FAISANDAGE–The French term for red meat which is in the condition which, in England, is known as “high.” It is derived from faisan (pheasant).
When it is fresh, pheasant is tough and without much flavour. lt grows tender and its aroma develops after it has been hung for a longer or shorter time, depending upon the temperature. Nowadays, pheasant is no longer hung, as advocated by Montaigne, “until it develops a marked smell.”
In Brillat-Savarin’s time, pheasant was not considered fit for the gastronome’s table, except in a state of complete putrefaction. This authority recommends, in effect, that it should be kept, unplucked, until its breast turns green, so that it has to be held together for roasting on the spit by a slice of bread tied on with ribbon.
Grimod de La Reynière declared that it was ready when, being hung up by the tail, it fell down of its own accord. “Pheasant,” he says in a weighty phrase, “wishes to be waited for as a government pension is waited for by a man of letters who never learnt how to flatter anyone!” To make his meaning perfectly clear, he continues: “a pheasant killed on Shrove Tuesday will make perfect eating on Easter Day!”
Apart from a few sportsmen in love with tradition, most people have today abandoned these excesses. Winged game and ground game, when hung for a certain length of time, acquire a flavour similar to that of pheasant.
This habit of hanging meat until it is high, though approved of by a few connoisseurs, usually motivated by snobbery, is properly reprehended by those concerned with hygiene and also by the true gastronome.
Prosper Montagné, Larousse Gastronomique: The Encyclopedia of Food, Wine & Cookery, 1961
Now, from a practical point of view, what has been the influence of symbolism on the soul?
And Durtal answered himself: the Middle Ages, which knew that everything on earth is a sign and a figure, that the visible is valuable only for what is invisibly concealed beneath it, the Middle Ages which, as a consequence, wasn’t duped as we are today by appearances, studied this science very closely, and made of it the procuress and the handmaid of mysticism.
Convinced that the only aim that was important for man to follow, that the only goal that was necessary here below, was to enter into direct communication with heaven and to outstrip death by merging himself, by unifying himself as much as possible with God, it carried souls away, subjected them to the sobering diet of the cloister, pruned them of their earthly preoccupations, their carnal ambitions, always pointing them back to the same thoughts of renunciation and repentance, the same ideas of justice and love, and then, in order to hold them, to preserve them from themselves, it enclosed them with a fence, placed God always around them, under every form and under very aspect.
Jesus cropped up everywhere, attested to himself in the flora, in the fauna, in the structure of buildings, in decorations, in colours; whichever way man turned, he saw him.
And he saw also, as if in a mirror reflecting it, his own soul; he could discern, in certain plants, the qualities he had to acquire, the vices against which he had to defend himself.
And he had other examples before his eyes, because the symbolists didn’t limit themselves to turning treatises on botany, mineralogy, natural history, and other sciences into a course of catechism; some, Saint Melito among them, ended by applying their interpretative procedure to every object that came their way; to them, a zither turned into the chest of a devout man; the members of the human body metamorphosed into emblems: so the head signified Christ; the hairs were the saints; the nose, discretion; the nostrils, the spirit of faith; the eyes, contemplation; the mouth, temptation; the saliva, the sweetness of the inner life; the ears, obedience; the arms, the love of Jesus; the hands, good works; the knees, the sacrament of penance; the legs, the apostles; the shoulders, the yoke of Christ; the breasts, evangelical doctrine; the belly, avarice; the bowels, the mysterious precepts of Our Lord; the trunk and the loins, thoughts of lust; the bones, hardness of heart; the marrow, compunction; the cartilage, the feeble followers of Antichrist … and these writers extended this method of exegesis to the commonest objects of daily use, even to the tools and utensils that were within reach of everyone.
It was an uninterrupted succession of pious lessons. Ivo of Chartres tells us that priests instructed the people in symbolism, and Dom Pitra‘s research shows that in the Middle Ages Saint Melito’s treatise was popular and known to all. So the peasant knew that his plough was an image of the cross, that the furrows it made were like the freshly tilled hearts of the saints; he was not unaware that sheaves of corn signalled the fruit of repentance, that flour was the multitude of the faithful, the granary, the kingdom of heaven; and it was the same for many other professions; in short, this method of analogy was a constant invitation to everyone to observe more carefully and to pray better.
Used like this, symbolism served as a brake, bringing the forward march of sin to a grinding halt, and as a set of points, shifting souls and helping them pass through the stops of the mystical life. No doubt this science, translated into so many languages, was only intelligible in broad outline to the masses, and at times, when it was extruded through intricate minds such as that of the worthy Durand of Mende, it appeared overwrought, full of contradictions and accidental meanings. Then it seemed as if the symbolists took pleasure in splitting hairs with embroidery scissors; but in spite of these exaggerations, which it tolerated with a smile, the Church succeeded nevertheless through this tactic of repetition in saving souls, in carrying out the work of the saints on a large scale.
Then came the Renaissance, and symbolism foundered at the same time as church architecture.
It is ‘common sense’ that sees only the world of the senses as real, and that admits of no knowledge other than the one that comes from the senses; moreover, it ascribes value to this narrow form of knowledge only insofar as it offers a possibility of satisfying either material needs or a certain sentimentalism, for in reality sentiment—and this must be frankly stated at the risk of shocking contemporary moralism—lies quite close to matter. In all this there remains no place for intelligence, or at most only insofar as intelligence may consent to serve for the attainment of practical ends, and to become a mere instrument subordinated to the requirements of the lowest and most corporeal part of the human individual—”a tool for making tools”, to quote a significant expression of Bergson: it is an utter indifference to truth that begets pragmatism in all its forms.
Under such conditions, industry is no longer merely an application of science, an application from which science should, in itself, remain completely independent; it has become the reason for, and justification of, science to such an extent that here too the normal relations between things have been reversed. What the modern world has striven after with all its strength, even when it has claimed in its own way to pursue science, is really nothing other than the development of industry and machinery; and in thus seeking to dominate matter and bend it to their service, men have only succeeded, as we said at the beginning of this book, in becoming its slaves. Not only have they limited their intellectual ambition—if such a term can still be used in the present state of things—to inventing and constructing machines, but they have ended by becoming in fact machines themselves.
The vice of the modern notion of mental progress is that it is always something concerned with the breaking of bonds, the effacing of boundaries, the casting away of dogmas. But if there be such a thing as mental growth, it must mean the growth into more and more definite convictions, into more and more dogmas. The human brain is a machine for coming to conclusions; if it cannot come to conclusions it is rusty. When we hear of a man too clever to believe, we are hearing of something having almost the character of a contradiction in terms. It is like hearing of a nail that was too good to hold down a carpet; or a bolt that was too strong to keep a door shut. Man can hardly be defined, after the fashion of Carlyle, as an animal who makes tools; ants and beavers and many other animals make tools, in the sense that they make an apparatus. Man can be defined as an animal that makes dogmas. As he piles doctrine on doctrine and conclusion on conclusion in the formation of some tremendous scheme of philosophy and religion, he is, in the only legitimate sense of which the expression is capable, becoming more and more human. When he drops one doctrine after another in a refined scepticism, when he declines to tie himself to a system, when he says that he has outgrown definitions, when he says that he disbelieves in finality, when, in his own imagination, he sits as God, holding no form of creed but contemplating all, then he is by that very process sinking slowly backwards into the vagueness of the vagrant animals and the unconsciousness of the grass. Trees have no dogmas. Turnips are singularly broad-minded.