Friday, August 17, 2007

The Baron Brisse Menu 5.

Today, August 17th

We have lost the art of setting and decorating a dinner table it seems. In return for this lost art we have the convenience of being able to eat anywhere any-time - on the run, in the car, standing at the kitchen bench, out of a take-away box, or in front of TV. It was very different in the baron’s day.

How to lay the covers.
Formerly dinner-tables were heavily decorated with massive bronze, silver, and cut-glass ornaments, which prevented the guests from seeing each other across the table, and rendered conversation with your opposite neighbour impossible. At the present time, these ornaments have been superceded by low flower-baskets of either glass or silver. Formerly candelabra only held four or five candles, now they hold as many as fourteen or fifteen, so we require fewer and have more light.
Each guest must have a tumbler and three wine-glasses placed on his right-hand side, arranged according to the order in which the wines are served. First, Madeira; second, Bordeaux; third, Champagne. During dinner extra wines have special glasses handed with them. Finger-glasses with warm water must be handed after crayfish or prawns.
The dessert plates must always have a doiley and a finger-glass placed on them.

I do hope that little historic reminder inspires you to dust off the candelabra lurking in the back of your cupboard, and to wash and iron your doiley collection. When you have done that, here is the baron’s menu suggestion for today.

Menu for August 17.

Potage à l’ oiselle à la crème.
(Sorrel soup with cream).
Matelote savant.
(Stewed carp, pike, perch, barbel, and eel).
Canard au navets.
(Stewed duck and turnips).
Quartier d’agneau rôti.
(Roast forequarter of lamb)
Concombres farcis.
(Stuffed cucumbers)
Pêches à la Bourdaloue.
(Peaches à la Bourdaloue).

Today’s recipe choice is unequivocally, classically French:

Stewed duck and turnips.
Truss your duck and brown in a stew-pan with some fresh butter, peel and cut some young turnips into equal sizes and brown in the same butter, stir in a little powdered sugar. Reduce some stock to a thin brown sauce, season with salt, pepper, a bouquet of parsley, chives, half a head of garlic, and laurel [Bay] leaves, stew the duck in this sauce, and when half cooked add the turnips, turn the duck from time to time, and be careful not to break the turnips, cook over a slow fire. Clear the sauce of all grease, and serve.

Monday’s Story …

Advice to picnic parties.

Quotation for the Day ….

The French are sawed-off sissies who eat snails and slugs and cheese that smells like people's feet. Utter cowards who force their own children to drink wine, they gibber like baboons even when you try to speak to them in their own wimpy language. P. J. O'Rourke


Lapinbizarre said...

Now that soup I could go for. Sadly I've had no success growing sorrel in South Carolina - just enough leaves to remind you strongly what you're missing, but never enough to prepare a dish.

When I was in the Mid-West I lived with a family who descended from Gilded Age railway barons. They still owned a lot of the paraphenalia (TWO sets, each well upwards of 250 pieces, of Tiffany "Chrysanthemum" flatware; a monstrous silver candelabrum centrepiece - the shaken silversmith to whom it was taken for minor repair informed them that the stamped letters "PS" indicated that it was the work of Paul Storr and refused, for insurance reasons to have it overnight on his premises - repair on the spot and straight back to the bank vault.

But I vividly rember the linen - dinner napkins the size of bedsheets (I exaggerate, but barely) and huge, wide, heavily-embroidered tablecloths in varying lengths. Amazingly there was a laundry in town that would still wash these cloths and press them,unstarched (they were made of extremely heavy linen) perfectly flat. The finished cloths - this impressed me greatly - were then rolled, around heavy cardboard tubes. They stored quite easily and could be spread, still perfectly flat, along the table when next needed.

The Old Foodie said...

I love tablecloths and huge napkins. I think they are worth the work.