William Makepeace Thackeray.

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with a spatula, thumping a poor beefsteak with all his
might. This is not only a horrible cruelty, but an error.
They not only beat the beef, moreover, but they soak it
in oil. Absurd, disgusting barbarity ! Beef so beaten
loses its natural spirit ; it is too noble for corporal
punishment. You may by these tortures and artifices
make it soft and greasy, but tender and juicy never.

The landlord of the Cafe Foy (I have received no
sort of consideration from him) knows this truth full
well, and follows the simple honest plan ; first, to have
good meat, and next to hang it a long time. I have
instructed him how to do the steaks to a turn, not raw,


horribly livid and blue in the midst, as I have seen great
flaps of meat (what a shame to think of our fine meat
being so treated !) but cooked all the way through. Go
to the Cafe Foy, then, ask for a BEEFSTEAK A LA
TITMARSH, and you will see what a dish will be set
before you. I have dwelt upon this point at too much
length, perhaps, for some of my readers ; but it can't be
helped. The truth is, beef is my weakness; and I do
declare that I derive more positive enjoyment from the
simple viand than from any concoction whatever in the
whole cook's cyclopedia.

Always drink red wine with beefsteaks : port, if
possible; if not, Burgundy, of not too high a flavour,
good Beaune, say. This fact, which is very likely not
known to many persons who, forsooth, are too magnifi-
cent to care about their meat and drink, this simple
fact I take to be worth the whole price I shall get for
this article.

But to return to dinner. We were left, I think,

G and I, sopping up the gravy with bits of bread

and declaring that no power on earth could induce us to
eat a morsel more that day. At one time, we thought
of countermanding the perdreau aux truffes, that to my
certain knowledge had been betruffed five days before.

Poor blind mortals that we were ; ungrateful to our
appetites, needlessly mistrustful and cowardly. A man
may do what he dares ; nor does he know, until he
tries, what the honest appetite will bear. We were kept
waiting between the steak and the partridge some ten
minutes or so. For the first two or three minutes we lay
back in our chairs quite exhausted indeed. Then we
began to fiddle with a dish of toothpicks, for want of
anything more savoury ; then we looked out of the

window ; then G got in a rage, rang the bell

violently, and asked, ' Pourquoi diable nous fait-on
attendre si longtemps ?' The waiter grinned. He is a
nice good-humoured fellow, Auguste ; and I heartily


trust that some reader of this may give him a five-franc
piece for my sake. Auguste grinned and disappeared.

Presently, we were aware of an odour gradually
coming towards us, something musky, fiery, savoury,
mysterious, a hot drowsy smell, that lulls the senses,
and yet inflames them, the truffes were coming !
Yonder they lie, caverned under the full bosom of the
red-legged bird. My hand trembled as, after a little

pause, I cut the animal in two. G said I did not

give him his share of the truffes ; I don't believe I did.
I spilled some salt into my plate, and a little cayenne
pepper very little : we began, as far as I can remember,
the following conversation :

Gustavus. Chop, chop, chop.

Michael Angela. Globlobloblob.

G. Gobble.

M. A. Obble.

G. Here's a big one.

M. A. Hobgob. What wine shall we have ? I
should like some champagne.

G. It's bad here. Have some Sauterne.

M. A. Very well. Hobgobglobglob, &c.

Auguste (opening the Sauterne). Cloo-oo-oo-oop !
The cork is out ; he pours it into the glass, glock, glock

Nothing more took place in the way of talk. The
poor little partridge was soon a heap of bones a very
little heap. A trufHesque odour was left in the room,
but only an odour. Presently, the cheese was brought ;
the amber Sauterne flask has turned of a sickly green
hue ; nothing, save half a glass of sediment at the
bottom, remained to tell of the light and social spirit that
had but one half-hour before inhabited the flask.
Darkness fell upon our little chamber ; the men in the
street began crying, ' Messager ! Journal du Soir/'
The bright moon rose glittering over the tiles of the
Rue Louis le Grand, opposite, illuminating two glasses


