ON FOOD AND DRINK
La Cote Basque
An extract from Capote’s classic 1975 exercise in biting the hand that feeds you. A short story, based on a lunch the author has with Lady Ina Coolbirth, a scarcely disguised characterization of Lady Slim Keith, in which the two characters dish the dirt on High Society at the legendary New York restaurant, La Cote Basque:
Then she decided against cocktails, saying: “Why not have a proper reunion?” From the wine steward she ordered a bottle of Roederer’s Cristal. Even for those who dislike Champagne, myself among them, there are two Champagnes one can’t refuse: Dom Perignon and the even superior Cristal, which is bottled in a natural-colored glass that displays its pale blaze, a chilled fire of such prickly dryness that, swallowed, seems not to have been swallowed at all, but to have turned to vapors on the tongue and burned there to one sweet damp ash…
Ina selected from her salad a leaf of Bibb lettuce, pinned it to her fork, studied it through her spectacles. “There is at least one respect in which the rich, the really very rich, are different from…other people. They understand vegetables. Other people- well, anyone can manage roast beef, a great steak, lobsters. But have you ever noticed how, in the homes of the very rich, at the Wrightsmans’, or Dillons’, at Bunny’s and Babe’s, they serve only the most beautiful vegetables, and the greatest variety? The greenest petit pois, infinitesimal carrots, corn so baby-kerneled and tender it almost seems unborn, lima beans tiner than mice eyes, and the young asparagus! The limestone lettuce! The raw red mushrooms! Zucchini…” Lady Ina was feeling her Champagne.
Charles Dickens’ Christmas classic which, with Ebeneezer Scrooge’s newfound generosity resulting in his gift to the sparse Cratchit family table, ushered in the more bountiful turkey as the Christmas bird of choice supplanting the traditional goose described below:
There never was such a goose. Bob said he didn’t believe there ever was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavor, size and cheapness, were all the themes of universal admiration. Eked out by apple-sauce and mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family, indeed as Mrs Cratchit said with great delight (surveying one small atom of a bone upon the dish), they hadn’t ate it all at last! Yet everyone had had enough, and the youngest Cratchits in particular, were steeped in sage and onion to the eyebrows!
Charles Ryder’s dinner in Paris with Rex Mottram in Brideshead Revisited
Waugh wrote Brideshead Revisited during the second world war when rationing was at its peak and such meals as that described below would have been impossible. He revised the text in the 1960s finding the food passages overdone.
I was there twenty minutes before Rex. If I had to spend an evening with him, it should, at any rate, be in my own way. I remember the dinner well- a soup of oseille, a sole quite simply cooked in a white-wine sauce, a caneton a la presse, a lemon souffle. At the last minute, fearing that the whole thing was too simple for Rex, I added caviar aux blinis. And for wine I let him give me a bottle of 1906 Montrachet, then at its prime, and with the duck, a Clos de Beze of 1904….The soup was delicious after the rich blinis-hot, thin, bitter, frothy…the sole was so simple and unobtrusive that Rex failed to notice it. We ate to the music of the press-the crunch of bones, the drip of blood and marrow, the tap of the spoon basting the thin slices of breast. There was a pause here of a quarter of an hour, while I drank the first glass of the Clos de Beze and Rex smoked his first cigarette…I rejoiced in the Burgundy. It seemed a reminder of an older and better place than Rex knew, that mankind in its long passion had learned another passion than his. By chance I met this same wine again, lunching with my wine merchant in St James’s Street, in the first autumn of the war; it had softened in the intervening years, but it still spoke in the pure authentic accent of its prime, the same words of hope…The cognac was not to Rex’s taste. It was clear and pale and it came in a bottle free from grime and Napoleonic ciphers.. It was only a year or two older than Rex and lately bottled. They gave it to us in very thin tulip-shaped glasses of modest size.
‘Brandy’s one of the things I know a bit about,” said Rex. “This is a bad colour. What’s more, I can’t taste it in this thimble.”
Then they brought him a balloon the size of his head. He made them warm it over a spirit lamp. Then he rolled the splendid spirit round and round, buried his face in the fumes, and pronounced it the sort of stuff he put soda in at home.
