Popular Science Monthly/Volume 15/August 1879/Food and Feeding II
|FOOD AND FEEDING.|
By Sir HENRY THOMPSON.
THE remainder of the second portion of my subject—viz., the preparation of food, which ought to have been concluded in the first paper—must appear, although in very brief terms, at the commencement of this. After which I shall proceed to consider the chief object of the present article, viz., the combination and service of dishes to form a meal, especially in relation to dinners and their adjuncts.
I think it may be said that soups, whether clear (that is, prepared from the juices of meat and vegetables only), or thick (that is, purées of animal or vegetable matters), are far too lightly esteemed by most classes in England, while they are almost unknown to the working-man. For the latter they might furnish an important, cheap, and savory dish; by the former they are too often regarded as the mere prelude to a meal, to be swallowed hastily, or disregarded altogether as mostly unworthy of attention. The great variety of vegetable purées, which can be easily made and blended with light animal broths, admits of daily change in the matter of soup to a remarkable extent, and affords scope for taste in the selection and combination of flavors. The use of fresh vegetables in abundance—such as carrots, turnips, artichokes, celery, cabbage, sorrel, leeks, and onions—renders such soups wholesome and appetizing. The supply of garden produce ought in this country to be singularly plentiful; and, owing to the unrivaled means of transport, all common vegetables ought to be obtained fresh in every part of London. The contrary, however, is unhappily the fact. It is a matter of extreme regret that vegetables, dried and compressed after a modern method, should be so much used as they are for soup, by hotel-keepers and other caterers for the public. Unquestionably useful as these dried products are on board ship and to travelers camping out, to employ them at home when fresh can be had is the result of sheer indolence or of gross ignorance. All the finest qualities of scent and flavor, with some of the fresh juices, are lost in the drying process; and the infusions of preserved vegetables no more resemble a freshly made odoriferous soup, than a cup of that thick, brown, odorless, insipid mixture, consisting of some bottled "essence" dissolved in hot water, and now supplied as coffee at most railway stations and hotels in this country, resembles the recently made infusion of the freshly roasted berry. It says little for the taste of our country-men that such imperfect imitations are so generally tolerated without complaint.
The value of the gridiron is, perhaps, nowhere better understood than in England, especially in relation to chops, steak, and kidney. Still it is not quite so widely appreciated as it deserves to be in the preparation of many a small dish of fish, fowl, and meat, to say nothing of a grilled mushroom, either alone or as an accompaniment to any of them. And it may be worth while, perhaps, remarking that the sauce par excellence for broils is mushroom ketchup; and the garnish cool lettuce, watercress, or endive. And this suggests a word or two on the important addition which may be made to most small dishes of animal food under the title of "garnish." Whether it be a small fillet, braised or roasted, or a portion thereof broiled; a fricandeau, or the choice end of a neck of mutton made compact by shortening the bones; or a small loin, or a dish of trimmed neck cutlets, or a choice portion of broiled rumpsteak; a couple of sweetbreads, poultry, pigeon, or what not—the garnish should be a matter of consideration. Whether the dish be carved on the family table, as it rarely fails to be when its head is interested in the cuisine, or whether it is handed in the presence of guests, the quality and the appearance of the dish greatly depend on the garnish. According to the meat, may be added with a view both to taste and appearance, some of the following—purées of sorrel, spinach, and other greens, of turnips, and of potatoes plain, in shapes, or in croquettes; cut carrots, peas, beans, endive, sprouts, and other green vegetables; stewed onions, small or Spanish; cucumbers, tomatoes, macaroni in all forms; sometimes a few sultanas boiled, mushrooms, olives, truffles. In the same way chestnuts are admirable, whole, boiled, or roasted, and as a purée freely served, especially in winter when vegetables are scarce; serving also as farce for fowls and turkeys. While such vegetables as green peas, French and young broad beans, celery and celeriac, asparagus, seakale, cauliflower, spinach, artichokes, vegetable marrows, etc., are worth procuring in their best and freshest condition, to prepare with especial care as separate dishes.
