|God, asserted Bergius, has not only arranged it so that nature offers humankind something that provides “subsistence and refreshment”. He also gave these foods “the qualities, to be able to, in addition to fulfilling the stomach’s needs, provide a pleasing feeling on the tongue and palate, or to put it briefly, please the sense of taste”. As a result, humankind is privileged not only eat and drink of necessity, but also “with a feeling of delight and pleasure”. However, Bergius points out that opinions differ on taste: “I don’t know of any substance in the whole of nature, that can please everyone and at all times, because tastes can vary so much and often adapt themselves to the different states of humankind”. Children and adults, healthy and ill, starving and sated, as well as people from different countries and periods think different things are delicious. Nevertheless, Bergius attempted a definition of the term “delicacy”:
"By delicacy, I understand it to be such a substance that, when a healthy person enjoys it, in a delightful, pleasing way it stimulates its nerve-papillae on the tongue and palate, and the potential delicacy is often heightened, as this also brings about a pleasant harmonising aroma”
Having said this, Bergius after a time gets to the main subject: individual delicacies. Among other things, he understandably describes a number that were already at that time well known to most Swedish palates. This included the wild strawberry, “the first of our tasty fruits of the year”, which Bergius prized for its “delightful aroma” and “pleasing taste” and he liked to use it as a comparison in describing the flavour of other plants – but not least, the speaker takes his audience on a trip around the world to bear witness to plants and animals that few Swedes had heard of then, let alone eaten.
One example is the banana, which nowadays is everyday fare, but then – and for a long time after – was still an exotic delicacy. Bergius talked about several different types of banana, some of which only became palatable “when improved by human intervention […] by means of boiling, roasting and sun-drying” whereas “the best specimens” are also “pleasing to eat raw”. The banana can also be served “even to the youngest of children” (something that today’s parents of young children can probably confirm), and all this makes “this fruit one of the most useful that providence has provided”.
It is not stated whether Bergius himself ever ate a banana, but in many other cases it is fairly certain that he had never been anywhere near what he is describing. He didn’t need to either, because this man, who had probably never been further abroad than Denmark, had his enormous collection of travel books from which he could make comparative compilations. And the result is often as detailed as it is correct. One example is the avocado, which Bergius – perhaps the first Swede to do so – described as follows:
“Avocado (Laurus Persea L.), a fruit larger that a clenched fist, of a dark colour veering towards purple, has a large stone that is not to be eaten, but surrounding it is a greenish meat, almost odourless, soft as butter, and has its own distinctive and quite pleasing flavour, which is unlike any European fruit.”
Bergius then goes on to quote different people’s assessment of the taste, and if you add up the names in the text and the accompanying notes you will find that, for the sake of one single food, he has consulted no fewer than eleven, mainly French, but also British, authors!
By this time, chocolate had already entered the Swedish diet – but only in the form of a drink – and not in the same way as in Spanish Cartagena: “Chocolate, which in Cartagena is only known under the name of cacao, is so plentiful locally, that everybody […] enjoys it thoroughly every day after breakfast”. However, its use showed class differences: “The chocolate that the nobles drink is just cacao, cooked”, whereas the other people’s “is not made only of cacao, but of maize flour mixed with a small quantity of cacao”. It has associations with how today’s taste hipsters prefer chocolate bars with the highest possible cocoa content, while people in general prefer milk chocolate…
Although a lot of what in Bergius’s time was unknown and unusual in Sweden has now become everyday food there are still some things that probably only a few Swedes have tried. For example, in the section on animals, Bergius writes extensively about the eating of elephant meat. He considers that the meat is “both very rough and hard”, but even so is appreciated as “excellent food” by Africa’s black population, whereas the upper echelons in Vietnam refuse to eat large parts of the animal and “only retain the trunk, which is the most delicious food you could desire”.