A Modest Inquiry
Three months ago I arrived in the City of San Francisco in hopes to compleat my Education and to seek my Fortune. I took up Residence in the Mission Quarter, which lies betwixt a hjandsome Valley to the South by the name of Noe, plentiful in Coffeehouses and skill’d Artisans of Children’s Toys. To the West lies the proud and boisterous Regiment of Castro Street, full of Beef Neck-Eaters with a Taste for the Libertine, and I believe, must hath recently display’d great Bravery and Skill in the Arts of Battle, as the Eye cannot avoid the Regiment’s motley color’d Crest hanging from the Corner of every Street.
The Missionite Abodes are often adorned with colorful Frescoes executed in the Moorish Style, and the Streets fill up with Quacks and Sharpers selling useless Fandangles such as monogramm’d Snuff Boxes, or the Novells of Mrs. Rand. The fortuitous Geography of the Mission Quarter ensures that the Weather remains brisk yet Mild, and Gentlemen are wont to stroll in the Pleasure Gardens of Dolores at all Hours of the Day. Because these Gardens are nearly encircl’d by tall Hills, they often become filled in ways most excessive on Days where a great Multitude hope to profit from fine Weather, as the Missionites, otherwise quite monied, have recourse only to very antiquated Bicycles equipp’d with but One Single Gear, and cannot reach past the Hills to the surrounding
Indeed, it seems to me there is but a Soul who labours with his Hands to sustain his own
Livelihood. Each Missionite is wont to fancy Himself as his own Critick, and lends his Opinions upon every Thing from the most expensive Tavern to the lowliest Tacqueria testifiying in the same Breath upon the merits of both most esteem’d Works of Art and Theatre and the Expert Hands of the Laundress around the Corner. Yet where might one go to render these Mental Capacities more refin’d? Why, dear Reader, Quality Persons frequent none other but the Ritual Coffee-house, where not only do they write their Letters and Reviews, but speculate upon Green Ventures and acquaint their Selves with the Novells of Mr. Franzen, Mr. Larsson and the Romances of Miss Kinsella.
This Discussion of Coffee-houses brings me to the Subject of Taste, which as the gentle Reader must remember, I have proclaim’d the Subject of this humble Meditation. Those who desire the finest Achievements of French Confectionary –- Pyes bak’d of Banana Creame, Cakes of Lemon Meringue –– can chuse exquisite Dainties from the Tartine Bakery. And only several Paces up the Street, hungry Souls wait Hours to indulge their Lust for Icy Cream. It is also not uncommon to profess an Appetite of the Pythagorian kind, so much that many journey as far as the Ferry Docks to obtain the freshest Fare for the Composition of Sallets. Yet this pernicious Doctrine deceiveth the Senses! Only last Week, I was invited to a Dinner where what appear’d a fine slab of English Beef-Steak was actually fashion’d from the fruits of the Vegetable Kingdom.
Might the blessed Reader desire to Supplement his Supper with a Discourse upon the Drinking Customs of the Missionites? The inhabitants are instructed in the Virtues of Craft Microbroo’d Ales, strong in Flavour, plentiful in Hops and infus’d with the most deleterious of Ingredients ––Hemp-Seeds, Fat-Tyres, Monk’s Blood and the Heads of Dogfish. It is further consider’d in good Taste to carry Glass Bottles fill’d with bitter Sparkling Teas imported from the Orient, profess’d to cure the Gowt, the Vapours, Scurvy, Leprosy, Palsy, Cholick, St. Anthony’s Fire, the Plague, and various Imbalances among the Humours.
O weary Reader! Amidst these Pleasures and Foreign Curiosities, a Sickness so
prejudicial to Mankind runs rampant in the Mission Quarter, degrading the Constitution, turning the Brain Topsy-Turvy and corrupting the Senses. How, might one ask, in a Quarter so plentiful in Dainties and Confections do the Gentlemen of the highest Title and Quality become so thin and frail that I fear they might most easily starve and waste away? Our goodly Doctor Cheyne hath warned us of the vices borne from a Surfeit of Dainties and Fine Wines, yet here the Repercussions assume the opposite Nature, for no Man is plagu’d with Corpulency, but instead resembles the heroines of Richardson, with thin Legs, a gaunt Visage, and a nervous, effeminate Temperament. It seems as if
Speculators have already begun to encroach upon this unfortunate Habit, as the many Shoppes selling American Apparel contain Vestments sew’n in only the most Lilliputian of Sizes.
These most unfortunate Observations hath weigh’d upon my Mind, and I have without
Success essayed to locate the Seed of this unnam’d Disease at its very Core. As the Question of Religion has been known to Cause much Mayhem in Societies, I decided to investigate it as a most natural Explanation for these peculiarities in Diet and Fashion. I had formerly believed the Missionites to be Papists, but my Observations have shewn me that a not insignificant Number chuse to follow instead the Religion of Mohammet. Five times each Day one can observe them carrying their color’d Prayer Rugs upon their Shoulders. So insatiable was my Curiosity that I followed an unsuspecting Missionite to his Saracen Temple, a modest Hovel on Bryant Street. But I found it so hot inside that my Body became weak and plagu’d with Sweat, as both Men and Ladies, stripp’d
entirely of all of their Cloathes, were engag’d in lewd and odious Pagan Rituals, professing to look into a Third Eye, and bending their Bodies into the most immodest and unspeakable of Shapes.
As the Chief desire of this Treatise is to promote happiness of Mankind, I fear that these pernicious Activities amount to false Displays of Luxury. And just as their idolatrous
Proclivities sunk the Romans into Depravity and Ruin, I fear that the Critickal Nature of the Missionites, whereby one’s Energies and private Machinations are wholl’y expended upon the most idle of Pleasures: practicing Mindfulness and writing Yelp Reviews, doth inevitably arouse Fortune’s Caprice. I submit to my esteem’d and learn’d Publick, based on my own careful Observations, a Lady’s humble Prescriptions.
First: As the great Swiss physician Doctor Tissot has recently warned of Exercise of theMind, the same may be apply’d to excessive and harmful Exercise of the Body. I therefore propose, if the Reader will permit me, Measures to be taken to curb the vile Practices of the Hindoos, and the corrupting influence of Misters Bikram and Pilates, which have been clearly shewn to be detrimental to polite Society.
2dly: The goodly Mr. Mandeville once said “A Man must eat, but he may be directed how to eat.” This advice could not be better applied to the plight of the Missionites, as Choice and Discretion practic’d in one’s Diet have been shown to paralyze the Mind and fatigue the Palate. A Substitution of Sallets and Oriental Teas with Venison Pasties and
Shoulders of Mutton might cure the Missionite’s sick and flurried Constitution and
restore his Vitality.
3dly: If these simple Precautions fail to change the Direction of the Missionite Diet, I am afraid that more drastick Remedies might be perform’d. Perhaps the adjoining Quarter of Noe Valley, so plentiful in newborn Babes, could profit from this Sort of Commerce, and if Gentlemen doth value their King and Country, and Ladies give a Fig for their Virtue, they might reconcile their Selves to the Possibility that Measures of a more Swiftian kind might best remedy the grave and imminent Threat to our Health and Livelihood.
I beseech the gentle Publick to consider my Propositions and permit me the Honour, to bewith the utmost Sincerity,
Your humble and obedient Servant.