It is doubtful whether fish is esteemed so highly as an aliment as its nutritious qualities entitle it to be, while it offers great opportunity for agreeable variety in treatment. As a general observation, it may be said that in preparing it for table sufficient trouble is not taken to remove some portion of the bones; this can be advantageously done by a clever cook without disfiguring or injuring the fish. Sauces should be appropriately served: for example, the fat sauces, as hollandaise and other forms of melted butter, are an appropriate complement of hot boiled fish, while mayonnaise is similarly related to cold. These and their variations, which are numerous, may also accompany both broiled and fried fish, but these are often more wholesome and agreeable when served with only a squeeze of lemon-juice, and a few grains of the zest, if approved, when a fresh green lemon is not to be had, and it rarely can be here. But the juice of the mushroom is preferred, and no doubt justly, by some. Endless variations and additions may be made according to taste on these principles. But there is another no less important principle, viz., that the fish itself often furnishes a sauce from its own juices, more appropriate than some of the complicated and not very digestible mixtures prepared by the cook. Thus "melted butter"—which is regarded as essentially an English sauce—when intended to accompany fish, should not be, as it almost invariably is, a carelessly made compound of butter, flour, and water; but in place of the last-named ingredient there should be a concentrated liquor made from the trimmings of the fish itself, with the addition of a few drops of lemon-juice, and strengthened if necessary from other sources, as from shell-fish of some kind. Thus an every-day sauce of wholesome and agreeable quality is easily made; it finds its highest expression in that admirable dish, the sole with sauce au vin blanc of the French, or, as associated with shell-fish, in the sole à la normande. Some fish furnish their own sauce in a still simpler manner, of which an illustration no less striking is at hand in the easiest but best mode of cooking a red mullet, viz., baking it, and securing the gravy of delicious flavor which issues abundantly from the fish, chiefly from the liver, as its only sauce.
Passing rapidly on without naming the ordinary and well-known service of cold meats, fresh and preserved, poultry and game, open or under paste in some form, to be found in profusion on table or sideboard, and in which this country is unrivaled, a hint or two relating to some lighter cold entrées may be suggested. It is scarcely possible to treat these apart from the salad which, admirable by itself, also forms the natural garnish for cold dishes. A simple aspic jelly, little more than the consommé of yesterday flavored with a little lemon-peel and tarragon vinegar, furnishes another form of garnish, or a basis for presenting choice morsels in tempting forms, such as poultry-livers, ox-palates, quenelles, fillets of game, chicken, wild fowl, fish, prawns, etc., associated with a well-made salad. On this system an enterprising cook can furnish many changes of light but excellent nutritious dishes.
On salad so much has been written, that one might suppose, as of many other culinary productions, that to make a good one was the result of some difficult and complicated process, instead of being simple and easy to a degree. The materials must be secured fresh, are not to be too numerous and diverse, must be well cleansed and washed without handling, and all water removed as far as possible. It should be made by the hostess, or by some member of the family, immediately before the meal, and be kept cool until wanted. Very few servants can be trusted to execute the simple details involved in cross-cutting the lettuce, endive, or what not, but two or three times in a roomy salad-bowl; in placing one saltspoonful of salt and half that quantity of pepper in a tablespoon, which is to be filled three times consecutively with the best fresh olive-oil, stirring each briskly until the condiments have been thoroughly mixed, and at the same time distributed over the salad. This is next to be tossed well, but lightly, until every portion glistens, scattering meantime a little finely chopped fresh tarragon and chervil, with a few atoms of chives, over the whole. Lastly, but only immediately before serving, one small tablespoonful of mild French vinegar is to be sprinkled over all, followed by another tossing of the salad. The uncooked tomato, itself the prince of salads, may be sliced and similarly treated for separate service, or added to the former, equally for taste and appearance. Cold boiled asparagus served with a mayonnaise forms a dish, of its kind, not to be surpassed. At present ranking, when the quality is fine, as an expensive luxury, there is no reason why, with the improved methods of cultivating this delicious and wholesome vegetable, it should not be produced in great abundance, and for less than half its present price. As to the manifold green stuffs which, changing with the season, may be presented as salad, their name is legion; and their choice must be left to the eater's judgment, fancy, and digestion, all of which vary greatly.
