William Makepeace Thackeray.

Complete works (Volume 22) online

. (page 25 of 31)
Online LibraryWilliam Makepeace ThackerayComplete works (Volume 22) → online text (page 25 of 31)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

clutched hold of all the reins and a great deal of the
mane of the brute. I saw trees, milestones, houses,
villages, pass away from me away, away, away, away
by the corn-fields away by the wolds away by the
eternal hills away by the woods and precipices the
woods, the rocks, the villages flashed by me. Oh,
Pugsby ! how I longed for the Megatherium during
that ride !

It lasted, as it seemed to me, about nine hours, during
which I went over, as I should think, about 540 miles
of ground. I didn't come off my hat did, a new
Lincoln and Bennett, but I didn't and at length the
infuriate brute paused in his mad career, with an in-
stinctive respect for the law, at a turnpike gate. I little
knew the blessing of a turnpike until then.

In a minute Bangles came up, bursting with laughter.
c You can't manage that horse, I think,' said the Major,
with his infernal good-nature. c Shall I ride him ?
Mine is a quiet beast.'

I was off Purgatory's back in a minute, and as I
mounted on Bangles's hackney, felt as if I was getting
into bed, so easy, so soft, so downy he seemed to me.

He said, though I never can believe it, that we had
only come about a mile and a half; and at this moment
the two ladies and De Bosky rode up.

* Is that the way you broke the Pasha of Trebizond's
horse ? ' Violet said. I gave a laugh ; but it was one of
despair. I should have liked to plunge a dagger in De
Bosky's side.

I shall come to town directly, I think. This
Brighton is a miserable Cockney place.





PARIS : May 1841.

SIR, The man who makes the best salads in London,
and whom, therefore, we have facetiously called Sultan
Saladin, a man who is conspicuous for his love and
practice of all the polite arts music, to wit, architecture,
painting, and cookery once took the humble personage
who writes this into his library, and laid before me two
or three volumes of manuscript year-books, such as, since
he began to travel and to observe, he has been in the
habit of keeping.

Every night, in the course of his rambles, his highness
the sultan (indeed his port is sublime, as, for the matter of
that, are all the wines in his cellar) sets down with an
iron pen, and in the neatest handwriting in the world,
the events and observations of the day ; with the same
iron pen he illuminates the leaf of his journal by the
most faithful and delightful sketches of the scenery
which he has witnessed in the course of the four-and-
twenty hours; and if he has dined at an inn, or restaur-
ant, gasthaus, posada, albergo, or what not, invariably
inserts into his log-book the bill of fare. The sultan
leads a jolly life a tall stalwart man, who every day

33 1


about six o'clock in London and Paris, at two in Italy,
in Germany and Belgium at an hour after noon, feels the
noble calls of hunger agitating his lordly bosom (or its
neighbourhood, that is), and replies to the call by a good
dinner. Ah ! it is wonderful to think how the healthy
and philosophic mind can accommodate itself in all cases
to the varying circumstances of the time how, in its
travels through the world, the liberal and cosmopolite
stomach recognises the national dinner-hour ! Depend
upon it that, in all countries, nature has wisely ordained
and suited to their exigencies THE DISHES OF A PEOPLE.
I mean to say that olla podrida is good in Spain (though
a plateful of it, eaten in Paris, once made me so dread-
fully ill that it is a mercy I was spared ever to eat
another dinner) ; I mean to say, and have proved it,
that sauerkraut is good in Germany ; and I make no
doubt that whales' blubber is a very tolerable dish in
Kamtschatka, though I have never visited the country.
Cannibalism in the South Seas, and sheepsheadism in
Scotland, are the only practices that one cannot, perhaps,
reconcile with this rule at least, whatever a man's
private opinions may be, the decencies of society oblige
him to eschew the expression of them upon subjects
which the national prejudice has precluded from free

Well, after looking through three or four of Saladin's
volumes, I grew so charmed with them, that I used to
come back every day and study them. I declare there
are bills of fare in those books over which I have cried ;
and the reading of them, especially about an hour before
dinner, has made me so ferociously hungry, that, in the
first place, the sultan (a kind-hearted generous man, as
every man is who loves his meals) could not help inviting
me to take pot-luck with him ; and, secondly, I could
eat twice as much as upon common occasions, though
my appetite is always good .

