then they never cheat you. The law of loving one's neighbor as one's self, seems really peculiar to them; for, in truth, how can an honest Japanese talk of loving his neighbor as himself, when, for a little pay, he goes as a hireling to blow his brains out, and to hew him with a four-inch broad sabre, and all this in form; then he, at the same time, exposes himself to the like fate, to be shot or sabred: so he may, with more truth, be said to hate his neighbor as himself.
This is a frenzy the Quekars were never possessed with. They say, and very justly, that poor mortals are earthen vessels, made to last but a very short time, and that they should not wantonly go and break themselves to pieces, one against another.
I own, that were I not a Canusi, I should take part with the Quekars; for you see that there can be no wrangling nor blows with such peaceable cooks.
There is another, and a very numerous branch of cooks, called Diestos; with these, every one, without distinction, is welcome to their table, and you are at full liberty to eat as you like. You have larded or barded fowls, or neither larded nor barded, egg sauce, or oil; partridge, salmon, white or red wines; these things they hold as matters of indifference, provided you say a short prayer before and after dinner, and even without this ceremony before breakfast:--and with good-natured, worthy men, they will banter about the great Lama, the Turlah, Vincal and Memnon, &c.; only these Diestos must acknowledge our Canusi to be very profound cooks; and especially, let them never talk of curtailing our incomes: then we shall live very easily together.
INDIAN. But still there must be cookery, by law established, or the king's cookery.
JAPANESE. There must, indeed; but when the king of Japan has regaled himself plentifully, he should be cheerful and indulgent, and not hinder his good and loyal subjects from having their repasts.
INDIAN. But, should some hot-headed people take on themselves to eat sausages close to the king's nose, when the king is known to have an aversion to that food; should a mob of four or five thousand of them get together, each with his gridiron, to broil their sausages, and insult those who are against eating them?
JAPANESE. In such a case, they ought to be punished, as turbulent drunkards. But we have obviated this danger; none but those who follow the royal cookery are capable of holding any employment; all others may, indeed, eat as they please, but this humor excludes them from some emoluments. Tumults are strictly forbidden, and instantly punished without mercy or mitigation. All quarrels at table are carefully restrained by a precept of our Japanese cook, who has written, in the sacred language, "Suti raho, cus flat, natus in usum loetita scyphis pugnare tracum est:" that is, "the intent of feasting is a sober and decent mirth; but to throw glasses at one another is savage."
Under these maxims we live very happily. Our liberty is secured by our Taicosemas. We are every day growing more and more opulent. We have two hundred junks of the line, and are dreaded by our neighbors.
INDIAN. Why, then, has the pious rhymer, Recna, (son of the justly celebrated poet, Reen,) said, in a didactic work, entitled Grace, and not the Graces,
"Le Japon ou jadis brilla tante de lumiere,
N'est plus qu'un triste amas de felles visions."
"Japan, once famed for intellectual light,
Lies sunk in vision, chimera, and night."
JAPANESE. The poet Recna is himself an arrant visionary. Does not this weak Indian know, that it is we who have taught his countrymen what light is? that it is to us India owes its knowledge of the course of the planets? and that it is we who have made known to man the primitive laws of nature?
To descend to things of more common use: by us, his countrymen were taught to build junks in mathematical proportion; they are beholden to us for those coverings of their legs, which they call woven stockings. Now, is it possible, that, after such admirable and useful inventions, we should be madmen? And, if he have rhymed on the follies of others, does that make him the only wise man? Let him leave us to our own cookery, and, if he must be versifying, I would advise him to choose more poetical subjects.
This Recna, trusting to the visionaries of his country, has advanced, "That no good sauces were to be made, unless Brahma himself, out of his gracious favor, taught, or inspired his particular favorites to make the sauce; that there was an infinite number of cooks, who, with the best intentions and most earnest endeavors, were quite unable to serve a ragout; Brahma, from mere ill will, disabling them." Such stuff will not be credited in Japan, where the following quotation is esteemed as an indisputable truth:
"God never acts by partial will, but by general laws."
INDIAN. What can be said? He is full of his country's prejudices, those of his party, and his own.
JAPANESE. A world of prejudices indeed!