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For Enervated Scholars
August 21, 2008 - 2:07pm


Our friend Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin says there are three kinds of exhaustion: “Exhaustion caused by muscular fatigue, exhaustion caused by overtaxing the brain, and exhaustion caused by amorous excess.”

As for the middle category, he recommends for “the sage who has allowed himself to be carried away by the charms of his subject, exercise in the open air to refresh his brains, baths to loosen his aching fibres, fowl, green vegetables, and rest….”

There’s a footnote that says to see a few chapters further on, where he gets more specific:

Take a knuckle of veal not less than two pounds’ weight, split in four lengthwise, flesh and bone, and fry together with four sliced onions and a handful of water-cress; when it is nearly done, pour on three bottles of water and boil for two hours, not forgetting to replenish what is lost by evaporation, when you will have ready an excellent veal broth; add a sufficient quantity of pepper and salt.

So far, so good. Now then:

Pound up [with mortar and pestle], separately, three old pigeons and 25 live crayfish; mix and fry…and when you see that the heat has thoroughly penetrated the mixture, and that it is ready to burn, pour on the veal broth and stoke the fire well for one hour. Then strain the broth so enriched, when it may be taken by the patient morning and evening, or preferably in the morning only, two hours before luncheon. It also makes a delicious soup for ordinary purposes.

Brillat-Savarin says he reserves this cure for “weak constitutions, less decided characters—for those, in a word, who break down easily,” by which he means, of course, tenured scholars. Those of us who are adjuncts, writers, and other brutish types might need “Prescription A” instead, “for robust constitutions, strong characters, and for those, in general, whose breakdown is due to excess of action”:

…pluck and clean an old cock, and pound it up in a mortar, flesh and bone, with an iron pestle; mince up two pounds of the best beef….


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