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That mortal man should feed upon the creature that feeds
his lamp, and, like Stubb, eat him by his own light, as you may
say; this seems so outlandish a thing that one must needs go
a little into the history and philosophy of it.

It is upon record, that three centuries ago the tongue of the
Right Whale was esteemed a great delicacy in France, and
commanded large prices there. Also, that in Henry VIIIth's
time, a certain cook of the court obtained a handsome reward
for inventing an admirable sauce to be eaten with barbacued
porpoises, which, you remember, are a species of whale. Porpoises,
indeed, are to this day considered fine eating. The meat
is made into balls about the size of billiard balls, and being
well seasoned and spiced might be taken for turtle-balls or
veal balls. The old monks of Dunfermline were very fond of
them. They had a great porpoise grant from the crown.

The fact is, that among his hunters at least, the whale would
by all hands be considered a noble dish, were there not so much
of him; but when you come to sit down before a meat-pie
nearly one hundred feet long, it takes away your appetite. Only
the most unprejudiced of men like Stubb, nowadays partake of
cooked whales; but the Esquimaux are not so fastidions. We
all know how they live upon whales, and have rare old vintages
of prime old train oil. Zogranda, one of their most famous


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doctors, recommends strips of blubber for infants, as being exceedingly
juicy and nourishing. And this reminds me that
certain Englishmen, who long ago were accidentally left in
Greenland by a whaling vessel—that these men actually lived
for several months on the mouldy scraps of whales which had
been left ashore after trying out the blubber. Among the
Dutch whalemen these scraps are called “fritters;” which,
indeed, they greatly resemble, being brown and crisp, and
smelling something like old Amsterdam housewives' dough-nuts
or oly-cooks, when fresh. They have such an eatable look that
the most self-denying stranger can hardly keep his hands off.

But what further depreciates the whale as a civilized dish, is
his exceeding richness. He is the great prize ox of the sea, too
fat to be delicately good. Look at his hump, which would be
as fine eating as the buffalo's (which is esteemed a rare dish),
were it not such a solid pyramid of fat. But the spermaceti
itself, how bland and creamy that is; like the transparent, half-jellied,
white meat of a cocoanut in the third month of its
growth, yet far too rich to supply a substitute for butter. Nevertheless,
many whalemen have a method of absorbing it into
some other substance, and then partaking of it. In the long
try watches of the night it is a common thing for the seamen to
dip their ship-biscuit into the huge oil-pots and let them fry
there awhile. Many a good supper have I thus made.

In the case of a small Sperm Whale the brains are accounted
a fine dish. The casket of the skull is broken into with an
axe, and the two plump, whitish lobes being withdrawn (precisely
resembling two large puddings), they are then mixed with
flour, and cooked into a most delectable mess, in flavor somewhat
resembling calves' head, which is quite a dish among some
epicures; and every one knows that some young bucks among
the epicures, by continually dining upon calves' brains, by and
by get to have a little brains of their own, so as to be able to
tell a calf's head from their own heads; which, indeed, requires


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uncommon discrimination. And that is the reason why a young
buck with an intelligent looking calf's head before him, is somehow
one of the saddest sights you can see. The head looks a
sort of reproachfully at him, with an “Et tu Brute!” expression.

It is not, perhaps, entirely because the whale is so excessively
unctuous that landsmen seem to regard the eating of him with
abhorrence; that appears to result, in some way, from the consideration
before mentioned: i. e. that a man should eat a newly
murdered thing of the sea, and eat it too by its own light.
But no doubt the first man that ever murdered an ox was
regarded as a murderer; perhaps he was hung; and if he had
been put on his trial by oxen, he certainly would have been; and
he certainly deserved it if any murderer does. Go to the meatmarket
of a Saturday night and see the crowds of live bipeds
staring up at the long rows of dead quadrupeds. Does not
that sight take a tooth out of the cannibal's jaw? Cannibals?
who is not a cannibal? I tell you it will be more tolerable for
the Fejee that salted down a lean missionary in his cellar against
a coming famine; it will be more tolerable for that provident Fejee,
I say, in the day of judgment, than for thee, civilized and
enlightened gourmand, who nailest geese to the ground and
feastest on their bloated livers in thy paté-de-foie-gras.

But Stubb, he eats the whale by its own light, does he? and
that is adding insult to injury, is it? Look at your knife-handle,
there, my civilized and enlightened gourmand dining off
that roast beef, what is that handle made of?—what but the
bones of the brother of the very ox you are eating? And
what do you pick your teeth with, after devouring that fat
goose? With a feather of the same fowl. And with what
quill did the Secretary of the Society for the Suppression of
Cruelty to Ganders formally indite his circulars? It is only
within the last month or two that that society passed a resolution
to patronize nothing but steel pens.