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- The Physiology of Taste - 49/49 -
We followed him, and besought him to take us to the refectory.
Amid the display of the table arose a pate like a cathedral; on one side was a quarter of cold veal, artichokes, etc., were also on the eastern range.
There were various kinds of fruits, napkins, knives and plate; at the foot of the table were many attentive servants.
At one corner of the refrectory was seen more than an hundred bottles, kept cool by a natural fountain. We could snuff the aroma of mocha, though in those venerable days none ever drank mocha so early in the morning.
The reverend cellarer for a time laughed at our emotion, and then spoke to us as follows:
"Gentlemen," said he, "I would be pleased to keep you company, but as yet I have not kept my mass. I ought to ask you to drink, but the mountain air dispenses the necessity. Receive, then, what we offer you. I must to matins."
He went to matins.
We did our best to eat up the abbe's dinner, but could not. People from Sirius might, but it was too much for us.
After dinner we dispersed. I crept into a good bed until mass; like the heroes of Rocroy, who slept until the battle began.
I was aroused by a great fat friar, who had nearly pulled my arm out of its socket, and went to the church where I found all at their posts.
We played a symphony at the offertory and sung a motet at the elevation, concluding with four wind instruments.
We contrived, in spite of the jests usually expended on amateurs, to get out of the difficulty very well.
We received with great benignity the praises heaped on us, and having received the abbot's thanks went to the table.
The dinner was such as people used to eat in the fifteenth century. There were few superfluities, but the choice of dishes was admirable. We had plain, honest, substantial stews, good meats, and dishes of vegetables, which made one regret they were not more general.
The dessert was the more remarkable, as it was composed of fruits not produced at that altitude. The gardens of Machuras, of Morflent and other places had contributed.
There was no want of liqueurs, but coffee needs a particular reference.
It was clear, perfumed and strong, but was not served in what are called tasses on the Seine, but in huge bowls, into which the monks dipped their lips and smacked them with delight.
After dinner we went to vespers, and between the psalms executed antiphones I prepared for the purpose. That style of music was then fashionable. I cannot say if mine was good or bad.
Our DAY being over, my orchestra was enabled to look and walk around. On my return the abbe said, "I am about to leave you, and will suffer you to finish the night. I do not think my presence at all importunate to the fathers; but I wish them to do as they please."
When the abbot had left, the monks drew more closely together, and a thousand jokes were told, not the less funny because the world knows nothing of them.
About nine a glorious supper was served, long in advance of the dinner.
They laughed, sang, told stories, and one of the fathers recited some very good verses he had himself composed.
At last a monk arose, and said, "Father Cellarer, what have you to say?"
"True," said the father, "I am not cellarer for nothing."
He left, and soon returned with three servitors, the first of whom brought some glorious fresh buttered toast. The others had a table on which was a sweetened preparation of brandy and water--vulgo, punch.
The new comers were received with acclamation; the company ate the toasts, drank the toddy, and when the abbey clock struck twelve, all went to their cells to enjoy a repose they had richly earned.
PROSPERITY EN ROUTE.
One day I rode a horse I called la Joie through the It was at the worst era of the revolution, and I went to see Mr. Prot to obtain a passport which, probably, might save me from prison or the scaffold.
At about 11 P. M., I reached a little bourg or village called Mont St. Vaudrey, and having first attended to my horse, was struck by a spectacle no traveller ever saw without delight.
Before a fire was a spit covered with cock quails and the rails that are always so fat. All the juice from the quails fell on an immense rotie so built up that the huntsman's hand was apparent. Then came one of those leverets, the perfume of which Parisians have no faith in though they fill the room.
"Ah ha!" said I; "Providence has not entirely deserted me. Let us scent this perfume and die afterwards."
Speaking to the landlord who, while I was making my examinations, walked up and down the room, I said, "Mon cher, what can you give us for dinner?"
"Nothing very good, Monsieur. You can have potatoes. The beans are awful. I never had a worse dinner."
The landlord seemed to suspect the cause of my disappointment. I said, however, "for whom is all this game kept?"
"Alas, Monsieur," said he, "it is not mine but belongs to some lawyers and judges who have been here several days on a business which concerns a very rich old lady. They finished yesterday, and wish to celebrate the event by a revolt."
"Monsieur," said I, "be pleased to say that a gentleman asks the favor of being permitted to dine with them, that he will pay his portion of the expense, and also be much obliged to them."
He left me and did not return, but after a few minutes a little fat man entered, who hovered around the kitchen, lifted up the covers and disappeared.
"Ah, ha!" said I. The tiler has come to look at me. I began to hope, for I knew my appearance was not repulsive. My heart beat quickly as a candidate's does after the ballot-box is opened, and before he knows the result, when the landlord told me the gentlemen only waited for me to sit down.
I went at once, and was received in the most flattering manner.
The dinner was glorious, I will not describe it, but only refer to an admirable fricassee of chicken not often seen in such perfection in the country. It had so many truffles that it would have revived an old Titan.
We sang, danced, etc., and passed the evening pleasantly.
[The translator here omits half a dozen songs, which are essentially French, and which no one can do justice to in another tongue.]
H. ... DE P ...
I believe I am the first person who ever conceived the idea of a gastronomical academy. I am afraid, however, I was a little in advance of the day, as people may judge by what took place fifteen years afterwards.
The President, H. de P., the ideas of whom braved every age and era, speaking to three of the most enlightened men of his age, (Laplace, Chaptal, and Berthollet,) said "I look in the history of the discovery of a new dish, which prolongs our pleasures, as far more important than the discovery of a new star."
I shall never think science sufficiently honored until I see a cook in the first class of the institute.
The good old President was always delighted when he thought of his labor. He always wished to furnish me an epigraph, not like that which made Montesquieu a member of the academy. I therefore, wrote several verses about it, but to be copied.
Dans ses doctes travaux il fut infatigable;
Il eut de grands emplois, qu'il remplit dignement:
Et quoiqu'il filt profond, erudit et savant,
Il ne se crut jamais dispense d'etre aimable.
My work is now done, yet I am not a bit out of breath.
I could give my readers countless stories, but all is now over, and as my book is for all time, those who will read it now will know nothing of those for whom I write.
Let the Professor here end his work.
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