So shamefacedly they wheeled out of its hiding place the vast and moldy bottle they kept for people of Rex’s sort.
“That’s the stuff,” he said, tilting the treacly concoction till it left dark rings around the sides of his glass. “They’ve always got it tucked away, but they won’t bring it out unless you make a fuss. Have some.”
translated by Eleanor Marx-Aveling
Emma Bovary’s wedding is being celebrated. In a highly symbolic and quintessentially post revolution bourgeois manner, Flaubert contrasts a lavish yet simple spread of food with an ambitious and kitsch wedding cake.
The table was laid under the cart-shed. On it were four sirloins, six chicken fricassees, stewed veal, three legs of mutton, and in the middle a fine roast suckling pig, flanked by four chitterlings with sorrel. At the corners were decanters of brandy. Sweet bottled-cider frothed round the corks, and all the glasses had been filled to the brim with wine beforehand. Large dishes of yellow cream, that trembled with the least shake of the table, had designed on their smooth surface the initials of the newly wedded pair in nonpareil arabesques. A confectioner of Yvetot had been intrusted with the tarts and sweets. As he had only just set up on the place, he had taken a lot of trouble, and at dessert he himself brought in a set dish that evoked loud cries of wonderment. To begin with, at its base there was a square of blue cardboard, representing a temple with porticoes, colonnades, and stucco statuettes all round, and in the niches constellations of gilt paper stars; then on the second stage was a dungeon of Savoy cake, surrounded by many fortifications in candied angelica, almonds, raisins, and quarters of oranges; and finally, on the upper platform a green field with rocks set in lakes of jam, nutshell boats, and a small Cupid balancing himself in a chocolate swing whose two uprights ended in real roses for balls at the top.
The hero, or anti-hero, of James Joyce’s Ulysses, Leopold Bloom is introduced to the reader, in this excerpt, through a description of his appetites. Mel Brooks named the mousy accountant who comes up with the scam in his film The Producers Leo Bloom after the literary character.
Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liverslices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencods' roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine
The Count of Monte Cristo
translated by David Coward
In this excerpt, Dumas describes the various delights the Count assembled for a grand dinner party at his house in Auteuil. Over these opulent dishes, Monte Cristo tells his guest of the strange and dramatic history of the house—slowly ensnaring them in a net of long planned revenge.
It was an Oriental feast that he offered to them, but of such a kind as the Arabian fairies might be supposed to prepare. Every delicious fruit that the four quarters of the globe could provide was heaped in vases from China and jars from Japan. Rare birds, retaining their most brilliant plumage, enormous fish, spread upon massive silver dishes, together with every wine produced in the Archipelago, Asia Minor, or the Cape, sparkling in bottles, whose grotesque shape seemed to give an additional flavor to the draught.
A cookbook inspired by art as much as ingredients specific to Dutch cooking and printed on paper resembling baking parchment. It is compiled by Jonah Freud, cookery journalist and owner of De Kookboekenhandel in Amsterdam. She collected original and modern dishes based on one or more of the fifty ingredients that define Dutch cooking, then invited fifty Dutch cooks and patissiers to create their own recipes inspired by one of the ingredients.
Eat Drink Man Woman
1994 – opening scene
Ang Lee’s breakout 1994 film based around a Chinese chef and his daughters. The chef is played by Sihung Lung who must have had a body double do the amazing opening food preparation scene. Engaging as the ‘father knows best’ family drama is, the food is the real star.
Based on a story by Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen) Babette’s Feast is a 1987 Danish food classic that chronicles the efforts of a French refugee to bring the pleasures of haute cuisine to a pious Protestant village on the Jutland coast.
S01 - E01 - The Inn At Whitewell
The Trip portrays two British comedians sampling the delights of gastropubs on a sort of road trip in the Penines. Poking fun at the pretensions of foodies it also obsessively showcases the art of impersonating famous film stars.
S01 - E02 - L'Enclume
Julie & Julia
2009 - cooking scene
Meryl Streep is Julia Child the 6’2” American author of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. A hugely popular TV chef, prone to gaffes in front of the camera, Child was criticized for her Francophile use of butter and cream, while she in turn lashed out against a “fanatical fear of food..(which)..will be the death of gastronomy”.