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- The Physiology of Taste - 45/49 -
The Englishman seemed to like our company, and more than once shared the frugal entertainment I offered my friends, when Mr. Wilkinson took me one evening aside and said he intended to ask us all to dine with him.
I accepted the invitation for three o'clock on the third day after.
The evening passed quietly enough, but when I was about to leave, a waiter came to me and said that the West Indian had ordered a magnificent dinner, thinking their invitation a challenge. The man with the horse-laugh had undertaken to drink us Frenchmen drunk.
This intelligence would have induced me, if possible, to decline the banquet. It was, however, impossible, and following the advice of the Marshal de Saxe, we determined, as the wine was uncorked, to drink it.
I had some anxiety, but being satisfied that my constitution was young, healthy and sound, I could easily get the better of the West Indian, who probably was unused to liquors.
I however, went to see Messrs. Fehr and Massue, and in an occular allocution, told them of my plans. I advised them to drink as little as possible, and to avoid too many glasses, while I talked to our antagonists. Above all things, I advised them to keep up some appetite, telling them that food had the effect of moderating the fumes of wine.
Thus physically and morally armed, we went to the old bank coffee house, where we found our friends; dinner was soon ready. It consisted of a huge piece of beef, a roasted turkey, (plain) boiled vegetables, a salad and pastry.
Wine was put on the table. It was claret, very good, and cheaper than it then was in France.
Mr. Wilkinson did the honors perfectly, asking us to eat, and setting us an example, while his friend, who seemed busy with his plate, did nothing but laugh at the corners of his mouth.
My countrymen delighted me by their discretion.
After the claret came the port and Madeira. To the latter we paid great attention.
Then came the dessert composed of butter, cheese and hickory nuts. Then came the time for toasts, and we drank to our kings, to human liberty, and to Wilkinson's daughter Maria, who was, as he said, the prettiest woman in Jamaica.
Then came spirits, viz., rum, brandy, etc. Then came songs, and I saw things were getting warm. I was afraid of brandy and asked for punch. Little brought a bowl, which, doubtless, he had prepared before. It held enough for forty people, and was larger than any we have in France.
This gave me courage; I ate five or six well buttered rolls, and I felt my strength revive. I looked around the table and saw my compatriots apparently fresh enough, while the Jamaican began to grow red in the face, and seemed uneasy. His friend said nothing, but seemed so overcome that I saw the catastrophe would soon happen.
I cannot well express the amazement caused by this denouement, and from the burden of which I felt myself relieved. I rang the bell; Little came up; I said, "see these gentlemen well taken care of." We drank a glass to their health. At last the waiter came and bore off the defeated party feet foremost. Wilkinson's friend was motionless, and our host would insist on singing, "Rule Britannia." [Footnote: The translator is sorry to say, that at the time Savarin speaks of, "Rule Britannia" was not written.]
The New York papers told the story the next day, and added that the Englishman had died. This was not so, for Mr. Wilkinson had only a slight attack of the gout.
MYSTIFICATION OF THE PROFESSOR AND DEFEAT OF A GENERAL.
Several years ago the newspapers told us of the discovery of a new perfume called the emerocallis, a bulbous plant, which has an odor not unlike the jasmin.
I am very curious, and was, therefore, induced in all probability to go to, the Foubourg St. Germain, where I could find the perfume.
I was suitably received, and a little flask, very well wrapped up, was handed me, which seemed to contain about two ounces. In exchange for it I left three francs.
An etourdi would at once have opened, smelled and tasted it. A professor, however, acts differently, and I thought modesty would become me. I took the flagon then and went quietly home, sat on my sofa and prepared to experience a new sensation.
I took the package from my pocket and untied the wrappings which surrounded it. They were three different descriptions of the emerocallis, and referred to its natural history, its flower, and its exquisite perfume, either in the shape of pastilles, in the kitchen, or in ices. I read each of the wrappings. 1. To indemnify myself as well as I could for the price I have spoken of above. 2. To prepare myself for an appreciation of the new and valuable extract I have spoken of.
I then opened, with reverence, the box I supposed full of pastilles. To my surprise, however, I found three other copies of the edition I had so carefully read. Inside I found about two dozen of the cubes I had gone so far for.
I tasted them, and must say that I found them very agreeable. I was sorry though, that they were so few in number, and the more I thought of the matter, the more I became mystified.
I then arose with the intention of carrying the box back to its manufacturer. Just then, however, I thought of my grey hairs, laughed at my vivacity, and sat down.
A particular circumstance also recurred to me. I had to deal with a druggist, and only four days ago I had a specimen of one of that calling.
I had one day to visit my friend Bouvier des Eclats.
I found him strolling in a most excited state, up and down the room, and crushing in his hands a piece of poetry, I thought a song.
He gave it to me and said, "look at this, you know all about it."
I saw at once that it was an apothecary's bill. I was not consulted as a poet, but as a pharmaceutist.
I knew what the trade was, and was advising him to be quiet, when the door opened, and we saw a man of about fifty-five enter. He was of moderate stature and his whole appearance would have been stern, had there not been something sardonic about his lips.
He approached the fire-place, refused to sit down, and I heard the following dialogue I have faithfully recorded.
"Monsieur," said the general, "you sent me a regular apothecary's bill."
The man in black said that he was not an apothecary.
"What then are you?" said the general.
"Sir, I am a pharmaceutist."
"Well," said the general, "your boy--"
"Sir, I have no boy."
"Who then was the young man you sent thither?"
"I wish to say, sir, that your drugs--"
"Sir, I do not sell drugs--"
"What then do you sell?"
The general at once became ashamed at having committed so many solicisms in a few moments, and paid the bill.
The chevalier de Langeac was rich, but his fortune was dispensed as is the fortune of all rich men.
He funded the remnants, and aided by a little pension from the government, he contrived to lead a very pleasant life.
Though naturally very gallant, he had nothing to do with women.
As his other powers passed away, his gourmandise increased. He became a professor and received more invitations than he could accept.
Lyons is a pleasant city, for there one can get vin de Bourdeaux, Hermitage and Burgundy. The game of the neighborhood is very good, and unexceptionable fish is taken from the lakes in the vicinity. Every body loves Bresse chickens.
Langeac was therefore welcome at all the best tables of the city, but took especial delight in that of a certain M. A.
In the winter of 1780, the chevalier received a letter, inviting him to sup ten days after date, (at that time I know there were suppers) and the chevalier quivered with emotion at the idea.
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