Lying awake, then, of nights, or wandering solitary


abroad on wide commons, or by the side of silent rivers
or at church when Doctor Snufflem was preaching his
favourite sermon, or stretched on the flat of my back
smoking a cigar at the club when X was talking of the
corn-laws, or Y was describing that famous run they had
with the Z hounds at all periods, I say, favourable to
self-examination, those bills of fare have come into my
mind, and often and often I have thought them over.
* Titmarsh,' I have said to myself, ' if ever you travel
again, do as the sultan has done, and keep your dinner-bills.
They are always pleasant to look over ; they always will
recall happy hours and actions, be you ever so hard
pushed for a dinner, and fain to put up with an onion and
a crust : of the past fate cannot deprive you. Yesterday
is the philosopher's property ; and by thinking of it, and
using it to advantage, he may gaily go through to-
morrow, doubtful and dismal though it be. Try this
lamb stuffed with pistachio-nuts ; another handful of
this pillau. Ho, you rascals ! bring round the sherbet
there, and never spare the jars of wine 'tis true Persian,
on the honour of a Barmecide ! ' Is not that dinner in
the * Arabian Nights ' a right good dinner ? Would you
have had Bedreddin to refuse and turn sulky at the windy
repast, or to sit down grinning in the face of his grave
entertainer, and gaily take what came ? Remember
what came of the honest fellow's philosophy. He
slapped the grim old prince in the face ; and the grim
old prince, who had invited him but to laugh at him, did
presently order a real and substantial repast to be set
before him great pyramids of smoking rice and pillau
(a good pillau is one of the best dishes in the world),
savoury kids, snow-cooled sherbets, luscious wine of
Schiraz ; with an accompaniment of moon-faced beauties
from the harem, no doubt, dancing, singing, and smiling
in the most ravishing manner. Thus should we, my
dear friends, laugh at Fate's beard, as we confront him
thus should we, if the old monster be insolent, fall to



and box his ears. He has a spice of humour in his
composition ; and be sure he will be tickled by such

Some months ago, when the expectation of war be-
tween England and France grew to be so strong, and
there was such a talk of mobilising national guards and
arming three or four hundred thousand more French
soldiers when such ferocious yells of hatred against per-
fidious Albion were uttered by the liberal French press,
that I did really believe the rupture between the two
countries was about immediately to take place ; being
seriously alarmed, I set off for Paris at once. My good
sir, what could we do without our Paris ? I came here
first in 1815 (when the Duke and I were a good deal
remarked by the inhabitants ;) I proposed but to stay a
week ; stopped three months, and have returned every
year since. There is something fatal in the place a
charm about it a wicked one very likely but it acts
on us all ; and perpetually the old Paris man comes
hieing back to his quarters again, and is to be found, as
usual, sunning himself in the Rue de la Paix. Painters,
princes, gourmands, officers on half-pay serious old
ladies even acknowledge the attraction of the place are
more at ease here than in any other place in Europe ;
and back they come, and are to be found sooner or
later occupying their old haunts.

My darling city improves, too, with each visit, and has
some new palace, or church, or statue, or other gim-
crack to greet your eyes withal. A few years since, and
lo ! on the column of the Place Vendome, instead of the
shabby tri-coloured rag, shpne the bronze statue of
Napoleon. Then came the famous triumphal arch ; a
noble building indeed ! how stately and white, and
beautiful and strong, it seems to dominate over the
whole city ! Next was the obelisk ; a huge bustle
and festival being made to welcome it to the city.
Then came the fair asphaltum terraces round about


the obelisk ; then the fountains to decorate the terraces.
I have scarcely been twelve months absent, and behold
they have gilded all the Naiads and Tritons ; they have
clapped a huge fountain in the very midst of the Champs
Elysees a great, glittering, frothing fountain, that to
the poetic eye looks like an enormous shaving-brush ;
and all down the avenue they have placed hundreds of
gilded flaring gas-lamps, that make this gayest walk in
the world look gayer still than ever. But a truce to
such descriptions, which might carry one far, very far,
from the object proposed in this paper.

