In May 1910, a rather mysterious society held a very unusual banquet in Paris. The society is mysterious because I have not, so far, been able to find out anything at all about it. Over the next several months, a newspaper article about the event appeared word-for-word in many newspapers around the world, including the Examiner (Launceston, Tasmania), and I reproduce it here for your vicarious delectation:
A ragout of boa-constrictors and pythons; set off by a fillet of African gazelle, figured on the menu of a remarkable banquet given in Paris on May 23 by the "Society of Super- Gourmets," which makes a speciality of introducing rare and strange dishes into the national bill of fare. Side by side with the succulent serpents figured an omelette of ostrich eggs, Algerian turtle, roasted porcupines and rook pasties. The sweets were hearts of date palm and cactus leaves, followed by a prosaic rhubarb pudding. The gazelle, it appears was found to be more tender than lamb, but thigh of tortoise is declared not to he as good as the drumstick of chicken, and the company decided that in future the turtle shall stick to his soup. The python had an immediate success with the numerous ladies present, for, as one fair guest declared, "Woman could never resist the serpent!”
Sadly, but expectedly, recipes for the various dishes on the menu are scarce or non-existent, apart, that is, from the prosaic, mundane, commonplace, but nonetheless potentially delicious rhubarb pudding. Rhubarb pudding of the plain boiled suet variety was common at the time, but the following recipe is a considerable improvement, being baked and buttery and saucy. Don’t forget the custard.
Caramel Rhubarb Pudding.
Mix two ounces of brown sugar with two ounces of butter, and spread the mixture all over the inside of a pudding-basin, thickly and evenly. Have ready a crust made with eight ounces of flour, five ounces of finely chopped beef suet, one teaspoonful of baking-powder, a pinch of salt, and barely enough water to mix it into a very dry dough. Line the basin with this, over the butter mixture. Fill with rhubarb cut in inch lengths, and add one tablespoonful of water and two tablespoonfuls of sugar. Cover with the rest of the paste, and cook for two hours in a moderate oven. Unmould upon a hot dish, and serve.
May Byron’s Pudding Book (London, 1917)
The book also includes this lovely rhubarb idea:
Rhubarb Meringue Tart (Plain)
Bake the crust on an inverted pie-plate. To prepare the filling, cut the rhubarb into inch lengths, put a layer into a saucepan, and sprinkle with sugar; add other layers of rhubarb and sugar, and cook till tender, using one cup of sugar to each pound of rhubarb. To ach scant pint of cooked rhubarb add the juice of half a lemon and the well-beaten yolks of two eggs; pour the mixture into the baked crust, and set in the oven until the eggs have thickened the mixture. Spread a meringue made of the two whites of eggs over the top of the rhubarb, and brown delicately in the oven.