Monday, June 22, 2009

Ladies who Lunch.

I havent written nearly enough on this topic, given that I have aspirations to membership of the club. I am in Melbourne this week, so hope to nibble at the lifestyle, to confirm that it suits.

For the rest of you not so lucky this week, I give you a taste of how it was in the days when eating out in public places was only just becoming an option for women – the days also when it was even possible to be one of “the ladies who have passed their girlhood without marrying (none the less cheerful, happy, and contented, for all that.)”

From the chapter “Luncheon and Tea: A Chapter for Ladies” in London Options of Today, published in 1890, I give you these wonderful options.

“There are as most of us know, two kinds of Luncheon: the substantial and the light. The first appeals rather to the robuster appetites of men than the fastidious tastes of women, and belongs more to the London restaurant and club than the modest refreshment place to which the daintier sex ordinarily resort. That we all eat quite too much in the course of every twenty four hours - those of us at least who are not “dockers,” and “that class of person” - doctors never tire of warning us. Fashion, however, has the whip-hand of the doctors, and until their patients contrive to get the whip-hand of Fashion doctors may go on warning us till the crack of doom. Meanwhile the Socialist demonstrator being not as yet forthcoming to lead us in our thousands to the Reformer's Tree, there to try condemn, and hang Fashion in effigy, we must needs proceed in our several ways to make of luncheon substantial dinners, and of dinner substantial suppers, as the tyrant dictates. Though women in the aggregate are in various ways more in bondage to the tyrant than men, women generally contrive to keep free from the rack and the thumbscrew which are the common tortures of the sterner sex, who will persist in harassing, worrying, and destroying their digestions by too much eating and drinking.
The light luncheon is the salvation of the women. The majority - the youthful and beautiful majority - would we doubt not at times rather by far their book of songs and sonnets than partake even of the lightest. Still we must all like Mrs Dombey strive to make an effort, and an effort made upon a well breaded cutlet, chipped potatoes and a single glass of claret is more sustaining and life-preserving than the “squarest meal” (to use a vulgar phrase) of sweet food of sweetly uttered knowledge.”

The author goes on to review a number of London establishments which are suitable for ladies to partake of such light lunches, including the Dorothy Restaurants – which were especially attractive “if you are among the number of those who detest to have men about the place”, as they admitted no men.

Those were indeed the days, when a definition of a light lunch was “a well breaded cutlet, chipped potatoes and a single glass of claret.”

Mutton Cutlets (Broiled), Breaded.

Trim and season your cutlets with pepper and salt, put them in some melted butter, and when they have imbibed a sufficient quantity of it, take them out and cover them completely with bread crumbs; give the cutlets a good shape, and broil them over a clear fire; take care not to do the cutlets too much, to burn the bread; serve with a sauce piquante.
The cook’s dictionary, and housekeeper’s directory, Richard Dolby, 1823.

For more on this topic:

Emily Post Does Lunch

More on Ladies who Dine in Public.

Quotation for the Day.

A man may be a pessimistic determinist before lunch and an optimistic believer in will's freedom after it.
Aldous Huxley, Do What You Will

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