of punch that two gentlemen in a small room of the
Cafe Foy did ever and anon raise to their lips. Both
were silent ; both happy ; both were smoking cigars,
for both knew that the soothing plant of Cuba is
sweeter to the philosopher after dinner than the prattle
of all the women in the world. Women pshaw !
The man who, after dinner after a good dinner can
think about driving home, and shaving himself by
candlelight, and enduing a damp shirt, and a pair of
tight glazed pumps to show his cobweb stockings and
set his feet in a flame ; and, having undergone all this,
can get into a cold cab, and drive off to No. 222 Harley
Street, where Mrs. Mortimer Smith is at home ; where
you take off your cloak in a damp dark back parlour,
called Mr. Smith's study, and containing, when you
arrive, twenty-four ladies' cloaks and tippets, fourteen
hats, two pairs of clogs (belonging to two gentlemen
of the Middle Temple, who walk for economy, and
think dancing at Mrs. Mortimer Smith's the height of
enjoyment) ; the man who can do all this, and walk,
gracefully smiling, into Mrs. Smith's drawing-rooms,
where the brown holland bags have been removed from
the chandeliers ; a man from Kirkman's is thumping
on the piano, and Mrs. Smith is standing simpering
in the middle of the room, dressed in red, with a bird
of paradise in her turban, a tremulous fan in one hand,
and the other clutching hold of her little fat gold watch
and seals ; the man who, after making his bow to Mrs.
Smith, can advance to Miss Jones, in blue crape, and
lead her to a place among six other pairs of solemn-
looking persons, and whisper fadaises to her (at which
she cries, * Oh fie, you naughty man ! how can you ? '),
and look at Miss Smith's red shoulders struggling out
of her gown, and her mottled elbows that a pair of
crumpled kid gloves leave in a state of delicious nature ;
and, after having gone through certain mysterious
quadrille figures with her, lead her back to her mamma,


who has just seized a third glass of muddy negus from
the black footman ; the man who can do all this may
do it, and go hang, for me ! And many such men
there be, my Gustavus, in yonder dusky London city.
Be it ours, my dear friend, when the day's labour and
repast are done, to lie and ruminate calmly ; to watch
the bland cigar smoke as it rises gently ceiling-wards ;
to be idle in body as well as mind ; not to kick our
heels madly in quadrilles, and puff and pant in senseless
galopades ; let us appreciate the joys of idleness ; let us
give a loose to silence ; and having enjoyed this, the
best dessert after a goodly dinner, at close of eve saunter
slowly home.

As the dinner above described drew no less than three
five-franc pieces out of my purse, I determined to
economise for the next few days, and either to be
invited out to dinner, or else to partake of some repast
at a small charge, such as one may have here. I had
on the day succeeding the truffled partridge a dinner for
a shilling, viz. :

Bifsteck aux pommes (heu quantum mutatus ab illo !)

Galantine de volatile,

Fromage de Gruyere,

Demi-bouteille du vin tres-vieux de Macon ou Chablis,

Pain a discretion.

This dinner, my young friend, was taken about half-
past two o'clock in the day, and was, in fact, a
breakfast, a breakfast taken at a two-franc house, in
the Rue Haute Vivienne ; it was certainly a sufficient
dinner ; I certainly was not hungry for all the rest of
the day. Nay, the wine was decently good, as almost
all wine is in the morning, if one had the courage or
the power to drink it. You see many honest English
families marching into these two-franc eating-houses


at five o'clock, and fancy they dine in great luxury.
Returning to England, however, they inform their
friends that the meat in France is not good : that the
fowls are very small, and black ; the kidneys very
tough ; the partridges and fruit have no taste in them,
and the soup is execrably thin. A dinner at Williams's,
in the Old Bailey, is better than the best of these ; and
therefore had the English Cockney better remain at
Williams's than judge the great nation so falsely.

The worst of these two-franc establishments is a
horrid air of shabby elegance which distinguishes them.
At some of them, they will go the length of changing
your knife and fork with every dish ; they have grand
chimney-glasses, and a fine lady at the counter, and
fine arabesque paintings on the walls ; they give you
your soup in a battered dish of plated ware which has
served its best time, most likely, in a first-rate establish-
ment, and comes here to etaler its second-hand splendour
amongst amateurs of a lower grade. I fancy the very
meat that is served to you has undergone the same
degradation, and that some of the mouldy cutlets that
are offered to the two-franc epicures lay once plump and
juicy, in Very's larder. Much better is the sanded
floor and the iron fork ! Homely neatness is the charm
of poverty : elegance should belong to wealth alone.
There is a very decent place where you dine for thirty-
two sous in the Passage Choiseul. You get your soup
in china bowls ; they don't change your knife and fork,
but they give you very fit portions of meat and potatoes,
and mayhap a herring with mustard sauce, a dish of
apple fritters, a dessert of stewed prunes, and a pint of
drinkable wine, as I have proved only yesterday.

After two such banyan days, I allowed myself a little
feasting ; and as nobody persisted in asking me to dinner,
I went off to the ' Trois Freres ' by myself, and dined in
that excellent company.

I would recommend a man who is going to dine by


himself here, to reflect well before he orders soup for

My notion is, that you eat as much after soup as with-
out it, but you dorit eat with the same appetite.

Especially if you are a healthy man, as I am deuced
hungry at five o'clock. My appetite runs away with
me ; and if I order soup (which is always enough for
two), I invariably swallow the whole of it ; and the
greater portion of my petit pain, too, before my second
dish arrives.

The best part of a pint of julienne, or puree a la
Conde, is very well for a man who has only one dish
besides to devour ; but not for you and me, who like our
fish and our roti of game or meat as well.

Oysters you may eat. They do, for a fact, prepare
one to go through the rest of a dinner properly. Lemon
and cayenne pepper is the word, depend on it, and a
glass of white wine braces you up for what is to follow.

French restaurateur dinners are intended, however,
for two people, at least ; still better for three ; and
require a good deal of thought before you can arrange
them for one.

Here, for instance, is a recent menu :

Trois Freres Proven$aux

f. c.

Pain o 25

Beaune premiere . . . .30
Pure"e k la Cre"ci . . . . o 75
Turbot aux capres . . . i 75

Quart poulet aux truffes . . .225
Champignons \ la Proven^ale . .125
Gelee aux pommes . . . .125
Cognac . . . . . . o 30

10 80
A heavy bill for a single man ; and a heavy dinner,


too ; for I have said before I have a great appetite, and
when a thing is put before me I eat it. At Brussels I
once ate fourteen dishes ; and have seen a lady with
whom I was in love, at the table of a German grand-
duke, eat seventeen dishes. This is a positive, though
disgusting fact. Up to the first twelve dishes she had a
very good chance of becoming Mrs. Titmarsh, but I
have Tost sight of her since.

Well, then, I say to you, if you have self-command
enough to send away half your soup, order some ; but
you are a poor creature, if you do, after all. If you are
a man, and have not that self-command, don't have any.
The Frenchmen cannot live without it, but I say to you
that you are better than a Frenchman. I would lay
even money that you who are reading this are more than
five feet seven in height, and weigh eleven stone ; while
a Frenchman is five feet four, and does not weigh nine.
The Frenchman has after his soup a dish of vegetables,
where you have one of meat. You are a different and
superior animal a French-beating animal (the history
of hundreds of years has shown you to be so); you must
have, to keep up that superior weight and sinew, which
is the secret of your superiority as for public institutions,
bah ! you must have, I say, simpler, stronger, more
succulent food.

Eschew the soup, then, and have the fish up at once.
It is the best to begin with fish, if you like it, as every
epicure and honest man should, simply boiled or fried in
the English fashion, and not tortured and bullied with
oil, onions, wine, and herbs, as in Paris it is frequently

Turbot with lobster-sauce is too much ; turbot a la
Hollandaise vulgar ; sliced potatoes swimming in melted
butter are a mean concomitant for a noble, simple,
liberal fish : turbot with capers is the thing. The brisk
little capers relieve the dulness of the turbot ; the
melted butter is rich, bland, and calm it should be, that


is to say ; not that vapid watery mixture that I see in
London ; not oiled butter, as the Hollanders have it, but
melted, with plenty of thickening matter : I don't know
how to do it, but I know it when it is good.

They melt butter well at the * Rocher de Cancale '
and at the ' Freres.'

Well, this turbot was very good ; not so well, of
course, as one gets it in London, and dried rather in the
boiling ; which can't be helped, unless you are a
Lucullus or a CambaceVes of a man, and can afford to
order one for yourself. This grandeur fame is very
rare ; my friend Tom Willows is almost the only man I
know who possessed it. Yes, * * * one of the wittiest
men in London, I once knew to take the whole intfrieur
of a diligence (six places), because he was a little unwell.
Ever since I have admired that man. He understands
true economy ; a mean extravagant man would have
contented himself with a single place, and been unwell
in consequence. How I am rambling from my subject,
however ! The fish was good, and I ate up every single
scrap of it, sucking the bones and fins curiously. That
is the deuce of an appetite, it must be satisfied ; and if
you were to put a roast donkey before me, with the
promise of a haunch of venison afterwards, I believe I
should eat the greater part of the long-eared animal.

A pint of pure a la Creci, a pain de gruau, a slice of
turbot a man should think about ordering his bill, for
he has had enough dinner ; but no, we are creatures of
superstition and habit, and must have one regular course
of meat. Here comes the poulet a la Marengo : I hope
they've given me the wing.

No such thing. The poulet a la Marengo aux truffes
is bad too oily by far ; the truffles are not of this year,
as they should be, for there are cartloads in town : they
are poor in flavour, and have only been cast into the dish
a minute before it was brought to table, and what is the
consequence ? They do not flavour the meat in the


least ; some faint trufflesque savour you may get as you
are crunching each individual root, but that is all, and that
all not worth the having ; for as nothing is finer than a good
truffle, in like manner nothing is meaner than a bad one.
It is merely pompous, windy, and pretentious, like those
scraps of philosophy with which a certain eminent
novelist decks out his meat.

A mushroom, thought I, is better a thousand times
than these tough flavourless roots. I finished every one
of them, however, and the fine fat capon's thigh which
they surrounded. It was a disappointment not to get a
wing, to be sure. They always give me legs ; but after
all, with a little good-humour and philosophy, a leg of a
fine Mans capon may be found very acceptable. How
plump and tender the rogue's thigh is ! his very drum-
stick is as fat as the calf of a London footman ; and the
sinews, which puzzle one so over the lean black hen-legs
in London, are miraculously whisked away from the
limb before me. Look at it now. Half-a-dozen cuts
with the knife, and yonder lies the bone white, large,
stark naked, without a morsel of flesh left upon it,
solitary in the midst of a pool of melted butter.

How good the Burgundy smacks after it ! I always
drink Burgundy at this house, and that not of the best.
It is my firm opinion that a third-rate Burgundy, and a
third-rate claret Beaune and Larose, for instance, are
better than the best. The Bordeaux enlivens, the
Burgundy invigorates; stronger drink only inflames;
and where a bottle of good Beaune only causes a man
to feel a certain manly warmth of benevolence a glow
something like that produced by sunshine and gentle
exercise a bottle of Chambertin will set all your frame
in a fever, swell the extremities, and cause the pulses to
throb. Chambertin should never be handed round more
than twice ; and I recollect to this moment the head-
ache I had after drinking a bottle and a half of
Romanee-Gelee, for which this house is famous. Some-


body else paid for the (no other than you, O Gustavus !
with whom I hope to have many a tall dinner on the
same charges) but 'twas in our hot youth, ere experi-
ence had taught us that moderation was happiness, and
had shown us that it is absurd to be guzzling wine at
fifteen francs a bottle.

By the way, I may here mention a story relating to
some of Blackwood's men, who dined at this very house.
Fancy the fellows trying claret, which they voted sour ;
then Burgundy, at which they made wry faces, and
finished the evening with brandy and lunel! This is
what men call eating a French dinner. Willows and
I dined at the c Rocher,' and an English family there
feeding ordered mutton chops and potatoes. Why
not, in these cases, stay at home ? Chops are better
chops in England (the best chops in the world are to be
had at the Reform Club) than in France. What could
literary men mean by ordering lunel ? I always rather
liked the descriptions of eating in the * Noctes.' They
were gross in all cases, absurdly erroneous in many ; but
there was manliness about them, and strong evidence of
a great, though misdirected and uneducated, genius for

Mushrooms, thought I, are better than those tasteless
truffles, and so ordered a dish to try. You know what a
Provenfa!e sauce is, I have no doubt ? a rich savoury
mixture of garlic and oil ; which, with a little cayenne
pepper and salt, impart a pleasant taste to the plump
little mushrooms, that can't be described, but may be
thought of with pleasure.

The only point was, how will they agree with me
to-morrow morning ? for the fact is, I had eaten an
immense quantity of them, and began to be afraid !
Suppose we go and have a glass of punch and a cigar !
Oh, glorious garden of the Palais Royal ! your trees are
leafless now, but what matters ? Your alleys are damp,
but what of that ? All the windows are blazing with


light and merriment ; at least two thousand happy
people are pacing up and down the colonnades ; cheerful
sounds of money chinking are heard as you pass the
changers' shops ; bustling shouts of * Garcon ! ' and
* Via, Monsieur ! ' come from the swinging doors of the
restaurateurs. Look at that group of soldiers gaping at
Vefour's window, where lie lobsters, pineapples, fat
truffle-stuffed partridges, which make me almost hungry
again. I wonder whether those three fellows with
mustachios and a toothpick apiece have had a dinner, or
only a toothpick. When the 'Trois Freres' used to be
on the first-floor, and had a door leading into the Rue de
Valois, as well as one into the garden, I recollect seeing
three men with toothpicks mount the stair from the
street, descend the stair into the garden, and give
themselves as great airs as if they had dined for a
napoleon a head. The rogues are lucky if they have had
a sixteen-sous dinner ; and the next time I dine abroad,
I am resolved to have one myself. I never understood
why Gil Bias grew so mighty squeamish in the affair of
the cat and the hare. Hare is best, but why should not
cat be good ?

Being on the subject of bad dinners, I may as well
ease my mind of one that occurred to me some few days
back. When walking in the Boulevard, I met my
friend, Captain Hopkinson, of the half-pay, looking very
hungry, and indeed going to dine. In most cases one
respects the dictum of a half-pay officer regarding a
dining-house. He knows as a general rule where the
fat of the land lies, and how to take his share of that fat
in the most economical manner.

* I tell you what I do,' says Hopkinson ; * I allow
myself fifteen francs a week for dinner (I count upon
being asked out twice a week), and so have a three-franc
dinner at Richard's, where, for the extra francs, they
give me an excellent bottle of wine, and make me


4 Why shouldn't they ? ' I thought. * Here is a man
who has served his country, and no doubt knows a thing
when he sees it.' We made a party of four, therefore,
and went to the captain's place to dine.

We had a private room au second; a very damp and
dirty private room, with a faint odour of stale punch, and
dingy glasses round the walls.

We had a soup of puree aux croutons ; a very dingy
dubious soup, indeed, thickened, I fancy, with brown
paper, and flavoured with the same.

At the end of the soup, Monsieur Landlord came
upstairs very kindly, and gave us each a pinch of snuff
out of a gold snuff-box.

We had four portions of anguille a la Tartare, very
good and fresh (it is best in these places to eat freshwater
fish). Each portion was half the length of a man's
finger. Dish one was despatched in no time, and we
began drinking the famous wine that our guide recom-
mended. I have cut him ever since. It was four-sous
wine, weak, vapid, watery stuff, of the most unsatis-
factory nature.

We had four portions of gigot aux haricots four flaps
of bleeding tough meat, cut unnaturally (that is, with
the grain ; the French gash the meat in parallel lines
with the bone). We ate these up as we might, and the
landlord was so good as to come up again and favour us
with a pinch from his gold box.

With wonderful unanimity, as we were told the place
was famous for civet de lievre, we ordered civet de lievre
for four.

It came up, but we couldn't really we couldn't.
We were obliged to have extra dishes, and pay extra.
Gustavus had a mayonnaise of crayfish, and half a fowl ;
I fell to work upon my cheese, as usual, and availed
myself of the discretionary bread. We went away
disgusted, wretched, unhappy. We had had for our
three francs bad bread, bad meat, bad wine. And there


stood the landlord at the door (and be hanged to him !)
grinning and offering his box.

We don't speak to Hoplcinson any more now when
we meet him. How can you trust or be friendly with a
man who deceives you in this miserable way ?

What is the moral to be drawn from this dinner ? It
is evident. Avoid pretence ; mistrust shabby elegance ;
cut your coat according to your cloth ; if you have but
a few shillings in your pocket, aim only at those humble
and honest meats which your small store will purchase.
At the Cafe" Foy, for the same money, I might have

f. s.

A delicious entrec6te and potatoes . .15
A pint of excellent wine . . . .010
A little bread (meaning a great deal) . .05
A dish of stewed kidneys . . . .10

Or at Paolo's :

A bread (as before) 5

A heap of macaroni, or raviuoli . . . o 15
A Milanese cutlet . . . . .10
A pint of wine . . . . .010

And ten sous for any other luxury your imagination
could suggest. The raviuoli and the cutlets are
admirably dressed at Paolo's. Does any healthy man
need more ?

These dinners, I am perfectly aware, are by no means
splendid ; and I might, with the most perfect ease, write
you out a dozen bills of fare, each more splendid and
piquant than the other, in which all the luxuries of the
season should figure. But the remarks here set down
are the result of experience, not fancy, and intended

Online LibraryWilliam Makepeace ThackerayComplete works (Volume 22) → online text (page 26 of 31)