I simply wish to introduce to public notice a brief
dinner-journal. It has been written with the utmost
honesty and simplicity of purpose ; and exhibits a picture
or table of the development of the human mind under a
series of gastronomic experiments, diversified in their
nature, and diversified, consequently, in their effects. A
man in London has not, for the most part, the oppor-
tunity to make these experiments. You are a family
man, let us presume, and you live in that metropolis for
half-a-century. You have on Sunday, say, a leg of
mutton and potatoes for dinner. On Monday you have
cold mutton and potatoes. On Tuesday, hashed mutton
and potatoes ; the hashed mutton being flavoured with
little damp triangular pieces of toast, which always
surround that charming dish. Well, on Wednesday,
the mutton ended, you have beef: the beef undergoes
the same alternations of cookery, and disappears. Your
life presents a succession of joints, varied every now and
then by a bit of fish and some poultry. You drink three
glasses of a brandyfied liquor called sherry at dinner ;
your excellent lady imbibes one. When she has had her
glass of port after dinner, she goes upstairs with the
children, and you fall asleep in your arm-chair. Some
of the most pure and precious enjoyments of life are un-
known to you. You eat and drink, but you do not
know the art of eating and drinking ; nay, most probably


you despise those who do. * Give me a slice of meat,'
say you, very likely, * and a fig for your gourmands.'
You fancy it is very virtuous and manly all this. Non-
sense, my good sir ; you are indifferent because you are
ignorant, because your life is passed in a narrow circle of
ideas, and because you are bigotedly blind and pomp-
ously callous to the beauties and excellences beyond

Sir, RESPECT YOUR DINNER ; idolise it, enjoy it
properly. You will be by many hours in the week,
many weeks in the year, and many years in your life the
happier if you do.

Don't tell us that it is not worthy of a man. All a
man's senses are worthy of employment, and should be
cultivated as a duty. The senses are the arts. What
glorious feasts does Nature prepare for your eye in
animal form, in landscape, and painting ! Are you to
put out your eyes and not see ? What royal dishes of
melody does her bounty provide for you in the shape of
poetry, music, whether windy or wiry, notes of the
human voice, or ravishing song of birds ! Are you to
stuff your ears with cotton, and vow that the sense of
hearing is unmanly you obstinate dolt you ? No,
surely ; nor must you be so absurd as to fancy that the
art of eating is in any way less worthy than the other
two. You like your dinner, man ; never be ashamed to
say so. If you don't like your victuals, pass on to the
next article ; but remember that every man who has
been worth a fig in this world, as poet, painter, or
musician, has had a good appetite and a good taste. Ah,
what a poet Byron would have been had he taken his
meals properly, and allowed himself to grow fat if
nature intended him to grow fat and not have
physicked his intellect with wretched opium pills and
acrid vinegar, that sent his principles to sleep, and turned
his feelings sour ! If that man had respected his dinner,
he never would have written * Don Juan.'


Allans done ! enough sermonising ; let us sit down and
fall to at once.

I dined soon after my arrival at a very pleasant Paris
club, where daily is provided a dinner for ten persons,
that is universally reported to be excellent. Five men
in England would have consumed the same amount of
victuals, as you will see by the bill of fare :

A beef, with carrots and
vegetables, very good ;

removed by

A brace of roast phea-

Soupe, puree
aux croutons,

Poulets a la Marengo ;

removed by

Cardons k la moelle.

Dessert of cheese, pears and Fontainebleau grapes.
Bordeaux red, and excellent Chablis at discretion.

This dinner was very nicely served, a venerable maitre
d 'hotel in black cutting up neatly the dishes on a trencher
at the side-table, and several waiters attending in green
coats, red plush tights, and their hair curled. There
was a great quantity of light in the room ; some hand-
some pieces of plated ware ; the pheasants came in with
their tails to their backs ; and the smart waiters, with
their hair dressed and parted down the middle, gave a
pleasant, lively, stylish appearance to the whole affair.

Now, I certainly dined (by the way, I must not
forget to mention that we had with the beef some boiled
kidney potatoes, very neatly dished up in a napkin) I
certainly dined, I say ; and half-an-hour afterwards felt,
perhaps, more at my ease than I should have done had I
consulted my own inclinations, and devoured twice the
quantity that on this occasion came to my share. But I
would rather, as a man not caring for appearances, dine,
as a general rule, off a beefsteak for two at the Caf6 Foy,
than sit down to take a tenth part of such a meal every


day. There was only one man at the table besides your
humble servant who did not put water into his wine ;
and he I mean the other was observed by his friends,
who exclaimed, l Comment ! vous buvcz sec,' as if to do
so was a wonder. The consequence was, that half-a-
dozen bottles of wine served for the whole ten of us ;
and the guests, having despatched their dinner in an
hour, skipped lightly away from it, did not stay to
ruminate, and to feel uneasy, and to fiddle about the last
and penultimate waistcoat button, as we do after a
house-dinner at an English club. What was it that
made the charm of this dinner ? for pleasant it was.
It was the neat and comfortable manner in which it was
served ; the pheasant-tails had a considerable effect ; that
snowy napkin coquettishly arranged round the kidneys
gave them a distingu'e air ; the light and glittering service
gave an appearance of plenty and hospitality that sent
everybody away contented.

