A bellyful of oysters

In 1798 I was at Versailles as a commissioner of the Directory, and had fairly frequent dealings with Monsieur Laperte, who was secretary to the tribunal of the department. He was extremely fond of oysters and used to complain of having never eaten enough of them, or, as he put it, ‘had his bellyful of them’.

I decided to provide him with that satisfaction, and to that end invited him to dinner.

He came. I kept him company as far as the third dozen, after which I let him go on alone. He went up to thirty-two dozen, taking more than an hour over the task, for the servant was not very skilful at opening them.

Meanwhile, I was inactive, and as that is a distressing condition to be in at the table, I stopped my guest when he was still in full career. ‘My dear fellow,’ I said, ‘it is not your fate to eat your bellyful of oysters today; let us have dinner.’

We dined: and he acquitted himself with the vigour and appetite of a man who had been fasting.

9781603862240Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, The Physiology of Taste, 1825.



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