The combination of dishes to form a meal now demands our consideration. The occupations of man in a civilized state, no less than the natural suggestions of his appetite, require stated and regular times for feeding. But the number of these set apart in the twenty-four hours differs considerably among different peoples and classes. Taking a general view of the subject, it may be said that there are three principal systems to which all varieties of habit may be reduced. From an English point of view, these may be regarded as—
1. The Continental system of two meals a day.
2. The system of provincial life (Great Britain), or four meals.
3. The system of town life (Great Britain), or three meals.
1. In the Continental system, the slight refreshment served in the early morning, in the form of coffee or chocolate, with a rusk or a morsel of bread, does not amount to a meal. It is only a dish, and that a light one, and not a combination of dishes, which is then taken. At or about noon a substantial meal, the déjeuner, is served; and at six or seven o'clock, an ample dinner. Such is the two-meal system, and it appears to answer well throughout the west and south of Europe.
2. What I have termed the provincial system consists of a substantial breakfast at eight or nine, a dinner at one or two, a light tea about five, and a supper at nine or ten. It is this which is popular throughout our own provincial districts, and also among middle-class society of our northern districts throughout both town and country. The habits also of the great German nation correspond more to this than to the first-named system. 3. The prevailing system of London, and of the numerous English families throughout the country whose habits are formed from partial residence in town, or by more or less intimate acquaintance with town life, is that of three meals daily. In general terms the breakfast takes place between eight and ten; the lunch from one to two; the dinner from half-past six to eight.
In all cases each meal has its own specific character. Thus, here, breakfast is the most irregular in its service, and least of all demands general and intimate coherence of the party assembled. Individual interests concerned in the letter-bag, in the morning news, in plans for the day, in cares of coming business, etc., are respected. Provision for acknowledged dietetic peculiarities on the part of individuals is not forgotten, and every one comes or goes as he pleases.
At lunch the assembly is still somewhat uncertain. Thus some members of the family are absent without remark; intimate friends may appear without special invitation; while those less intimate can be asked with small ceremony. Occupations of pleasure or of business still press for pursuit during the afternoon, and the meal for such may not be too substantial. It should suffice amply to support activity; it should never be so considerable as to impair it.
The last meal of the three, dinner, has characters wholly different from the preceding. The prime occupations of the day are over; the guests are known and numbered; the sentiment is one of reunion after the dispersion of the day—of relaxation after its labors, sports, or other active pleasures. Whatever economy of time may have been necessary in relation to the foregoing meals, all trace of hurry should disappear at dinner. A like feeling makes the supper of the "provincial" system a similarly easy and enjoyable meal. And all this is equally true of dinner, whether it unites the family only, or brings an addition of guests. General conversation: the events and personal incidents of the day, the current topics of the hour, are discussed in a light spirit, such as is compatible with proper attention to the dishes provided. All that follows late dinner should for the most part be amusement—it may be at the theatre, an evening party, or a quiet evening at home. There should be ample time, however, for every coming engagement, and security for some intervening rest for digestion. Dinner, then, is the only meal which—as the greater includes the less—need be discussed in the third part of our subject, which claims to treat of custom and art in combining dishes to form a repast. With the requirements and under the circumstances just specified, it should not be a heavy meal, but it should be sufficing. No one after dinner should feel satiety or repletion, with a sense of repugnance at the idea of eating more; but all should still enjoy the conviction that a good meal furnishes delightful and refreshing occupation.