I put down this dinner just to show English and
Scotch housekeepers what may be done, and for what
price. Say,

s. d.

Soup and fresh bread, 1
Beef and carrots, } prime cost .

Fowls and sauce . . . . .36
Pheasants (hens) . . . . .50
Grapes, pears, cheese, vegetables . .30

14 o

For fifteenpence par the a company of ten persons
may have a dinner set before them nay, and be made
to fancy that they dine well, provided the service is
handsomely arranged, that you have a good stock of side-
dishes, &c., in your plate-chest, and don't spare the

As for the wine, that depends on yourself. Always


be crying out to your friends, * Mr. So-and-so, I don't
drink myself, but pray pass the bottle. Tomkins,
my boy, help your neighbour, and never mind me.
What ! Hopkins, are there two of us on the doctor's
list ? Pass the wine ; Smith I'm sure won't refuse it ; '
and so on. A very good plan is to have the butler (or
the fellow in the white waistcoat who c behaves as sich )
pour out the wine when wanted (in half-glasses, of
course), and to make a deuced great noise and shouting,
' John, John, why the devil, sir, don't you help Mr.
Simkins to another glass of wine?' If you point out
Simkins once or twice in this way, depend upon it, he
won't drink a great quantity of your liquor. You may
thus keep your friends from being dangerous, by a
thousand innocent manoeuvres ; and as I have said
before, you may very probably make them believe that
they have had a famous dinner. There was only one
man in our company of ten the other day who ever
thought he had not dined ; and what was he ? a foreigner
a man of a discontented inquiring spirit, always carp-
ing at things, and never satisfied.

Well, next day I dined au cinquieme with a family (of
Irish extraction, by the way), and what do you think was
our dinner for six persons? Why, simply,

Nine dozen Ostend oysters ;
Soup a la mulligatawny ;
Boiled turkey, with celery sauce ;
Saddle of mutton r6ti.

Removes : Plompouding ; croute de macaroni.
Vin : Beaune ordinaire, volnay, Bordeaux, champagne,
eau chaude, cognac.

I forget the dessert. Alas ! in moments of prosperity
and plenty one is often forgetful : I remember the
dessert at the Cercle well enough.

A person whom they call in this country an illustration
litt'eraire the editor of a newspaper, in fact with a


very pretty wife, were of the party, and looked at the
dinner with a great deal of good-humoured superiority.
I declare, upon my honour, that I helped both the
illustration and his lady twice to saddle of mutton ; and
as for the turkey and celery sauce, you should have seen
how our host dispensed it to them ! They ate the
oysters, they ate the soup ('Diable ! mais il est poivr ! '
said the illustration, with tears in his eyes), they ate the
turkey, they ate the mutton, they ate the pudding ; and
what did our hostess say ? Why, casting down her
eyes gently, and with the modestest air in the world,
she said 'There is such a beautiful piece of cold
beef in the larder ; do somebody ask for a little slice
of it.'

Heaven bless her for that speech ! I loved and
respected her for it ; it brought the tears to my eyes.
A man who could sneer at such a sentiment could have
neither heart nor good breeding. Don't you see that it

Hospitality ?

Put these against

Waiters with their hair curled,
Pheasants roasted with their tails on,
A dozen spermaceti candles.

Add them up, I say, O candid reader, and answer in
the sum of human happiness, which of the two accounts
makes the better figure?

I declare, I know few things more affecting than that
little question about the cold beef; and considering
calmly our national characteristics, balancing in the
scale of quiet thought our defects and our merits, am
daily more inclined to believe that there is something in


the race of Britons which renders them usually
superior to the French family. This is but one of the
traits of English character that has been occasioned by
the use of roast beef.

