If I have been read with the attention I wished, all must have seen that I had a double purpose in view. The first was to establish the theoretical basis of Gastronomy, so as to place it among sciences where it should doubtless be. The second was to define gourmandise, and to separate this social character, as free from gluttony and intemperance, with which it is often confounded.
This equivoque has been introduced by intolerant moralists, who, deceived by too much zeal, saw excesses where there was only innocent enjoyment. The treasures of creation were not made to be trodden under the feet. It was afterwards propagated by grammarians who defined it as blind men do, and who swore in verba magistri.
It is time that such an error should cease, for now all the world understand each other. This is true, for there never was a person who would not confess to some tincture of gourmandise, and even would not boast of it, none however would not look on gluttony as an insult, just as they do on intemperance and voracity.
About these two cardinal points, it seems that what I have described should satisfy all those who do not refuse conviction. I might then lay down my pen and look on the task I have imposed on myself as finished. As however, I approached those subjects which belong to every thing, I remembered many things which it did not seem to me fit to write, such as anecdotes, bon mots, recipes, and other odd things.
Had they been put in the theoretical portion of the book they would have taken the connection; place them all together, they will not be disadvantageous because they contain some experimental truths and useful explanations.
I have also inserted personal biography, but when I read them over, I feel to a degree uneasy.
This anxiety originated in my last lectures and glossaries, which are in the hands of every body. I think, however, that I may be tranquil, having sheltered myself under the mantle of philosophy, I insist that my enemies have uneasy consciences and sleep badly.
All know that twenty years ago, Madame R—— was the most beautiful woman in Paris. All know that she was very charitable and took an interest in the various enterprises, the object of which was the alleviation of misery, perhaps greater in the capital than elsewhere.
Having business with the cure of —— she went thither about five P. M., and was surprised to find him at dinner.
She believed that every body dined at six P. M., and was not aware that ecclesiastics dined earlier, from the fact that they were used to take light collations.
Madame R—— wished to retire, but the cure would not permit her to do so, either because the matter under discussion would not interrupt conversation, or that a pretty woman never disturbs any entertainment.
The table was very well arranged; old wine sparkled in a chrystal flagon, and the porcelain was faultless. The plates were kept hot by boiling water, and an old housekeeper was in attendance.
The meal was half way between luxury and abstinence. A soup of ecrevisses was removed and a salmon trout, an omelette, and a salad were placed on the table.
“My dinner tells you,” said the priest “what you do not know, that to day is a fast day.” My friend assented with a blush.
They began with the trout, the shoulders of which were soon eaten. The sauce was made by a competent person and the pastor’s brow was irradiated with joy.
Then the omelette, which was round and done to a point, was attached.
As soon as the spoon touched it, the odor and perfume it contained escaped, and my friend owns that it made her mouth water.
The curel had a sympathetic movement for he was used to watch my passions. In reply to a question he saw Madame R—— was about to ask, he said, “It is an omelette au thon. My cook understands them simply, and few people ever taste them without complimenting her.” “I am not amazed,” said his lady guest, “for I never ate anything so delightful.”
Then came the salad. (I recommend it to those who have confidence in me. It refreshes without exciting. I think it makes people younger.)
Dinner did not interrupt conversation. They talked of the affair which had occasioned the visit, of the war, of business, of other things which made a bad dinner passably good.
The dessert came. It consisted of septmoncel cheese, of apples and preserves.
At last the house-keeper brought forward a little round table, such as once was called a gueridon, on which was a cup of strong mocha, the perfume of which filled the room.
Having sipped it, the cure said grace, and arose, adding “I never take spirits, though I offer them to my guests. I reserve them as a succor for extreme old age.”
While all this was progressing, time had passed, and as it was six o’clock, Madame R—— was anxious to get into her carriage, for she had several friends to dine with her. She came late, and told her guests, of whom I was one, what she had seen.
The conversation passed from subject to subject, but I, as a philosopher, thought the secret of the preparation of such a dish must be valuable. I ordered my cook to obtain the recipe in its most minute details. I publish it the more willingly now, because I never saw it in any book.
Take for six persons the roe of four cash * and steep them for a few minutes in salt water just below boiling point.
[* the translator has followed this recipe with shad, pike, pickerel, etc., and can recommend it with a quiet conscience. Any fish is a substitute for tunny]
Put in also a fresh tunny about as large as an egg, to which you must add a charlotte minced.
Mix the tunny and the roes together, and put the whole in a kettle with a portion of good butter, and keep it on the fire until the butter has melted. This is the peculiarity of the omelette.
Take then another piece of butter and mix it with parsely and sage. Put it in the dish intended to receive the omelette, cover it with lemon juice and put it on hot coals.
