Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Dinner with the Kaiser.

I have another historic menu for you today. On January 27, 1898 a banquet was held to celebrate the birthday of Kaiser Wilhelm II (27 January 1859-1941). Wilhelm was Queen Victoria’s first grandson, and the last German Emperor and King of Prussia from June 1888 until he abdicated at the end of WW I on November 9, 1918.

The menu was held at the Military Casino, in the town of Metz, which is now in the part of France known as Alsace, but which was part of Germany between 1871-1919. There is no suggestion that this was a night of cards or roulette - because a ‘casino’at this time meant ‘a public room used for social meetings; a club-house; esp. a public music or dancing saloon’, it only later came to specifically refer to a gambling venue.

It was certainly an impressive dinner: the menu is given in both German and English – and for reasons which escape me, was headed with the Latin words suum cuique – ‘to each his own’. The dishes served were typical of a late nineteenth century grand dinner, and it featured a dish that had already been a specialty of the region for centuries – foie gras (see a previous post on the topic here.)


Skinbutte mit
Austersauce und Kartoffeln.
Rinderfilet mit Gemüsen.
Strassburger Gänseleleberpastete.
Eingemachte Früchte.
Charlotte Russe.


Caviar Canapes.
Ox-tail Soup.
Turbot with
Oyster Sauce and Potatoes.
Fillet of Beef with Vegetables.
Strasbourg Foie Gras.
Preserved Fruit.
Charlotte Russe.

I am amazed to find that in over thirteen hundred posts, I do not appear to have ever given you an explication or recipe for the obligatory nineteenth century banquet dessert – Charlotte Russe! How can this have happened?

As with so many things, culinary and otherwise, what goes by the name of ‘charlotte’ can include a wide variety of dishes. The Oxford English Dictionary gives the definition as ‘A dish made of apple marmalade covered with crumbs of toasted bread; also, a similar dish made with fruit other than apple. Hence, charlotte russe, a dish composed of custard enclosed in a kind of sponge-cake’, with the first reference as appearing in 1797. The ‘russe’ clearly suggests that it was attributed to Russia – the ‘Charlotte’ is variously attributed – so there is fodder there for another post, Time willing.Here is one interpretation.

Charlotte Russe
½ lb. ratafia biscuits, ½ pint cream, 1 oz. sugar, 1 tablespoon sherry, 1 tablespoon raspberry jam, ½ oz. gelatine, 1 teaspoon vanilla.
Rub the jam through a sieve, dip the ratafias first into it, then into the sherry, and with them line the side of a plain Charlotte mould, the first row should be put in quite dry. Whip the cream to a stiff froth, add to it the sugar, vanilla, and melted gelatine. Fill the mould, when set, turn out and garnish the top with whipped cream.
Cookery. Maud C. Cooke. London, Ontario.1896.


KT said...

I had no idea Charlotte Russe was a dessert... here on the US West Coast it is a trendy clothing store and I always assumed it was named after a person. Now I know. :)

The Old Foodie said...

Hi KT - I love it when I find out something totally unexpected like that, dont you? Luckily we will never run out of things we dont know :)What fun!

Foose said...

The "suum cuique" was the motto of Prussia's highest order of chivalry (the Black Eagle) and over the years had come to signify both the kingdom of Prussia and the Hohenzollern dynasty.

Considering how fraught the issue of ownership of Alsace-Lorraine was for France and Germany, perhaps the kaiser's birthday banquet being held in Metz, with "suum cuique" emblazoned on the menu, at a time when European tensions were high in part owing to various aggressive declarations of Wilhelm II, could be seen as deliberately provocative ...?

The Old Foodie said...

Thanks Foose - I knew someone would enlighten me! I suspect, in the light of what you have told me, that putting the words on the menu was intended to be provocative. There is a whole story there - menus with patriotic or political or other national propaganda messages.