It is an immense question, that of diet. Look at
the two bills of fare just set down ; the relative con-
sumption of ten animals and six. What a profound
physical and moral difference may we trace here ! How
distinct, from the cradle upwards, must have been the
thoughts, feelings, education of the parties who ordered
those two dinners ! It is a fact which does not admit
of a question, that the French are beginning, since so
many English have come among them, to use beef much
more profusely. Everybody at the restaurateur's orders
beefsteak and pommes. Will the national character
slowly undergo a change under the influence of this
dish ? Will the French be more simple ? broader in the
shoulders ? less inclined to brag about military glory and
such humbug ? All this in the dark vista of futurity the
spectator may fancy is visible to him, and the philan-
thropist cannot but applaud the change. This brings
me naturally to the consideration of the manner of
dressing beefeteaks in this country, and of the merit of
that manner.

I dined on a Saturday at the Cafe Foy, on the
Boulevard, in a private room, with a friend. We had

Potage julienne, with a little pure"e in it ;

Two entrec6tes aux epinards ;

One perdreau truffe" ;

One fromage Roquefort ;

A bottle of nuits with the beef;

A bottle of Sauterne with the partridge.

And perhaps a glass of punch, with a cigar, afterwards :
but that is neither here nor there. The insertion of the
puree into the julienne was not of my recommending ;


and if this junction is effected at all, the operation should
be performed with the greatest care. If you put to
much puree, both soups are infallibly spoiled. A mucn
better plan it is to have your julienne by itself, though I
will not enlarge on this point, as the excellent friend
with whom I dined may chance to see this notice, and
may be hurt at the renewal in print of a dispute which
caused a good deal of pain to both of us. By the way,
we had half-a-dozen sardines while the dinner was
getting ready, eating them with delicious bread and
butter, for which this place is famous. Then followed

the soup. Why the deuce would he have the pu

but never mind. After the soup, we had what I do not
hesitate to call the very best beefsteak I ever ate in my
life. By the shade of Heliogabalus ! as I write about it
now, a week after I have eaten it, the old, rich, sweet,
piquant, juicy taste comes smacking on my lips again ;
and I feel something of that exquisite sensation I then
had. I am ashamed of the delight which the eating

of that piece of meat caused me. G and I had

quarrelled about the soup (I said so, and don't wish to
return to the subject) ; but when we began on the
steak, we looked at each other, and loved each other.
We did not speak, our hearts were too full for that ;
but we took a bit, and laid down our forks, and looked
at one another, and understood each other. There were
no two individuals on this wide earth, no two lovers
billing in the shade, no mother clasping baby to her
heart, more supremely happy than we. Every now and
then we had a glass of honest, firm, generous Burgundy,
that nobly supported the meat. As you may fancy, we
did not leave a single morsel of the steak ; but when it
was done, we put bits of bread into the silver dish, and
wistfully sopped up the gravy. I suppose I shall never in
this world taste anything so good again. But what
then ? What if I did like it excessively ? Was my
liking unjust or unmanly ? Is my regret now puling or


unworthy ? No. c Laudo manentem ! ' as Titmouse
says. When it is eaten, I resign myself, and can eat a
two-franc dinner at Richard's without ill-humour and
without a pang.

Any dispute about the relative excellence of the beef-
steak cut from the filet, as is usual in France, and of the
entrecote, must henceforth be idle and absurd. When-
ever, my dear young friend, you go to Paris, call at once
for the entrecbte ; the filet in comparison to it is a poor
fade lady's meat. What folly, by the way, is that in
England which induces us to attach ah estimation to
the part of the sirloin that is called the Sunday side,
poor, tender, stringy stuff, not comparable to the manly
meat on the other side, handsomely garnished with
crisp fat, and with a layer of horn ! Give the Sunday
side to misses and ladies'-maids, for men be the Monday's
side, or, better still, a thousand times more succulent and
full of flavour the ribs of beef. This is the meat I would
eat were I going to do battle with any mortal foe. Fancy
a hundred thousand Englishmen, after a meal of stalwart
beef ribs, encountering a hundred thousand Frenchmen
who had partaken of a trifling collation of soup, turnips,
carrots, onions, and Gruyere cheese. Would it be manly
to engage at such odds ? I say, no.

Passing by Vary's one day, I saw a cadaverous cook

Online LibraryWilliam Makepeace ThackerayComplete works (Volume 22) → online text (page 25 of 31)