Then beat twelve eggs, (fresh as possible), pour in the fish and roe so that all may be perfectly mixed.
Then cook the omelette as usual, making it thin and firm. Serve it up hot.
This dish should be reserved for breakfasts, where all the guests are connoisseurs. It is caviare to the vulgar.
1. The roes and fish should be warmed, not boiled. They will thus mingle more easily with the eggs.
2. The plate should be deep.
3. It should be warm, for a cold porcelain plate would extract the caloric of the omelette and make it insipid.
When I lived in New York I used every once in a while to pass the evening in a kind of tavern kept by a man named Little, (the old lank coffee house) where one could always get turtle soup and all the dishes common in the United States.
I often went thither with the Vicomte de la Massue and M. Fehr, an old broker of Marsailles; all three of us were emigrants, and we used to drink ale and cider, and pass the evening very pleasantly together.
There I became acquainted with a Mr. Wilkinson, who was a native of Jamaica, and a person he was very intimate with, for he never left him. The latter, the name of whom I do not remember was one of the most extraordinary men I ever met. He had a square face, keen eyes, and appeared to look attentively at everything, though his features were motionless as those of a blind man. When he laughed it was with what the English call a horse-laugh, and immediately resumed his habitual taciturnity. Mr. Wilkinson seemed about forty, and, in manner and appearance, seemed to be a gentleman.
The Englishman seemed to like our company, and more than once shared the frugal entertainment I offered my friends, when Mr. Wilkinson took me one evening aside and said he intended to ask us all to dine with him.
I accepted the invitation for three o’clock on the third day after.
The evening passed quietly enough, but when I was about to leave, a waiter came to me and said that the West Indian had ordered a magnificent dinner, thinking their invitation a challenge. The man with the horse-laugh had undertaken to drink us Frenchmen drunk.
This intelligence would have induced me, if possible, to decline the banquet. It was, however, impossible, and following the advice of the Marshal de Saxe, we determined, as the wine was uncorked, to drink it.
I had some anxiety, but being satisfied that my constitution was young, healthy and sound, I could easily get the better of the West Indian, who probably was unused to liquors.
I however, went to see Messrs. Fehr and Massue, and in an occular allocution, told them of my plans. I advised them to drink as little as possible, and to avoid too many glasses, while I talked to our antagonists. Above all things, I advised them to keep up some appetite, telling them that food had the effect of moderating the fumes of wine.
Thus physically and morally armed, we went to the old bank coffee house, where we found our friends; dinner was soon ready. It consisted of a huge piece of beef, a roasted turkey, (plain) boiled vegetables, a salad and pastry.
Wine was put on the table. It was claret, very good, and cheaper than it then was in France.
Mr. Wilkinson did the honors perfectly, asking us to eat, and setting us an example, while his friend, who seemed busy with his plate, did nothing but laugh at the corners of his mouth.
My countrymen delighted me by their discretion.
After the claret came the port and Madeira. To the latter we paid great attention.
Then came the dessert composed of butter, cheese and hickory nuts. Then came the time for toasts, and we drank to our kings, to human liberty, and to Wilkinson’s daughter Maria, who was, as he said, the prettiest woman in Jamaica.
Then came spirits, viz., rum, brandy, etc. Then came songs, and I saw things were getting warm. I was afraid of brandy and asked for punch. Little brought a bowl, which, doubtless, he had prepared before. It held enough for forty people, and was larger than any we have in France.
This gave me courage; I ate five or six well buttered rolls, and I felt my strength revive. I looked around the table and saw my compatriots apparently fresh enough, while the Jamaican began to grow red in the face, and seemed uneasy. His friend said nothing, but seemed so overcome that I saw the catastrophe would soon happen.
I cannot well express the amazement caused by this denouement, and from the burden of which I felt myself relieved. I rang the bell; Little came up; I said, “see these gentlemen well taken care of.” We drank a glass to their health. At last the waiter came and bore off the defeated party feet foremost. Wilkinson’s friend was motionless, and our host would insist on singing, “Rule Britannia.” *
[* The translator is sorry to say, that at the time Savarin speaks of, “Rule Britannia” was not written.]
The New York papers told the story the next day, and added that the Englishman had died. This was not so, for Mr. Wilkinson had only a slight attack of the gout.
Several years ago the newspapers told us of the discovery of a new perfume called the emerocallis, a bulbous plant, which has an odor not unlike the jasmin.
I am very curious, and was, therefore, induced in all probability to go to, the Foubourg St. Germain, where I could find the perfume.
I was suitably received, and a little flask, very well wrapped up, was handed me, which seemed to contain about two ounces. In exchange for it I left three francs.
