Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dinner-giving Snobs.

Thackeray clearly felt himself to be a Dining-out snob, as we found yesterday. What did he think of his hosts? The article quoted from yesterday continues:

“What is a Dinner-giving Snob? some innocent youth who is not rĂ©pandu in the world may ask or some simple reader who has not the benefits of London experience.
My dear sir, I will show you - not all for that is impossible- but several kinds of Dinner giving Snobs. For instance suppose you, in the middle rank of life, accustomed to Mutton roast on Tuesday, cold on Wednesday, hashed on Thursday &c with small means and a small establishment, choose to waste the former and set the latter topsy-turvy by giving entertainments unnaturally costly - you come into the Dinner giving Snob class at once. Suppose you get in cheap made dishes from the pastrycook's, and hire a couple of greengrocers, or carpet-beaters, to figure as footmen dismissing honest Molly, who wait on common days, and bedizening your table (ordinarily ornamented with willow pattern crockery) with twopenny halfpenny Birmingham plate. Suppose you pretend to be richer and grander than you ought to be - you are a Dinner giving Snob. And O! I tremble to think how many and many a one will read this on Thursday!
A man who entertains in this way - and alas how few do not! - is like a fellow who would borrow his neighbour's coat to make a show in, or a lady who flaunts in the diamonds from next door, - a humbug in a word, and amongst the Snobs he must be set down.
A man who goes out of his natural sphere of society to ask Lords, Generals, Aldermen, and other persons of fashion but is niggardly of his hospitality towards his own equals, is a Dinner . My dear friend, Jack Tufthunt, for example knows one Lord whom he met at a watering place; old Lord Mumble who is as toothless as a three months old baby and as mum as an undertaker, and as dull as - well we will not particularise.
Tufthunt never has a dinner now, but you see this solemn old toothless patrician at the right-hand of Mrs Tufthunt - Tufthunt is a Dinner giving Snob.
Old Livermore, old Soy, old Chuttney, the East India Director, old Cutler, the Surgeon &c., that society of old fogies, in fine, who give each other dinners round and round and dine for the mere purpose of guttling - these again are Dinner giving Snobs. Again my friend Lady MacScrew who has three grenadier flunkies in lace round the table, and serves up a scrag of mutton on silver, and dribbles you out bad sherry and port by thimblefuls, is a Dinner giving Snob of the other sort; and I confess for my part I would rather dine with old Livermore or old Soy than with her Ladyship. Stinginess is snobbish. Ostentation is snobbish. Too great profusion is snobbish. Tuft hunting is snobbish: but I own there are people more snobbish than all those whose defects are above mentioned viz those individuals who can and don’t give dinners at all. The man without hospitality shall never sit sub iisdem trabibus [‘the sacred enclosure of private walls’] with me. Let the sordid wretch go mumble his bone alone.”

There is more, considerably more, from Thackeray on the topics of dining snobbery and the meaning of hospitality, but they can wait for another day. In the meanwhile, here is a recipe for the despised scrag of mutton (the neck) – a far more tasty and hospitable way of using it than serving it roasted.

Mutton Broth.
Take two pounds of scrag of mutton; to take the blood out, put it into a stew-pan, and cover it with cold water; when the water becomes milk-warm, pour it off, skim it well, then put it in again, with four or five pints of water, a tea-spoonful of salt, a tablespoon of best grits, and an onion; set it on a slow fire, and when you have taken all the scum off, put in two or three turnips, let it simmer very slowly for two hours and strain it through a clean sieve.
You may thicken it, by boiling it with a little oatmeal, rice, Scotch, or pearl barley.
A Modern System of Domestic Cookery, by M.Radcliffe, 1839.

Quotation for the Day.
Dinner was made for eating, not for talking.
William Makepeace Thackeray.


Karen said...

He does tend to rant in such avuncular tones!

Marisa Raniolo Wilkins said...

In Italian it is called "fare una bella figura" and to Italians it seems to apply to all aspects of life, not just entertaining. It is a little like guilt- it never quite goes away.

Marisa Raniolo Wilkins