Thursday, June 22, 2006

Jubilee Lunch (and Dinner).

Today, June 22nd …

Immense wealth, battalions of servants, awesome political power and very blue blood would have a downside you know. What if you had to sit down to this lunch?:

Consommé à la Sarah Bernhardt
Entrées Chaudes
Côteletes d’agneau panes et sautées
Boeuf braise, sauce au persil
Kalbsbraten mit Spargel
Entrées Froides
Chaudfroid de poulets
Mayonnaise de homards
Roulades à la Renaissance
Hure de sanglier à la Royale
Asperges à la hollandaise. Pommes de terre
Riz au lait à la canella
Kalteschaale von Frűchten
Hot and Cold Roast Fowls, Tongue, Cold Beef, Salade.

… and then you had to sit down to this at dinner?

Bernoise à l’Impératrice. Parmentier.
Whitebait Filets de saumon à la norvégienne
Timbales à la Monte-Carlo
Cailles à la Duxele
Poulets à la Demidoff
Roast Beef
Poulardes farcies
Pois sautés au beurre. Pouding Cambacérès
Pain d’orange à la Cintra
Canapés à la Princesse
Side Table
Hot and Cold Roast Fowls, Tongue, Cold Beef, Salade.

Consider the digestive effort. The effort of maintaining the illusion of being interested in the small talk of your “guests’. The sheer fatigue of it all.

Such was the lot of poor Queen Victoria, aged 78 years, during the intense weeks of the Jubilee celebrations in 1897 . Even for one reared to the life, it must have gotten awfully tedious.

There was very little variation on formal menus in those days, they were variations on a theme of stodge and classics. Nevertheless, the menus raise some interesting questions.

Why (again, this question), the menu in a mix of French and English (and German)?

Were the lunchtime Buffet items recycled to the Side Table for dinner?

And what possessed the chef de cuisine to put on the lunch menu a soup named for one of the actress mistresses of Victoria’s son and heir, the often-wayward “Bertie” (the future Edward VII)? Victoria always blamed Bertie for the death of her beloved Albert, who caught a chill when he went to visit his son in college to take him to task about an early liaison which had resulted in a “delicate situation”.

Consommé à la Sarah Bernhardt was said to have been created by her admirer and friend, Auguste Escoffier. It is usually described as a chicken consommé thickened with tapioca, and containing quenelles of chicken (or crayfish, or lobster), truffles and poached marrow.
Strangely, Escoffier does not give the recipe in “Ma Cuisine”. Instead he gives a quite different soup he calls “Sarah Bernhardt’s Favourite Consommé”. The recipe takes TOF well over the 400, but one must make exceptions for a royal jubilee.

Sarah Bernhardt’s Favourite Consommé.
2 pints chicken consommé.
Garnish: 3-4 slices fat bacon, 1 small carrot, 1 medium onion, 10oz., shin of veal, 2 tablespoons melted butter, 1 pint consommé, bouquet of parsley, ½ bay leaf, 1 sprig thyme, velouté sauce to which a little tomato paste has been added.
Put the bacon in boiling water 10 minutes, drain, when cool put into a saucepan. Add the carrots and onion, thinly sliced, the veal cut in small pieces and the butter. Addd ½ pint consommé. Put over low heat and cook until reduced by two-thirds. Add the other ½ pint consommé and the bouquet. Cover and continue cooking over moderate heat. The meat must be thoroughly cooked so it can be puréed. Remove the bouquet, rub all through a fine sieve; mix the purée with an equal quantity of the tomato velouté sauce. In addition serve some vermicelli cooked in consommé then drained and finished with butter and grated Parmesan cheese.

Tomorrow: Midsummer Freeze.

Quotation for the Day …

When ordering lunch, the big executives are just as indecisive as the rest of us. William Feather.

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