An etourdi would at once have opened, smelled and tasted it. A professor, however, acts differently, and I thought modesty would become me. I took the flagon then and went quietly home, sat on my sofa and prepared to experience a new sensation.
I took the package from my pocket and untied the wrappings which surrounded it. They were three different descriptions of the emerocallis, and referred to its natural history, its flower, and its exquisite perfume, either in the shape of pastilles, in the kitchen, or in ices. I read each of the wrappings. 1. To indemnify myself as well as I could for the price I have spoken of above. 2. To prepare myself for an appreciation of the new and valuable extract I have spoken of.
I then opened, with reverence, the box I supposed full of pastilles. To my surprise, however, I found three other copies of the edition I had so carefully read. Inside I found about two dozen of the cubes I had gone so far for.
I tasted them, and must say that I found them very agreeable. I was sorry though, that they were so few in number, and the more I thought of the matter, the more I became mystified.
I then arose with the intention of carrying the box back to its manufacturer. Just then, however, I thought of my grey hairs, laughed at my vivacity, and sat down.
A particular circumstance also recurred to me. I had to deal with a druggist, and only four days ago I had a specimen of one of that calling.
I had one day to visit my friend Bouvier des Eclats.
I found him strolling in a most excited state, up and down the room, and crushing in his hands a piece of poetry, I thought a song.
He gave it to me and said, “look at this, you know all about it.”
I saw at once that it was an apothecary’s bill. I was not consulted as a poet, but as a pharmaceutist.
I knew what the trade was, and was advising him to be quiet, when the door opened, and we saw a man of about fifty-five enter. He was of moderate stature and his whole appearance would have been stern, had there not been something sardonic about his lips.
He approached the fire-place, refused to sit down, and I heard the following dialogue I have faithfully recorded.
“Monsieur,” said the general, “you sent me a regular apothecary’s bill.”
The man in black said that he was not an apothecary.
“What then are you?” said the general.
“Sir, I am a pharmaceutist.”
“Well,” said the general, “your boy —”
“Sir, I have no boy.”
“Who then was the young man you sent thither?”
“My pupil —”
“I wish to say, sir, that your drugs —”
“Sir, I do not sell drugs —”
“What then do you sell?”
The general at once became ashamed at having committed so many solicisms in a few moments, and paid the bill.
The chevalier de Langeac was rich, but his fortune was dispensed as is the fortune of all rich men.
He funded the remnants, and aided by a little pension from the government, he contrived to lead a very pleasant life.
Though naturally very gallant, he had nothing to do with women.
As his other powers passed away, his gourmandise increased. He became a professor and received more invitations than he could accept.
Lyons is a pleasant city, for there one can get vin de Bourdeaux, Hermitage and Burgundy. The game of the neighborhood is very good, and unexceptionable fish is taken from the lakes in the vicinity. Every body loves Bresse chickens.
Langeac was therefore welcome at all the best tables of the city, but took especial delight in that of a certain M. A.
In the winter of 1780, the chevalier received a letter, inviting him to sup ten days after date, (at that time I know there were suppers) and the chevalier quivered with emotion at the idea.
He, at the appointed time, made his appearance, and found ten guests. There was at that time no such A grand dinner was soon served, consisting of fish, flesh, and fowl.
All was very good, but the chevalier was not satisfied with the hopes he had entertained.
Another thing amazed him. His guests did not seem to eat. The chevalier was amazed to see that so many anti-convivial persons had been collected, and thinking that he had to do justice to all these fasting people set to work at once.
The second service was solid as the first. A huge turkey was dressed plain, flavored by salads and macaroni au parmesan.
When he saw this, the chevalier felt his strength revive; all the other guests were overpowered, excited by the changes of wines, he triumphed over their impotence, and drank their health again and again. Every time he drank their health, he took a slice from the turkey.
Due attention was paid to the side-dishes, and the chevalier stuck to business longer than any one would have thought possible. He only revived when the becfigues appeared, and became fully aroused when truffles were put on the table.
Discord one day sought to effect an entrance into one of the most harmonious houses of Paris. A turbot was to be cooked.
The fish was on the next day to be served to a company of which I was one; it was fresh, fat, and glorious, but was so large that no dish in the house could hold it.
“Let us cut it in half,” said the husband.
“Would you thus dishonor it?” said the wife.
“We must, my dear.”
“Well, bring the knife, we will soon do it.”
“Wait though, our cousin, who is a professor, will soon be here. He will relieve us from the dilemma.”
The gordian knot was about to be released, when I came in hungry, as a man always is at seven P. M.
When I came in I tried in vain to make the usual compliments. No one listened, and for that reason no one replied to me. The subject in discussion was at once submitted to me.
