Anatomy of Melancholy, 230 – 233 – Pt. I, Sec. 2, Mem. II, Subs. 3 – Custom of Diet, Appetite, Necessity, how they cause or hinder

AofM 230-233


This section is mostly about how people eat different things. Some people think that the things that some other people like to eat are gross. Also foods (like frogs and snails) that make one person melacholic and filled with gall might not have that effect on someone else who is more accustomed to eating frogs and snails. Never yuck someone else’s yum, and my smaller gremlin’s pre-k teacher would say.

If I were still a scholar I would be tempted to write a paper arguing that there is an emergent awareness of subjectivity in this section. But I am not, huzzah, and also someone else has probably already written that essay.

There are some bits of token wisdom in here:

“No rule is so general, which admits not some exception.”

I’d say that’s true, with occasional exceptions.


“Strange meats, though pleasant, cause notable alterations and distempers.”

Do not eat the strange meat.

Finally there are some truly inspiring insights here:

In Westphalia they feed most part on fat meats and worts, knuckle deep, and call it cerebrum Jovis: 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, etc., (O dura messorum illa), 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.

Just kidding! That wasn’t inspiring OR insightful, unless you plan to travel to Wesphalia to eat worts.


This post is part of a long, tedious, and very illustrated read-along of Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy. More info here and follow along on Facebook here. Illustrations posted via devon_isadevon on Instagram.

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