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- The Physiology of Taste - 30/49 -
perfumed as possible.
"Let the coffee be hot, and let the master select his own wines.
"Let the reception-room be large enough to permit those who cannot do without the amusement, to make up a card party, and also for little COTERIES of conversation.
"Let the guests be retained by the pleasures of society, and by the hope that the evening will not pass without some ulterior enjoyment
"The tea should not be too strong, the roast dishes should be loaded artistically, and the punch made carefully.
"None should begin to retire before eleven o'clock, and at midnight all should have gone to bed.
"If any one has been present at an entertainment uniting all these conditions, he may boast of having witnessed his own apotheosis. He will enjoy it the more, because many other apotheosis have been forgotten or mistaken."
I have said that the pleasure of the table, as I have described it, was susceptible of long duration, and I am about to prove it by the history of the longest meal I ever was present at. It is a BONBON I give the reader as a reward for patient attention to me. Here it is:-
I had a family of kinsfolk in the Rue de Bac, constituted as follows: a doctor, who was seventy-eight; a captain, who was seventy-six; and their sister, Jeannette, who was sixty-four. I used to visit them sometimes, and they always received me kindly.
"PARBLEU!" said Doctor Dubois, rising on his toes one day to tap me on the shoulder; "you have a long time been bragging about your FONDUES, (eggs and cheese,) and you always make our mouths water. The captain and I will come to dine with you, and we will see what your famous dish is." (This took place about 1801.) "Willingly," said I, "and to enable you to see it in all its glory, I will cook it myself. I am delighted with your proposition, and wish you to come punctually at ten to-morrow."
At the appointed time my guests came, clean shaved, and with their heads powdered. They were two little old men; yet fresh, however, and well. They smiled with pleasure when they saw the table ready, set with three covers, and with two dozen oysters by each plate. At the two ends of the table were bottles of Sauterne, carefullly wiped, except the cork, which indicated that it had been long bottled. Alas! I have gradually seen oysters disappear from breakfast, though they were once so common. They disappeared with the ABBES, who never ate less than a gross; and the CHEVALIERS, who ate quite as many. I regret them but as a philosopher. If time modifies governments, how great must be its influence over simple usages. After the oysters, which were very good, grilled kidneys, a PATE of FOIE GRAS with truffles, and then the FONDUE.
The elements had been put in a chafing-dish, and brought to the table with spirits of wine. I set at once to work, and my two cousins watched every motion I made.
They were delighted, and asked for the recipe, which I promised, telling them two anecdotes, which the reader will perhaps meet with elsewhere.
After the FONDUE we had the various fruits which were in season, and a cup of real mocha, made A LA DU BELLOY, which was then becoming fashionable. We ended with two kinds of LIQUEURS.
Breakfast being over, I invited my two kinsmen to take a little exercise, and to accompany me through my lodgings, which are far from being elegant, and which my friends, in consequence of their size and splendor, prefer to the gilding and OR MOLU of the reign of Louis XV.
I showed them the original bust of my pretty cousin, Mme. Recamier by Chinard, and her miniature by Augustin. They were so much pleased, that the Doctor kissed the latter with his thick lips, and the Captain took a liberty with the bust of the first, for which I reproved him. Were all the admirers of the original to do as he did, the bust would soon be in the condition of the famous statue of St. Peter at Borne, which the kisses of pilgrims have worn away.
I showed them afterwards, casts of old statuary, some pictures, which are not without merit, my guns, my musical instruments, and several fine editions of the French and foreign classics.
They did not forget the kitchen in their voyage of discovery. I showed them my economical furnace, my turnspit by clock-work, my roasting apparatus, and my vaporiser. They were much surprised, as every thing in their house was done in the style of the regency.
Just as we were about to enter the room, the clock struck two. "Peste!" said the Doctor, "the dinner time and Jeannette awaits us; we must go, not because I wish to eat, but I must have my bowl of soup like Titus DIEM PERDIDI." "My dear Doctor," said I, "why go so far? what is here? Send some to my cousin and remain here, if you will, and accept my apology for a somewhat hasty dinner and you will delight me."
There was an ocular consultation on the matter between the two brothers, and I at once sent a messenger to the Faubourg St. Germain. I also told my cook what I wished. After a time, in part with his own resources and from the neighboring restaurants, he served us up a very comfortable little dinner.
It was a great gratification to me, to see the SANG FROID and quiet nerve with which my kinsmen sat down, unfolded their napkins and began. They met with two surprises which I did not anticipate; I gave them PARMESAN with soup, and a glass of dry Madeira. These two novelties had just been introduced by M. De Tallyrand, the first of our diplomatists, to whom we are indebted for so many shrewd expressive words, and whom public attention has always followed with marked interest even when he had retired.
Dinner passed very comfortably, and as far as the substantiate and the accessories were concerned, my friends were as agreeable as they were merry.
After dinner, I proposed a game of PIQUET, which they refused, preferring, as the Captain said, IL FAR NIENTE of the Italians, and we sat around the fireplace.
In spite of the pleasures of the FAR NIENTE, I have often thought that nothing enlivens conversation more than any occupation which distracts but does not absorb all coversation.
Tea was a novelty to the French at that time. They however took it; I made it in their presence, and they took it with greater pleasure, because, hitherto they had only looked on it as a remedy.
Long observation had informed me, that one piece of complaisance ever brings on another, and that after one step there is no choice but to continue in the same route.
"You will kill me," said the Doctor. "You will make me drunk," said the Captain. I made no reply, but rang for rum, sugar, and lemons. I made some punch, and while I was preparing some, excellent well buttered toast was also prepared.
My cousins protested that they could not eat a morsel more; but, as I was familliar with the attraction of this simple preparation, I insisted, and the Captain having taken the first slice, I had no hesitation in ordering more.
Time rolled on, and the clock was on the stroke of eight. "Let us go," said the worthies, "for we must eat a salad with our sister, who has not seen us to day."
I did not object, and accompanied the two pleasant old men to their carriage, and saw them leave.
Perhaps, the question may be asked, if their long visit did not annoy me.
I answer, no. The attention of my guests was sustained by the preparation of the FONDUE, by their examination of my rooms, by a few novelties after dinner, by the tea, and especially by the punch, which was the best they had ever tasted.
The Doctor, too, knew all the genealogy and history of the people of Paris. The Captain had passed a portion of his life in Italy, either as a soldier or as envoy to the Court of Parma. I had travelled much, and conversation pursued its natural bent. Under such circumstances time could not but fly rapidly.
On the next day, a letter from the Doctor informed me, that their little debauch had done them no harm, but that after a quiet night's rest, they awoke convinced that they could go over the whole matter again.
HALTES DE CHASSE.
AMID all the circumstances in life, when eating is considered valuable, one of the most agreeable is, doubtless, when there is a pause in the chase. It alone may be prolonged the most without ennui.
After a few hours exercise, the most eager huntsman feels a necessity for rest. His face needs caressing by the morning breeze: he halts, however, not from necessity, but by that instinctive impulse which tells him that his activity is not indefinite.
Shade attracts him, the turf receives him, the murmur of the rivulet advises him to open the flask he has brought to revive himself I with. [Footnote: For such purposes, I prefer white wine; it resists heat better than any other.] Thus placed, he takes out the little well baked loaves, uncovers the cold chicken some kind hand has placed in his havresack, and finds the piece of gruyere or roquefort, which is to represent a dessert.
While he makes these preparations, he is accompanied by the faithful animal God has created for him; co-operation has overcome distance. They are two friends, and the servant is at once happy and proud to be the guest of his master.
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