Dinners are of two kinds—the ordinary meal of the family, and the dinner to which guests are invited. There is a third dinner in this country, of common—too common—occurrence, viz., the public dinner, which is essentially a British institution, and can not be passed by in silence.
The late dinner should never include children. It is a meal which is in every way unsuited to them, and they are quite unfitted to take part in its functions; besides, the four-meal system is better adapted to their requirements of growth and digestion in early life. A family dinner may usually consist of a soup, fish, entrée, roast, and sweet; the entrée may even be omitted; on the other hand, if the meal is required to be more substantial, a joint may be served in addition after the fish; but this should be very rarely necessary. A dish of vegetables may be advantageously placed before or after the roast, according to circumstances; and supplementary vegetables should be always at hand.
The rationale of the initial soup has often been discussed: some regard it as calculated to diminish digestive power, on the theory that so much fluid taken at first dilutes the gastric juices. But there appears to be no foundation for this belief; a clear soup, or the fluid constituents of a purée, disappear almost immediately after entering the stomach, being absorbed by the proper vessels, and in no way interfere with the gastric juice which is stored in its appropriate cells ready for action. The habit of commencing dinner with soup has without doubt its origin in the fact that aliment in this fluid form—in fact, ready digested—soon enters the blood and rapidly refreshes the hungry man, who, after a considerable fast and much activity, sits down with a sense of exhaustion to commence his principal meal. In two or three minutes after taking a plate of good warm consommé, the feeling of exhaustion disappears, and irritability gives way to the gradually rising sense of good-fellowship with the circle. Some persons have the custom of allaying exhaustion with a glass of sherry before food—a gastronomic no less than a physiological blunder, injuring the stomach and depraving the palate. The soup introduces at once into the system a small installment of ready-digested food, and saves the short period of time which must be spent by the stomach in deriving some portion of nutriment from solid aliment, as well as indirectly strengthening the organ of digestion itself for its forthcoming duties. Few will be found to dispute the second place in order to fish, although this arrangement is in some quarters an open question: its discussion, however, can scarcely be regarded as within the limit of our space. The third dish should consist of the chief meat, the joint, if desired; if not, one of the smaller dishes of meat, such as fricandeau, cutlets, filet, or sweetbread, before spoken of, well garnished, will be appropriate, and to many preferable. Next the well-roasted bird—of game or poultry—accompanied or followed by salad, and a dish of choice vegetables. Then one light simple sweet, for those who take it, and a slight savory biscuit or morsel of cheese completes the repast. Such a meal contains within its limits all that can be desired for daily enjoyment and use. If well and liberally served, it is complete in every sense of the word. Dessert and its extent is a matter of individual taste; of wines, coffee, and liqueurs I shall speak hereafter.
A word about hors-d'œuvres. It is well known that the custom exists to a very wide extent among Continental nations of commencing either mid-day déjeuner or dinner by eating small portions of cold pickled fish, vegetables, of highly-flavored sausage thinly sliced, etc., to serve, it is said, as a whet to appetite. This custom reaches its highest development in the zakuska of the Russian, which, consisting of numerous delicacies of the kind mentioned, is sometimes to be found occupying a table in an anteroom to be passed between the drawing-room and dining-room; or, and more commonly, spread on the sideboard of the latter. The Russian eats a little from three or four dishes at least, and "qualifies" with a glass of strong grain-spirit (vodka) or of some liqueur before taking his place at the table. Among these savory preliminaries may often be found caviare in its fresh state, gray, pearly, succulent, and delicate, of which most of the caviare found in this country is, speaking from personal experience of both, but as the shadow to the substance.
