“Fate Cannot Harm Me….”

It seems like forever that I’ve known the saying: “Fate cannot harm me, I have dined today.” Every time I have a really super meal, it pops into my head. I thought it was just a saying, you know, a memorable phrase coined by some epicure. Who knew it was the punch line of a “rhyming recipe” written by the 18th century essayist, wit, and Anglican preacher Sydney SmithΒ (1771-1849)? A delightful writer and personality, Smith’s advanced views on such diverse topics as Catholic emancipation, the education of women, and the abolition of slavery (he was for them all) won him friends, and enemies.

Here it is, Sydney Smith’s complete recipe for salad dressing. I can’t claim I followed it precisely for my green salad. In this 21st century, where we are so pressed for time, my own salad dressing is much much simpler. But I’ll bet his is delicious. If anyone should try it out, let us know how you liked it!

A RECIPE FOR A SALAD

To make this condiment, your poet begs
The pounded yellow of two hard-boiled eggs;
Two boiled potatoes, passed through kitchen sieve,
Smoothness and softness to the salad give.

Let onion atoms lurk within the bowl,
And, half suspected, animate the whole.
Of mordant mustard add a single spoon,
Distrust the condiment that bites so soon;
But deem it not, thou man of herbs, a fault,
To add a double quantity of salt.

Four times the spoon with oil from Lucca brown,
And twice with vinegar procured from town;
And, lastly, o’er the flavored compound toss
A magic soupçon of anchovy sauce.

O, green and glorious! O herbaceous treat!
‘Twould tempt the dying anchorite to eat:
Back to the world he’d turn his fleeting soul,
And plunge his fingers in the salad bowl!
Serenely full, the epicure would say,
“Fate cannot harm me, I have dined to-day.”

(And as if all that weren’t enough, this bon vivant is also reported to have said: “My idea of heaven is eating patΓ© de fois gras to the sound of trumpets.” Yes yes yes, Sydney!)

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26 Responses to “Fate Cannot Harm Me….”

  1. MFa says:

    Love this, thanks Judith!

    Like

  2. Carol says:

    I was quite entranced until he got to the anchovy sauce.

    Like

    • Touch2Touch says:

      Well, you could just skip it, Carol.
      OTOH, anchovy (along with soy sauce and Worcestershire) are among those food substances that give umami, the so-called “fifth flavor” you’ve probably heard about. A Japanese word, a Japanese concept — along with sweet, sour, salty, and bitter, there is a fifth, which might be called “savory.”
      I think of it as luscious, intense, depth of flavor — but then again, as you can probably guess, I love anchovies. They melt away if you add them at the right moment when cooking, and I challenge anyone to recognize what it is that makes that dish so extra-special!
      If you’re ever around here — we could test it!
      πŸ™‚

      Like

  3. tms says:

    …and once you know this poem by heart, you also know the receipe. Unfortunately it does not really work that easily vice-versa, does it? Thanks for sharing, Judith. This is great.

    Like

  4. grand-player says:

    Fantastic discovery. That Sydney was quite a dude!

    Like

  5. coolfeline says:

    Mmmmmm…. sounds good, and I’m not afraid of the anchovy sauce.

    In my youth, a certain pot roast was the traditional Sunday meal, with sauce. In the original recipe there was anchovy sauce. When I first came here, I tried to exclude it, but it didn’t turn out tasting the same at all.

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    • Touch2Touch says:

      Ah, and there you have it! The anchovies melting in the pot roast (or pasta sauce, or whatever) make all the difference. But you can’t convince anchovy haters of that. Maybe we should just change their name, call them flavor fish. (The anchovies, not the pasta haters.)
      πŸ˜‰

      Like

  6. Call me what you will, I’m anti-anchovy. I’ve had delicious beef stew that contained (I was told after I ate it) anchovy paste but I can’t bring myself to buy the nasty little fishies. I’ll forgo the flavor AND the shudders πŸ˜‰

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    • Touch2Touch says:

      I’m from the Cook-the-Stew-with-the-Anchovies-and-Don’t-Say-a-Word-About-it School of cooking. I used to think if I told people afterwards that they would change their minds about the detested ingredient — but I was wrong. People don’t change their minds.
      So now it’s more like Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

      Like

  7. John Weeren says:

    Hmmm… anchovies.

    Like

  8. thirdhandart says:

    I’m so glad that you are feeling better! The salad looks delicious and the poem is wonderful (with or without anchovies). πŸ™‚

    Like

    • Touch2Touch says:

      I’m happy that you are not in the anti-anchovy camp, Theresa!
      Thank you, I’m feeling better, and every session in cardio rehab (treadmill, recumbent step climber) has me feeling better still!
      πŸ™‚

      Like

  9. What a beautifully written recipe! I can already taste the flavours in my mind!

    Like

  10. wish i knew how to read and follow a recipe….sounded good.

    Like

    • Touch2Touch says:

      It is a lovely poem — but I wouldn’t advise starting with this recipe! It added up to a thick, almost solid mass — tasted delicious, but was hardly a salad dressing!!!!

      Like

  11. This makes me want to immediately go prepare myself a salad. Some day soon, when I can play again, I may just solve the mystery of this recipe and make it myself. Have you ever?

    Like

    • Touch2Touch says:

      Alas, dear Reader, I made it.
      Let me gently say, It is a charming poem, and let it rest there —- πŸ˜‰
      (So thick it was a solid, good to eat as itself, but a salad dressing? No.)

      Like

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