The narrator opens the essay by asserting that for a long period of early human history, people did not cook their meat but ate it raw. He claims that this was hinted at in the writings of Confucius, who mentioned an era known as the "cook's holiday," implying that the Chinese did not cook animals prior to his writings. According to the narrator, Confucius' essay goes on to describe how roasting was discovered by Bo-bo , the son of swineherd Ho-ti. Bo-bo was one day playing with fire, as he was wont to do, and accidentally burned down his family's cottage along with the nine pigs that were trapped in the blaze. While trying to devise an explanation for what happened, Bo-bo was tempted by the smell of the burnt pigs and went to taste them. He found these burnt pigs delicious and could not stop eating them.
A Dissertation upon Roast Pig and Other Essays
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In his Essays of Elia and its sequel, Last Essays of Elia , Charles Lamb explores a broad range of topics and works with various non-fiction tropes that often edge into the terrain of fiction. We see him writing obituaries, dream journals, diatribes, and tributes. What unifies Lamb's essays is his lyrical, conversational writing style. Like many fellow Romantics, he often employs purple prose and shows off his sharp wit, but the essays themselves remain accessible and often fun.
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This period is not obscurely hinted at by their great Confucius in the second chapter of his Mundane Mutations, where he designates a kind of golden age by the term Cho-fang, literally the Cooks' Holiday. The manuscript goes on to say, that the art of roasting, or rather broiling which I take to be the elder brother , was accidentally discovered in the manner following. The swine-herd, Ho-ti, having gone out into the woods one morning, as his manner was, to collect mast for his hogs, left his cottage in the care of his eldest son Bo-bo, a great lubberly boy, who being fond of playing with fire, as younkers of his age commonly are, let some sparks escape into a bundle of straw, which kindling quickly, spread the conflagration over every part of their poor mansion, till it was reduced to ashes. Together with the cottage a sorry antediluvian makeshift of a building, you may think it , what was of much more importance, a fine litter of new-farrowed pigs, no less than nine in number, perished.