I have no hesitation in saying, after much consideration of the practice of thus commencing a meal, that it has no raison d'être for persons with healthy appetite and digestion. For them, both pickled food and spirit are undesirable, at any rate on an empty stomach. And the hors-d'œuvres, although attempts to transplant them here are often made, happily do not, as far as I have observed, thrive on our soil. They have been introduced here chiefly, I think, because their presence, being demanded by foreign gastronomic taste, is supposed to be, therefore, necessarily correct. But the active exercise and athletic habits of the Englishman, his activity of body and mind in commercial pursuits, all tend to bring him to the dinner-table wanting food rather than appetite, and in no mind to ask for "whets" to increase it. Among idle men, whose heavy lunch, liberally accompanied with wine and not followed by exercise, has barely disappeared from the stomach at the hour of dinner, a piquant prelude as stimulus of appetite is more appreciated. Hence the original invention of hors d'œuvres; and their appearance in a very much slighter and more delicate form than that which has been described, still to be observed in connection with the chief repasts of the Latin races. The one plate which heralds dinner, indigenous to our country, is also one of its own best products—the oyster. But this is scarcely a hors-d'œuvre. In itself a single service of exquisite quality, served with attendant graces of delicate French vinegar, brown bread and butter, and a glass of light chablis for those who take it, the half-dozen natives occupying the hollow shells, and bathed in their own liquor, hold rank of a very different kind to that of a miscellaneous assortment of tidbits alluded to. Oysters are, in fact, the first dish of dinner and not its precursor; the first chapter, and not the advertisement. And this brings us to the dinner of invitation.
And of this dinner there are two very distinct kinds: First, there is the little dinner of six or eight guests, carefully selected for their own specific qualities, and combined with judgment to obtain an harmonious and successful result. The ingredients of a small party, like the ingredients of a dish, must be well chosen to make it "complete." Such are the first conditions to be attained in order to achieve the highest perfection in dining. Secondly, there is the dinner of society, which is necessarily large; the number of guests varying from twelve to twenty-four!
The characteristics of the first dinner are—comfort, excellence, simplicity, and good taste. Those of the second are—the conventional standard of quality, some profusion of supply, suitable display in ornament and service.
It must be admitted that, with the large circle of acquaintances so commonly regarded as essential to existence in modern life, large dinners only enable us to repay our dining debts, and exercise the hospitality which position demands. With a strong preference, then, for the little dinners, it must be admitted that the larger banquet is a necessary institution; and therefore we have only to consider now how to make the best of it.
No doubt the large dinner has greatly improved of late; but it has by no means universally arrived at perfection. Only a few years ago excellence in quality and good taste in cuisine were often sacrificed in the endeavor to make a profuse display. Hence, abundance without reason, and combinations without judgment, were found coexisting with complete indifference to comfort in the matters of draughts, ventilation, temperature, and consumption of time. Who among the diners-out of middle age has not encountered many a time an entertainment with some such programme as the following: one of an order which, it is to be feared, is not even yet quite extinct?—
Eighteen or twenty guests enter a room adapted at most to a dinner of twelve. It is lighted with gas; the chief available space being occupied by the table, surrounding which is a narrow lane, barely sufficing for the circulation of servants. Directly—perhaps after oysters—appear turtle soups, thick and clear. A consommé is to be had on demand, but so unexpected a choice astonishes the servitor, who brings it after some delay, and cold; with it, punch. Following, arrive the fish—salmon and turbot, one or both, smothered in thick lobster sauce: sherry. Four entrées promenade the circuit in single file, whereof the first was always oyster patties; after which came mutton or lamb cutlets, a vol-au-vent, etc.: hock and champagne. Three quarters of an hour at least, perhaps an hour, having now elapsed, the saddle or haunch of mutton arrives, of which gentlemen who have patiently waited get satisfactory slices, and currant jelly, with cold vegetables or a heavy, flabby salad. Then come boiled fowls and tongue, or a turkey with heavy forcemeat; a slice of ham and so on, up to game, followed by hot, substantial pudding, three or four other sweets, including an iced pudding; wines in variety, more or less appropriate; to be followed by a pâté de foie gras, more salad, biscuits and cheese. Again, two ices, and liqueurs. Then an array of decanters, and the first appearance of red wine; a prodigious dessert of all things in and out of season, but particularly those which are out of season, as being the more costly. General circulation of waiters, handing each dish in turn to everybody, under a running fire of negatives, a ceremonial of ten or fifteen minutes' duration, to say the least. Circulation of decanters; general rustle of silks, disappearance of the ladies; and first change of seat, precisely two hours and a half after originally taking it. It may be hoped that a charming companion on either side has beguiled and shortened a term which otherwise must have been felt a little long. Now the general closing up of men to host, and reassembling of decanters; age and qualities of wine, recommendation of vintages. Coffee which is neither black nor hot. Joining the ladies; service of gunpowder tea, fatal to the coming night's rest if taken in a moment of forgetfulness; and carriages announced.