I made up my mind at once, went to the kitchen, found a kettle large enough to boil the whole fish, and did so. There was a procession composed of the master, mistress, servants, and company, but they all approved of what I did. With the fish we boiled bulbous root and other vegetables. * When the fish was cooked we sat down at the table, our ideas being somewhat sharpened by the delay, and sought anxiously for the time, of which Homer speaks, when abundance expells hunger. [The translator here omits a very excellent recipe for a fish-chowder. Everybody knows it.]
[* From the above it is very clear that Brillat Savarin made what the late D. Webster called a “chowder.”]
None but adepts know what a pheasant is. They only can appreciate it.
Everything has its apogee of excellence, some of which, like capers, asparagus, partridges, callow-birds, etc., are eatable only when they are young. Others are edible only when they obtain the perfection of their existence, such as melons and fruits, and the majority of the beasts which furnish us with animal food. Others are not good until decomposition begins, such as the snipe and pheasant.
When the pheasant is eaten only three days after its death, it has no peculiarity; it has not the flavor of a pullet, nor the perfume of a quail.
It is, however, a highly flavored dish, about half way between chicken and venison.
It is especially good when the pheasant begins to be decomposed — an aroma and exciting oil is then produced, like coffee, only produced by torrefaction.
This becomes evident by a slight smell and change of color. Persons possessed, however, of the instincts of gourmandise see it at once, just as a good cook knows whether he should take his bird from the spit or give it a turn or two more.
When the pheasant is in that condition it should he plucked, and not before.
The bird should then he stuffed, and in the following manner:
Take two snipe and draw them so as to put the birds on one plate, and the livers, etc., on another.
Take the flesh and mingle it with beef, lard and herbes fines, adding also salt and truffles enough to fill the stomach of the pheasant.
Cut a slice of bread larger, considerably, than the pheasant, and cover it with the liver, etc., and a few truffles. An anchovy and a little fresh butter will do no harm.
Put the pheasant on this preparation, and when it is boiled surround it with Florida oranges. Do not be uneasy about your dinner.
Drink burgundy after this dish, for long experience has taught me that it is the proper wine.
A pheasant served in this way is a fit dish for angels, if they visited the world as they did in Lot’s day.
What I say, experience has already proved. A pheasant thus stuffed by Picard at La Grange * was brought on the table by the cook himself. It was looked on by the ladies as they would have looked at one of Mary Herbault’s hats. It was scientifically tasted, and in the interim the ladies eyes shone like stars, and their lips became coral.
[* Does he refer to La Fayette’s estate?]
I did more than this; I gave a similar proof to the judges of the supreme court. They are aware that the toga is sometimes to be laid aside, and I was able to show to several that good CHEER was a fit companion and reward for the labors of the senate. After a few moments the oldest judge uttered the word excellent. All bowed, and the court adopted the decision. I had observed that the venerable old men seemed to take great delight in smelling the dish, and that their august brows were agitated by expressions of extreme serenity, something like a half smile hanging on their lips.
All this thing, however is naturally accounted for. The pheasant, itself, a very good bird, had imbibed the dressing and the flavor of the truffle and snipe. It thus becomes thrice better.
Thus of all the good things collected, every atom is appreciated and the consequence is, I think the pheasant fit for the table of a prince.
Parve, nec invideo, sine me liber, ibis in aulam.
Toute Francaise, a ce que j’imagine,
Salt, bien ou mal faire, un peu de cuisine.
Belle Arsene, Act. III.
In a chapter written for the purpose, the advantages France derived from gourmandise in 1815, were fully explained. This was not less useful to emigres; all those, who had any alimentary resources, received much benefit from it.
When I passed through Boston, I taught a cook, named Julien, who in 1794 was in his glory, how to serve eggs with cheese. Julien was a skilful lad, and had, he said, been employed by the Archbishop of Bourdeaux. This was to the Americans a new dish, and Julien in return, sent me a beautiful deer he had received from Canada, which those I invited to do honour to it, thought admirable.
Captain Collet also, in 1794 and 1795 earned much money by the manufacture of ices and sherbets.
Women always take care to enjoy any pleasures which are new to them. None can form an idea of their surprise. They could not understand how it could remain so cold, when the thermometer was at 26 [degrees] Reaumur.
When I was at Cologne, I found a Breton nobleman, who thought himself very fortunate, as the keeper of a public house; and I might multiply these examples indefinitely. I prefer however to tell of a Frenchman, who became very rich at London, from the skill he displayed in making salad.
He was a Limousin, and if I am not mistaken, was named Aubignac, or Albignac.
Poor as he was, he went, however, one day to dine at one of the first restaurants of London. He could always make a good dinner on a single good dish.
