Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ladies Who Dine in Public.

Restaurant reviewing is a relatively new profession. The first to make his name in this way in London was Lieut-Colonel Nathaniel Newnham-Davis. He ate his way round the restaurants of the city during the last few years of the nineteenth century, and gave his opinions in articles written for a London newspaper. We we met him at a Jewish restaurant in a previous story, and today we meet him again, this time on the Continent, thanks to his book The Gourmet’s Guide to Europe (3rd edition 1911).

Very little is known about the life of the Lieut-Colonel, but it appears from his writings that he enjoyed the company of ladies at his dinners. There was a problem however, as it was uncommon if not improper for ladies to dine in public. It appears that this held true at times even if the gentleman was one’s husband, as the following story about a restaurant in The Hague, in Holland shows:

“In former years the proprietor of Van der Pijl's was possessed of a puritanical conscience, and would not allow any two people to dine alone in his private salons. 
So strictly did he adhere to his rule on this subject, that when a well-known man about town insisted on his right to dine in the petit salon alone with his wife, the inexorable proprietor turned him out of the restaurant. There was, however, another well-known member of Hague society who succeeded where the gentleman who thought that matrimony overrode all rules had failed. The hero of the little story had made a bet that, in spite of the puritanical proprietor, he would dine a deux with a lady in the petit salon. He won his bet by subtlety. He ordered a dinner for three, and when he and the lady arrived they waited a quarter of an hour for the other imaginary guest. Then, remarking that he was sure Mr. X. would not mind the dinner being begun without him, the host ordered the soup to be brought up; and so, with constant allusions to the man that never came, the dinner was served, course by course, and the bet won before the proprietor had the least idea that a trick had been played upon him.
The following are some of the dishes of which Van der Pijl’s makes a specialty - Poule au pot Henri IV, Sole Normande, Côte de Bœuf a la Russe, Homards a l‘Américaine, Poularde a la Parisienne, Perdreaux au choux, Omelette Sibérienne, Soufflé Palmyre, Poires Alaska, most of them standard dishes of the usual cuisine Française, although the Omelette Sibérienne was invented to please a British diplomat who preferred a soupçon of absinthe to either rum or Kümmel with his omelette.”

It is difficult to argue with the fine choice of classical dishes at this famous Dutch restaurant, although we could argue with the Lieut-Colonel’s theory of the invention of the Omelette Sibérienne. Essentially it is a Baked Alaska, and we have touched upon it in previous posts (HERE, HERE, and, with a recipe for Charles Ranhofer’s Alaska, Florida, HERE), so instead – ladies liking desserts as they do – today I give you another sweet thing from the list. It is from Dainty sweets; ices, creams, jellies, preserves, by the world famous chefs, United States, Canada, Europe (1913)

Soufflé Palmyre.
Make a vanilla souffle with lady fingers dipped in Curacao and bake in oven for ten minutes. Souffle is made of a half pint of milk, a quarter pound of sugar, two ounces fresh butter, three yolks and four whites of eggs, one ounce farina: Cook milk and sugar, add the farina mixed with a spoonful of cold milk for two minutes and complete mixture off the stove with butter and eggs very firmly beaten.

Quotation for the Day.

A golden rule, which may be held to apply all over Germany, is that it is safe to take ladies wherever officers go in uniform.
The Gourmet’s Guide to Europe, 1911.


Liz + Louka said...

Reminds me of Lady Underhill's tirade against Jill (in PG Wodehouse's Jill the Reckless) for having supper with a man in a public restaurant.

The Old Foodie said...

I think sometimes we need to remind ourselves (in all sorts of areas of our lives), how far we have come. More on "ladies" who dine out tomorrow!

Shay said...

I believe the Colonel's book is available on-line; I will have to go look for the link.

The Old Foodie said...

Hello Shay - yes, his books are online, The Europe one is at Gutenberg and I think also the Internet Archive. I love the Internet.