Admitted that such an exhibition is impossible now in any reasonable English circle, it nevertheless corresponds very closely in style with that of the public dinner; a state of things without excuse. And the large private dinner is still generally too long, the menu too pretentious. Let me, however, be permitted to record, equally in proof of growing taste and as grateful personal duty, how many admirable exceptions to the prevailing custom are now afforded. Then, of course, it must be understood that, while the dinner for six or eight persons is designed as an harmonious whole of few, well-chosen dishes, all of which are intended to be eaten in their order, the menu of the larger party must offer various dishes for choice to meet the differing tastes of more numerous guests, and it must therefore be larger. Let us see how this is to be met. First, the soups: it is the custom to offer a consommé, which ought to be perfect in clearness, color, and savor, and to be served perfectly hot; containing vegetables, etc., variously treated—doubtless the best commencement, as it is the keynote, of the dinner; revealing also, as it does nine times out of ten, the caliber of the cook to whose talent the guest is intrusted. But there is mostly an alternative of "white soup," and this is almost always a mistake. Many persons refuse it, and they are right, containing, as it generally does, a considerable proportion of cream—an injudicious beginning, when there is much variety to follow; excellent sometimes as one of three or four dishes, but dangerous otherwise to the guest who has not an exceptionally powerful digestion. But, suppose oysters, vinegar, and chablis have just been swallowed! A brown purée, as of game, or one of green vegetables, less frequently met with, would be far safer. Two fish, of course, should always be served; as, for example, a slice of Severn or Christchurch salmon, just arrived from the water, for its own sake; and a fillet of white fish for the sake of its sauce and garnish, which should be therefore perfect. The next dish is, in London, a question under discussion, viz., the question of precedence to an entrée, or to the pièce de résistance. The custom-has been to postpone the appearance of the latter until lighter dishes have been dispatched or declined. If, however, the English joint is required at a meal already comprehensive in the matter of dishes, and taken at a late hour, it seems more reasonable to serve it next to the fish, when those who demand a slice of meat may be expected to have an appropriate appetite, which will certainly be impaired, equally by accepting the entrées, or fasting partially without them. After the joint, two light entrées may follow, and these must necessarily be either in themselves peculiarly tempting morsels, or products of culinary skill, offering inducement to the palate rather than to an appetite which is no longer keen. Then the best roast possible in season, and a salad; a first-rate vegetable, two choice sweets, one of which may be iced; a light savory biscuit or a morsel of fine barely salted caviare, which may be procured in one or two places at' most in town, will complete the dinner. For dessert, the finest fruits in season to grace the table and for light amusement after; or simply nuts in variety, and dry biscuits; nothing between the two is tolerable, and little more than the latter is really wanted; only for decorative purposes fruit equals flowers. But it may be admitted that the diminished number of sweet entremets strengthens the plea for a supply of delicious fruits, rendering the dessert useful and agreeable as well as ornamental.