While he was discussing a piece of roast beef, five or six dandies sat at the next table, and one of them advanced and said, “Sir, they say your people excel in the art of making a salad. Will you be kind enough to oblige us?”
After some hesitation d’Albignac consented, and having set seriously to work, did his best.
While he was making his mixture, he replied frankly to questions about his condition, and my friend owned, not without a little blushing, that he received the aid of the English government, a circumstance which doubtless induced one of the young men to slip a ten pound bank bill into his hand.
He gave them his address, and not long after, was much surprised to receive a letter inviting him to come to dress a salad at one of the best houses in Grosvenor square.
D’Albignac began to see that he might draw considerable benefit from it, and did not hesitate to accept the offer. He took with him various preparations which he fancied would make his salad perfect as possible.
He took more pains in this second effort, and succeeded better than he had at first. On this occasion so large a sum was handed to him that he could not with justice to himself refuse to accept it.
The young men he met first, had exaggerated the salad he had prepared for them, and the second entertainment was yet louder in its praise. He became famous as “the fashionable salad-maker,” and those who knew anything of satirical poetry remembered:
Desir do nonne est un feu pui devore,
Desir d’Anglaise est cent fois piri encore.
D’Albignac, like a man of sense, took advantage of the excitement, and soon obtained a carriage, that he might travel more rapidly from one part of the town to the other. He had in a mahogany case all the ingredients he required.
Subsequently he had similar cases prepared and filled, which he used to sell by the hundred.
Ultimately he made a fortune of 80,000 francs, which he took to France when times became more peaceful.
When he had returned to France, he did not hurry to Paris, but with laudable precaution, placed 60,000 francs in the funds, and with the rest purchased a little estate, on which, for aught I know, he now lives happily. His funded money paid him fifty per cent.
These facts were imparted to me by a friend, who had known D ‘Albignac in London, and who had met him after his return.
In 1794, M. de Rostaing, my cousin and friend, now military intendant at Lyons, a man of great talent and ability, and myself were in Switzerland.
We went to Mondon, where I had many relations, and was kindly received by the family of Troillet. I will never forget their hospitality.
I was there shown a young French officer who was a weaver, and who became one thus:—
This young man, a member of a very good family, was passing through Mondon, to join Condes army, and chanced to meet an old man with one of the animated heads usually attributed by painters to the companions of the famous Tell.
At their dessert, the officer did not conceal his situation, and received much sympathy from his new friend. The latter complained that at such an age, he had now to renounce all that was pleasant, and that every man should, as Jean Jacques, says, have some trade to support themselves in adversity.
The conversation paused there; and a short time after, he joined the army of Conde. From what he saw there, however, he saw he never could expect to enter France in that way.
Then he remembered the words of the weaver; and finally making up his mind, left the army, returned to Mondon, and begged the weaver to receive him as an apprentice.
On the next day the officer set to work, dining and sleeping with the weaver, and was so assiduous, that after six months, his master told him, he had nothing to teach him, thought himself repaid for the care he had bestowed, and that all he earned henceforth was his own profit.
When I was at Mondon, the new artisan had earned money enough to purchase a shop and a bed. He worked with great assiduity, and such interest was taken in him, that some of the first houses of the city enquired after him every day.
On Sunday, he wore his uniform, and resumed his social rights. As he was very well read, all took pleasure in his company, and he did not seem discontented with his fate.
To this picture of the advantage of industry, I am about to add an altogether different one.
I met at Lausanne, an emigre from Lyons, who to avoid work used to eat but twice a week. He would have died beyond a doubt, if a merchant in the city had not promised to pay for his dinner every Sunday, and Wednesday of the week.
The emigre came always at the appointed time, and always took away a large piece of bread.
He had been living in this manner some three months, when I met him; he had not been sick, but he was so pale that it was sad to see him.
I was amazed that he would suffer such pain rather than work. I asked him once to dine with me, but did not repeat the invitation because I believe in obeying that divine precept, “By the sweat of thy brow shalt thou earn thy bread.”
From Switzerland I went to America.
Passing one day in February, by the Palais Royal, I paused before the shop of Mme Chevet, the largest dealer in comestibles in Paris, who always wished me well. Seeing a large box of asparagus, the smallest of which was large as my finger, I asked the price. “Forty francs,” said she. “They are very fine, but only a king or prince could eat at such a rate.” “You are wrong sir,” said she, “such things never go to palaces, but I will sell the asparagus.
“There are now in this city at least three hundred rich men, capitalists and financiers, retained at home by gout, colds, and doctors. They are always busy to ascertain what will revive them and send their valets out on voyages of discovery. Some one of them will remark this asparagus, and it will be bought. It may be, some pretty woman will pass with her lover, and say, ‘what fine asparagus. How well my servant dresses it.’ The lover then does not hesitate, and I will tell you a secret, that dear things are sold more easily than cheap ones.”
