Things to Avoid 8: Indulging in Drink (戒縱酒)

戒單::戒縱酒
事之是非,惟醒人能知之;味之美惡,亦惟醒人能知之。伊尹曰︰「味之精微,口不能言也。」口且不能言,豈有呼呶酗酒之人能知味者乎?往往見拇戰之徒,啖佳菜如啖木屑,心不存焉。所謂惟酒是務,焉知其餘,而治味之道掃地矣。萬不得已,先於正席嘗菜之味,後於撤席逞酒之能,庶乎其兩可也。

List of Things to Avoid:: Indulging in Drink
Only one who is alert can tell the difference between right and wrong. Likewise, only one who is mindful can discern the differences between good and bad flavours. Yi Yin [1] had observed: “The profound nuances of flavour cannot be rightly expressed in words.” If a drunkard cannot even speak, how can there be any hope that he can express, much less discern the flavours of anything?

Once in a while, I see people playing drinking games during banquets, their minds clouded and absent from having had too much alcohol. In such inebriated states, those great dishes they were eating might as well have been sawdust.[2] The heads of those preoccupied with drinking are somewhere else entirely, with their faculties for judging food thrown out the door. If one really must indulge in drink, first have a proper meal where the dishes can be tasted, then only afterwards bring out the alcohol. In this way, you get the best of both worlds.[3]

Random notes:
[1]: Yi Yin, head chef and political adviser to the first Emperor of Shang.

[2]: I remember reading a New Yorker cartoon that shows a Roman host in his mansion, surrounded by his drunken rowdy guests, turning to his servant to say: “You may now switch to the cheap wine”. In a Chinese banquet version of the comic, the host would say “You may now switch to sawdust”

[3]: Yuan Mei prefers that you get smashed AFTER you have had your meal.

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