And, now that dessert is over, let me say that I do not admit the charge sometimes intimated, although delicately, by foreigners, of a too obvious proclivity to self-indulgence on the part of Englishmen, in permitting the ladies to leave the table without escort to the drawing-room. The old custom of staying half an hour, or even an hour afterward, to drink wine, which is doubtless a remnant of barbarism, has long been considered indefensible. Still, the separation of the party into two portions for fifteen or twenty minutes is useful to both, and leads perhaps more completely to a general mixture of elements on reunion after than is attained by the return of the original pairs together. Whether this be so or not, the ladies have a short interval for the interchange of hearsays and ideas relative to matters chiefly concerning their special interests; while the men enjoy that indispensable finish to a good dinner, an irreproachable cup of coffee and a cigarette, and the sooner they arrive the better. With the small dinners of men it can scarcely too quickly follow the last service.
But marked by a special character are some dinners, which may be either small or large, in relation to the number of guests, but which are necessarily limited as regards the variety of aliments served. I refer to dinners at which either turtle or fish predominates. In accordance with a principle already enunciated, a bowl of substantial stock, containing four or five broad flakes of the gelatinous product, often miscalled "fat," which alone represents the turtle in the compound, is not a judicious prelude to a dinner arranged according to the orthodox programme, and offering the usual variety. A lover of turtle indulges freely in the soup, both thick and clear, making it in fact an important installment of his repast; and he desires, with or without some slight interlude, to meet the favorite food again in the form of an entree. After so substantial a commencement, the dinner should be completed chiefly by poultry, and game if in season, and for the most part by dishes which are grilled or roast, in contrast to the succulent morsels which have preceded.
The fish dinner, also an occasional departure from daily routine, is acceptable, and gratifies the taste for that delicate and pleasant food in considerable variety. But, if so indulged, very few dishes ought to appear subsequently. It is a curious fact that the traditional bacon and beans, which appear toward the close of a Greenwich whitebait dinner, should afford another illustration of undesigned compliance with the natural law referred to at the outset, the bacon furnishing complementary fat to supply its notable absence in fish.
The enjoyment of a curry—and when skillfully made it is almost universally admitted to be one of the most attractive combinations which can be offered to the senses of taste and smell—is only possible at a limited repast. When freely eaten, very little is acceptable to the palate afterward, exhausted as it is by the pervading fragrance of the spice and other adjuncts. Hence a curry should form the climax of a short series of dishes leading up to it: when presented, as it sometimes is, among the entrées of a first course, it is wholly out of place.
Here we may appropriately take a rapid glance at the characteristics of the feast where the guests are few in number.
The small dinner-party should be seated at a round or oval table, large enough for personal comfort, small enough to admit of conversation in any direction without effort. The table should of course be furnished with taste, but is not to be encumbered with ornaments, floral or other, capable of obstructing sight and sound. A perfect consommé, a choice of two fish, a filet or a Châteaubriand, a gigot or a fricandeau; followed by a chaudfroid, a crème de volaille garni, a roast and salad, a choice vegetable, and an iced soufflé or charlotte; and in summer a macédoine of fresh fruits in an old china family bowl, if there is one; and, lastly, a savory biscuit, accompanying vegetables and appropriate wines, may be regarded as furnishing a scheme for such a party, or a theme of which the variations are endless. Seven or eight guests can thus be brought into close contact: with a larger number the party is apt to form two coteries, one on each side of the host. The number is a good one also in relation to the commissariat department—eight persons being well supplied by an entrée in one dish; while two are necessary for ten or twelve. Moreover, one bottle of wine divides well in eight; if, therefore, the host desire to give with the roast one glass of particularly fine ripe Corton or Pomard, a single bottle is equal to the supply; and so with any other choice specimen of which a single circulation is required; and of course the rule holds equally if the circuit is to be repeated.
And this leads us to the question—and an important one it is—of the wine.—Nineteenth Century.
- A salad for five or six persons is supposed.
- On this subject, and also on salad culture, see "The Parks and Gardens of Paris," by W. Robinson, F. L. S., p. 468, et seq., second edition. Macmillan, 1878.