As she spoke two fat Englishmen passed us. They seemed struck at once. One seized hold of the asparagus and without asking the price paid for it, and as he walked away whistled “God save the King.”
“Monsieur,” said Madame Chevet, “a thousand things like this happen every day.”
Fondue is a soup dish, and consists only in frying eggs in cheese in proportions revealed by experience. I will give the recipe. It is a pleasant dish, quickly made and easily prepared for unexpected guests. I refer to it here only for my peculiar pleasure, and because it preserves the memory of things which the old men of Belley recollect.
Towards the end of the 17th century M. Madot became bishop of Belley, and took possession of the diocese.
Those to whom his reception had been confided had provided an entertainment worthy of the occasion, and made use of all the preparations then known in the kitchen, to welcome my lord.
There was an immense fondue, to which the prelate paid great attention; to the surprise of all he ate it with a spoon, instead of a fork, as people had been used to do.
All the guests looked at each other with a perceptible smile on every face. A bishop from Paris, however, must know how to eat. On the next day there was a great deal of gossip, and people that met at the corners, said “Well did you see how our bishop ate his fondue? I heard from a person who was present that he used a spoon!”
The bishop had some followers, innovators who preferred the spoon, but the majority preferred the fork, and an old grand-uncle of mine used to laugh as if he would die, as he told how M. de Madot ate fondue with a spoon.
Calculate the number of eggs in proportion to the guests.
Take one-third of the weight of Gruyere and one-sixth of the weight of butter.
Beat the eggs and mingle them with the butter and cheese in a casserole.
Put the kettle on a hot fire and stir it until the mixture is perfect. Put in more or less salt in proportion as the cheese is old or new. Serve it hot, with good wine, of which one should drink much. The feast will see sights.
All one day was quiet at the Ecu de France, between Bourg and Bresse, when the sound of wheels was heard, and a superb English berline drove up, on the box of which were two pretty Abigails, wrapped in blue and red cloths.
At the sight, which announced a nobleman on his travels, Chicot, that was his name, hurried to the door of the equipage. The wife stood at the door, the girls near by, while the boys from the stable hurried forward satisfied that they would receive a handsome gratuity.
The women were unpacked and there came from the berline, 1st, a fat Englishman, 2d, two thin, pale, red-haired girls, and 3d, a lady, apparently in the first stage of consumption.
The last spoke:
“Landlord,” said she, “take care of the horses, give us a room and the women refreshments. All must cost only six francs; act accordingly.”
Chicot put on his bonnet, madame went into the house, and the girls to their garrets.
The horses were, however, put into the stable, the Englishman read the papers, and the women had a pitcher of pure water. The ladies went up stairs. The six francs were received as a poor compensation for the trouble caused.
“Alas! how much I am to be pitied,” said the elegiac voice of a gastronomer of the royal court of the Seine. “Hoping to be soon able to return home, I left my cook there; business detains me at Paris, and I have to depend on an old women the preparations of whom make me sick. Anything satisfies my wife and children, but I am made a martyr of the spit and pot.”
Luckily a friend heard the complaint, who said, “You will not, my friend, be a martyr. Deign to accept a classical dinner to-morrow, and after a game of piquet we will bury all in the abyss of the past.”
The invitation was accepted, the mystery was solved, and since the 23d June, 1825, the professor has been delighted at having one of his best friends in royal court.
The artificial thirst we previously alluded to, is that which for the moment appeals to strong drinks as a momentary relief. It gradually becomes so habitual that those who grow used to it cannot do without it even through the night, and have to leave their bed to appease it.
This thirst then becomes a real disease, and when he has reached that point, it may safely be said that he has not two years to live.
I travelled in Holland with a rich Dantzick merchant, who had for fifty years kept the principal house for the sale of brandy.
“Monsieur,” said he “none in France are aware of the importance of the trade in brandy, which for nearly a century my father and myself have carried on. I have watched with attention the workmen who yield to it as too many Germans do, and they generally die in the same manner.”
“At first they take simply a glass in the morning, and for many years this suffices. It is a common habit with all workmen, and any one who did not indulge in it would be ridiculed by his companions. Then they double the dose, that is to say, take a glass at morning and night. Thus things continue about three years, when they begin to drink three times a day, and will only taste spirits in which highly scented herbs have been infused. Having reached that point, one may be sure they have not more than six months to live, for they go to the hospital and are seen no more.”
I have already referred to these categories of gourmandise destroyed by time.
As they disappeared thirty years since, few of the present generation ever saw them.
