Friday, January 18, 2013

Dinners, Compared.

Today I am taking the easy option (looming deadlines, you understand?) and making
The Greedy Book; a Gastronomical Anthology (1906) by Frank Schloesser do most of the talking.  You will remember this book, I am sure. It has been our source in previous posts, and its contribution is far from over.

The author is discussing the ‘general improvement of the menu.’ See if you agree with his ideas:-

The mere multiplication of restaurants is nothing; but the general improvement of the average menu is everything. Here, for instance, is the menu of a dinner of the year 1876, recommended by no less an authority than the late Fin Bec, Blanchard Jerrold, whose Epicure's Year Books, Cupboard Papers, and Book of Menus are by way of being classics.

Crecy aux Croûtons.
Saumon bouilli, sauce homard.
Filets de soles à la Joinville.
Suprême de Volaille a l’écarlate.
Côtelettes d'Agneau aux concombres.
Cailles en aspic.
Selle de Mouton.
Bacon and beans.
Baba au Rhum.
Pouding glacé.

This was the dinner given by the late Edmund Yates on the occasion of the publication of the World newspaper. Observe its heaviness, clumsiness, and want of delicacy. Three fish dishes are ostentatious and redundant; three entrées simply kill one another; the quails are misplaced before the saddle; the bacon and beans is, of course, a joke. Altogether it is what we should call to-day a somewhat barbarian meal. Contrast therewith the following artistically fashioned programme of a dinner given by the Réunion des Gastronomes; it is practically le dernier mot of the culinary art.

Huitres Royales Natives.
Tortue Claire.
Filets de Soles des Gastronomes.
Suprême de Poularde Trianon.
Noisettes d'Agneau a la Carême.
Pommes Nouvelles Suzette.
Sorbets à la Palermitaine.
Becassines à la Broche.
Haricots Verts Nouveaux à la Crême.
Biscuit Glacé Mireille.
Cobeille de Friandises.

Nothing could be lighter or more graceful. There is naught that is over-elaborate or indigestible; on the contrary, the various flavours are carefully preserved, and there is a subtle completeness about the whole dinner which is very pleasing.

It was the late lamented Joseph, of the Tour d' Argent, the Savoy, and elsewhere, who once said: "Make the good things as plain as possible. God gave a special flavour to everything. Respect it. Do not destroy it by messing."

I really don’t know how people got through these meals, do you? Even if the servings were not big, that is still an awful lot of food.

I do agree with the author about the bacon and beans in the first menu, it does seem rather odd. I wonder if there was some sort of in-house joke being referenced?

As the recipe for the day, I give you Filets of Sole à la Joinville, from How to Cook Fish, (1908) by Myrtle Reed (or Olive Green, if you prefer her pseudonym.)

Filets of Sole à la Joinville.
Season the prepared fillets with salt, pepper, and grated nutmeg, and put into a buttered pan – pan with a tablespoonful of butter and half a cupful of white wine. Cover, cook for ten minutes, and drain, reserving the liquid. Arrange on a serving-dish, and cover with cooked mushrooms, oysters, and lobster. Cook together two tablespoonfuls each of butter and flour, add the fish gravy and two cupfuls of wine stock, and cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Take from the fire, add the yolks of four eggs beaten with the juice of half a lemon, two tablespoons of butter, a pinch of red pepper, and enough pounded lobster coral to tint. Pour the sauce over the fish and serve.

No comments: