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sembling them, excel the rest of Europe in this respect. The best proof of this assertion is to be found in the circumstance, that the learned have agreed to rank amongst the most valuable of the lost works of antiquity, a didactic poem on gastronomy, by Archestratus, the intimate friend of one of the sons of Pericles. This great writer,' says Athenæus, had traversed earth and sea to render himself acquainted with the best things which they produced. He did not, during his travels, inquire concerning the manners of nations, as to which it is useless to inform ourselves, since it is impossible to change them ;--but he entered the laboratories where the delicacies of the table were prepared, and he held intercourse with none but those who could advance his pleasures. His
poem is a treasure of science, every verse a precept.' These terms of exalted praise must be taken with a few grains of salt, for, considering the imperfect state of the physical sciences at the time, it may well be doubted whether Archestratus succeeded in producing so complete a treasure of precepts as his admirers have supposed. Another ground of scepticism is supplied by the accounts that have come down to us of the man himself, who is said to have been so small and lean, that, when placed in the scales, his weight was found not to exceed an obolus; in which case he must have borne a strong resemblance to the Dutch governor mentioned in Knickerbocker's History of New York, who pined away so imperceptibly, that when he died there was nothing of him left to bury. Besides, it is highly probable that all that was really valuable in the cookery of the Greeks, was carried off, along with the other arts to which ordinary opinion assigns a yet higher value, to Rome. As, indeed, we know that the Romans sent a deputation to Athens to bring back the laws of Solon, and were in the constant habit of repairing thither to study in the schools, it would be ludicrous to suppose that they neglected the cuisine; and there can be little or no doubt whatever, that when, at a somewhat later period, the philosophers, poets, and rhetoricians flocked to Rome as the metropolis of civilization, the cooks of Athens accompanied them. Yet concentrating, as they must have done, all the gastronomic genius and resources of the world, the Roman banquets were much more remarkable for profusion and costliness than for taste. The only merit of a dish composed of the brains of five hundred peacocks, or the tongues of five hundred nightingales, must have been its dearness; and if a mode of swallowing most money in a given time be the desideratum, commend us to Cleopatra's decoction of diamonds—though even this was fairly exceeded in originality and neatness of conception by the English sailor who placed a ten-pound note between two slices of bread
and butter, and made his · Black-eyed Susan' eat it as a sandwich. Captain Morris, in one of his unpublished songs, has set the proper value on such luxuries :
• Old Lucullus, they say,
Forty cooks had each day,
But I like what is good,
I most heartily stuff,
Though I've not fed my lungs
Upon nightingales' tongues,
Nor the brains of goldfinches and thrushes.' Neither have we much respect for epicures who could select so awkward and uncomfortable a position as a reclining one. It is quite frightful to think how they must have slobbered their long beards and togas, in conveying food from the table to their mouths without forks—for forks are clearly a modern discovery, none having been found in the ruins of Herculaneum--and it is difficult to conceive how they could manage to drink at all, unless they sat up as the goblet was passed to them. Eating, however, had certainly engaged the attention of the Roman men of science, though one only of their works on the subject has come down to us. It is supposed to have enlightened the public about the time of Heliogabalus—and bears the name of Apicius,' in honour of the connoisseur who spent about a million and a half of our money in the gratification of his palate, and then, finding that he had not above fifty thousand pounds left, killed himself for fear of dying of hunger.
The period comprising the fall of the Roman empire and the greater portion of the middle ages was one of unmitigated darkdess for the fine arts. Charlemagne, as appears from his Capitularies, took a warm personal interest in the management of his table; and the Normans, a century or two later, are said to have prided themselves on their superior taste and discrimination in this respect--but the revival of cookery, like that of learning, is due to Italy. We are unable to fix the precise time when it there began to be cultivated with success, but it met with the most enlightened encouragement from the merchant-princes of Florence, and the French received the first rudiments of the science from the professors who accompanied Catherine de Medicis to Paris.* There is a remarkable passage in Montaigne, which shows that the Italian cooks had learnt to put a proper estimate on their vocation, and that their mode of viewing it was still new to the French.
* It is clearly established that they introduced the use of ices into France. Fricandeaus were invented by the chef of Leo X.
• I have seen amongst us,' says Montaigne, one of those artists who had been in the service of Cardinal Caraffa. He discoursed to me of this science de gueule, with a gravity and a magisterial air, as if he was speaking of some weighty point of theology. He expounded to me a difference of appetites: that which one has fasting; that which one has after the second or third course; the methods now of satisfying and then of exciting and piquing it; the police of sauces, first in general, and next, particularising the qualities of the ingredients and their effects; the differences of salads according to their season—that which should be warmed, that which should be served cold, with the mode of adorning and embellishing them to make them pleasant to the view. He then entered on the order of the service, full of elevated and important considerations
“ Nec minimo sane discrimine refert
Quo gestu lepores et quo gallina secetur." And all this expressed in rich and magnificent terms, in those very terms, indeed, which one employs in treating of the government of an empire-I well remember my man.'
Now, the strongest proofs in favour of the excellence of the ancients in painting are deduced from the descriptions of the principles and effects of painting to be found in the poets, historians and orators of antiquity, who, it is argued, would never have spoken as they do speak of it, had not the principles been understood and the effects in question been at least partially produced.* Arguing in the same manner from the above passage, we infer, that culinary science must have made no inconsiderable progress, to enable Montaigne's acquaintance to discourse upon it so eloquently. There is also good reason to believe that it had made some progress in England, as Cardinal Campeggio, one of the legates charged to treat with Ilenry VIII. concerning his divorce from Catherine, drew up a report on the state of English cookery as compared with that of Italy and France, probably by the express desire, and for the especial use, of his Holiness the Pope. Henry, moreover, was a liberal rewarder of that sort of merit which ministered to the gratification of his appetites; and on one occasion he was so transported with the flavour of a new pudding, that he gave a manor to the inventor.
History, which has only become philosophical within the last century, and took little note of manners until Voltaire bad demonstrated the importance of commemorating them, affords no materials for filling up the period which intervened between the arrival of Catherine of Medicis and the accession of Louis XIV., under * This argument is well put in Webb's Dialogues on Painting,
whom cookery made prodigious advances, being one while employed to give a zest to his glories, and then again to console him in their decline.* The name of his celebrated maître d'hôtel, Bechamel, a name as surely destined to immortality by his sauce, as that of Ilerschel by his star, or that of Baffin by his bay, affords guarantee and proof enough of the discriminating elegance with which the royal table was served; and, as may be seen in the memoirs and correspondence of the time, Colbert, the celebrated administrator, and Condé, the great captain, were little, if at all, behindhand in this respect with royalty. The closing scene of Vatel, the maître d'hôtel of Condé, has been often quoted, but it fornis so essential a portion of this history, that we are under the absolute necessity of inserting it :
'I wrote you yesterday,' says Madame de Sevigny, that Vatel had killed himself; I here give you the affair in detail
. The king arrived on the evening of the Thursday; the collation was served in a room hung with jonquils; all was as could be wished. At supper there were some tables where the roast was wanting, on account of several parties which had not been expected; this affected Vatel: he said several times, “I am dishonoured, this is a disgrace that I cannot endure.” He said to Gourville,
My head is dizzy ; I have not slept for twelve nights; assist me in giving orders." Gourville assisted him as much as he could. The roast which had been wanting, not at the table of the king, but at the inferior tables, was constantly present to his mind. Gourville mentioned it to the prince; the prince even went to the chamber of Vatel, and said to him :-“Vatel, all is going on well, nothing could equal the supper of the king." He replied “Monseigneur, your goodness overpowers me; I know that the roast was wanting at two tables." Nothing of the sort," said the prince ; “ do not distress yourself, all is going on well." Night came; the fireworks failed; they had cost sixteenthousand francs. He rose at four the next morning, determined to attend to everything in
person. He found everybody asleep. He meets one of the inferior purveyors, who brought only two packages of sea-fish: he asks, “ Is that all ?" “ Yes, Sir.” The man was not aware that Vatel had sent to all the sea-ports. Vatel waits some time, the other purveyors did not arrive; his brain began to burn; he believed that there would be no more fish. He finds Gourville ; he says to him, “ Monsieur, I shall never survive this disgrace." Gourville made light of it. Vatel goes up stairs to his room, places his sword against the door, and stabs himself to the heart; but it was not until the third blow, after giving himself two not mortal, that he fell dead. The fish, however, arrives from all quarters; they seek Vatel to distribute it; they go to his room, they knock, they force open the door; he is found
* Liqueurs were invented for the use of Louis XIV. in his old age, when he could scarcely endure existence without a succession of artificial stimulants. His appetite in the prime of life was prodigious.
bathed in his blood. They hasten to tell the prince, who is in despair. The duke wept; it was on Vatel that his journey from Burgundy hinged. The prince related what had passed to the king, with marks of the deepest sorrow. It was attributed to the high sense of honour which he had after his own way. He was very highly commended ; his courage was praised and blamed at the same time. The king said he had delayed coming to Chantilly for five years, for fear of the embarrassment he should cause,'
Such are the exact terms in which Madame de Sevigny has recorded the details of one of the most extraordinary instances of self-devotion recorded in history. •Enfin, Manette, voila ce que c'etait que Madame de Sevigné et Vatel! Ce sont les gens là qui ont honorè le siècle de Louis Quatorze.'* We subjoin a few reflections taken from the Epistle dedicatory to the shade of Vatel, appropriately prefixed to the concluding volume of the Almanach des Gourmands :
• Who was ever more worthy of the respect and gratitude of true gourmands, than the man of genius who would not survive the dishonour of the table of the great Condé ? who immolated himself with his own hands, because the sea-fish had not arrived some hours before it was to be served ? So noble a death insures you, venerable shade, the most glorious immortality! You have proved that the fanaticism of honour can exist in the kitchen as well as in the camp, and that the spit and the saucepan have also their Catos and their Deciuses.
* Your example, it is true, has not been imitated by any maître d'hôtel of the following century; and in this philosophic age all have preferred living at the expense of their masters to the honour of dying for them. But your name will not be revered the less by all the friends of good cheer. May so noble an example ever influence the emulation of all maîtres d'hôtel present and to come! and if they do not imitate
in your glorious suicide, let them at least take care by all means human, that sea-fish be never wanting at our tables.'
The Prince de Soubise, also, rejoiced in an excellent cook-a man of true science, with just and truly liberal notions of expenditure. His master one day announced to him his intention to give a supper, and demanded a menu. The chef presented himself with his estimate ; and the first article on which the prince cast his eyes was this : fifty hams— Eh! what !' said he ; - why, Bertrand, you must be out of your senses! are you going to feast niy whole regiment ?' No, Monseigneur ! one only will appear upon the table; the rest are not the less necessary for my espagnole, my blonds, my garnitures, my— • Bertrand, you are plundering me, and this article shall not pass.” “Oh, my lord,' replied the indignant artist, 'you do not understand our resources : give the word, and these fifty hams which confound you, I will put them * French Vaudeville.