About the end of the century they will probably reappear, but as such a phenomenon demand the coincidence of many future contingencies, I think few who live will ever witness this palingenesia.
As a painter of manners I must give the last touch to my portrait, and will borrow the following passage from an author, who, I know, will refuse me nothing.
“The title of Chevalier was only correctly granted to persons who had been decorated, or to the younger sons of noble houses. Many of the Chevaliers of other families would take the title for themselves, and if they had education and good manners, none doubted the accolade.
“They were generally young, wore the sword vertically and kept a stiff upper lip. They gamed and fought and were a portion of the train of any fashionable beauty.”
At the commencement of the revolution many of the Chevaliers joined the army of the emigres, enlisted or dispersed. The few who survive can yet be recognized by their military air; almost all of them, however, have the gout.
When any noble family had many children, one was dedicated to the church; at first some benefice, barely sufficient to pay for the expenses of education, was obtained, and ultimately he became Prince, Abbe, or Bishop, as circumstances dictated.
This was the real Abbe; but many young men who disliked the perils of the Chevalier, called themselves Abbes when they came to Paris.
Nothing was so convenient, for, with a slight change of dress, they could appear as priests and the equals of anybody. There was a great advantage in this for every house had its Abbe
They were generally small, round, well dressed and agreeable. They were gourmands, active and pleasant. The few that remain have became very devout and very fat.
None could be more comfortable than a rich prior or abbot. They had no superiors and nothing to do. If there be a long peace, the priors will turn up again, but unless there be a great change in the ecclesiastical organization, the Abbes are lost for ever.
“Monsieur,” said an old marquise to me one day, “which do you like best, Burgundy or Bordeaux?” “Madame,” said I, “I have such a passion for examining into the matter, that I always postpone the decision a week.”
The Count de la Place recommends that strawberries should always be dressed with orange juice.
“He is not a man of mind,” said the Count de M—— “Why?” “Ah! he does not eat pudding a la Richelieu, nor cutlets a la Soubise.”
“Take a raisin —”
“No I thank you; I do not like wine in pills.”
It was about one A. M., on a fine summer night, and I set out after having been serenaded by many who took an interest in us. This was about 1782.
I then was the chief of a troop of amateur musicians All of whom were young and healthy.
“Monsieur,” said the abbe of Saint Sulpice to me one day, and he drew me into a window recess, “you would enjoy yourself very much if you come some day to play for us at Saint Bernard’s. The Saints would be delighted.”
I accepted the offer at once, for it seemed to promise us an agreeable evening. I nodded assent, and all were amazed.
Annuit, et totum nutu tremefecit olympum.
Every precaution had previously been taken, for we had yet to go four leagues, a distance sufficient to terrify the persons who had ascended Mont Martre.
The monastery was in a valley, enclosed on the west side by a mountain, and on the east by a hill that was not so high.
The eastern peak was crowned by a forest of immense pines. The valley was one vast prairie, and the beech grows much like the arrangements of an English garden.
We came about evenfall, and were received by the cellarer who had a nose very rich-like an obelisk.
“Gentlemen,” said he, “our abbe will be glad when he hears you have come. He is yet in bed; but come with me, and you will see whether we have expected you or not.”
We followed him, and besought him to take us to the refectory.
Amid the display of the table arose a pate like a cathedral; on one side was a quarter of cold veal, artichokes, etc., were also on the eastern range.
There were various kinds of fruits, napkins, knives and plate; at the foot of the table were many attentive servants.
At one corner of the refrectory was seen more than an hundred bottles, kept cool by a natural fountain. We could snuff the aroma of mocha, though in those venerable days none ever drank mocha so early in the morning.
The reverend cellarer for a time laughed at our emotion, and then spoke to us as follows:
“Gentlemen,” said he, “I would be pleased to keep you company, but as yet I have not kept my mass. I ought to ask you to drink, but the mountain air dispenses the necessity. Receive, then, what we offer you. I must to matins.”
He went to matins.
We did our best to eat up the abbe’s dinner, but could not. People from Sirius might, but it was too much for us.
After dinner we dispersed. I crept into a good bed until mass; like the heroes of Rocroy, who slept until the battle began.
I was aroused by a great fat friar, who had nearly pulled my arm out of its socket, and went to the church where I found all at their posts.
We played a symphony at the offertory and sung a motet at the elevation, concluding with four wind instruments.
We contrived, in spite of the jests usually expended on amateurs, to get out of the difficulty very well.
We received with great benignity the praises heaped on us, and having received the abbot’s thanks went to the table.
The dinner was such as people used to eat in the fifteenth century. There were few superfluities, but the choice of dishes was admirable. We had plain, honest, substantial stews, good meats, and dishes of vegetables, which made one regret they were not more general.
The dessert was the more remarkable, as it was composed of fruits not produced at that altitude. The gardens of Machuras, of Morflent and other places had contributed.
There was no want of liqueurs, but coffee needs a particular reference.
It was clear, perfumed and strong, but was not served in what are called tasses on the Seine, but in huge bowls, into which the monks dipped their lips and smacked them with delight.
After dinner we went to vespers, and between the psalms executed antiphones I prepared for the purpose. That style of music was then fashionable. I cannot say if mine was good or bad.
Our DAY being over, my orchestra was enabled to look and walk around. On my return the abbe said, “I am about to leave you, and will suffer you to finish the night. I do not think my presence at all importunate to the fathers; but I wish them to do as they please.”
When the abbot had left, the monks drew more closely together, and a thousand jokes were told, not the less funny because the world knows nothing of them.
About nine a glorious supper was served, long in advance of the dinner.
They laughed, sang, told stories, and one of the fathers recited some very good verses he had himself composed.
At last a monk arose, and said, “Father Cellarer, what have you to say?”
“True,” said the father, “I am not cellarer for nothing.”
He left, and soon returned with three servitors, the first of whom brought some glorious fresh buttered toast. The others had a table on which was a sweetened preparation of brandy and water — vulgo, punch.
The new comers were received with acclamation; the company ate the toasts, drank the toddy, and when the abbey clock struck twelve, all went to their cells to enjoy a repose they had richly earned.
One day I rode a horse I called la Joie through the. . . . It was at the worst era of the revolution, and I went to see Mr. Prot to obtain a passport which, probably, might save me from prison or the scaffold.
At about 11 P. M., I reached a little bourg or village called Mont St. Vaudrey, and having first attended to my horse, was struck by a spectacle no traveller ever saw without delight.
Before a fire was a spit covered with cock quails and the rails that are always so fat. All the juice from the quails fell on an immense rotie so built up that the huntsman’s hand was apparent. Then came one of those leverets, the perfume of which Parisians have no faith in though they fill the room.
“Ah ha!” said I; “Providence has not entirely deserted me. Let us scent this perfume and die afterwards.”
Speaking to the landlord who, while I was making my examinations, walked up and down the room, I said, “Mon cher, what can you give us for dinner?”
“Nothing very good, Monsieur. You can have potatoes. The beans are awful. I never had a worse dinner.”
The landlord seemed to suspect the cause of my disappointment. I said, however, “for whom is all this game kept?”
“Alas, Monsieur,” said he, “it is not mine but belongs to some lawyers and judges who have been here several days on a business which concerns a very rich old lady. They finished yesterday, and wish to celebrate the event by a revolt.”
“Monsieur,” said I, “be pleased to say that a gentleman asks the favor of being permitted to dine with them, that he will pay his portion of the expense, and also be much obliged to them.”
He left me and did not return, but after a few minutes a little fat man entered, who hovered around the kitchen, lifted up the covers and disappeared.
“Ah, ha!” said I. The tiler has come to look at me. I began to hope, for I knew my appearance was not repulsive. My heart beat quickly as a candidate’s does after the ballot-box is opened, and before he knows the result, when the landlord told me the gentlemen only waited for me to sit down.
I went at once, and was received in the most flattering manner.
The dinner was glorious, I will not describe it, but only refer to an admirable fricassee of chicken not often seen in such perfection in the country. It had so many truffles that it would have revived an old Titan.
We sang, danced, etc., and passed the evening pleasantly.
[The translator here omits half a dozen songs, which are essentially French, and which no one can do justice to in another tongue.]
I believe I am the first person who ever conceived the idea of a gastronomical academy. I am afraid, however, I was a little in advance of the day, as people may judge by what took place fifteen years afterwards.
The President, H. de P., the ideas of whom braved every age and era, speaking to three of the most enlightened men of his age, (Laplace, Chaptal, and Berthollet,) said “I look in the history of the discovery of a new dish, which prolongs our pleasures, as far more important than the discovery of a new star.”
I shall never think science sufficiently honored until I see a cook in the first class of the institute.
The good old President was always delighted when he thought of his labor. He always wished to furnish me an epigraph, not like that which made Montesquieu a member of the academy. I therefore, wrote several verses about it, but to be copied.
Dans ses doctes travaux il fut infatigable;
Il eut de grands emplois, qu’il remplit dignement:
Et quoiqu’il filt profond, erudit et savant,
Il ne se crut jamais dispense d’etre aimable.
My work is now done, yet I am not a bit out of breath.
I could give my readers countless stories, but all is now over, and as my book is for all time, those who will read it now will know nothing of those for whom I write.
Let the Professor here end his work.
This web edition published by:
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:51