Gastronomy 101, a blog about food and Los Angeles restaurants

INFO: Feasts of Yesteryear

I'm reading this book right now called "The Devil in the White City." It's a history book that alternates between detailing the Chicago World's Fair in 1893 and telling the true crime story of perhaps the first American serial killer, who happened to be living in Chicago at the same time.

I have to say, it's an interesting book, but there are hazards to choosing to tell both of these stories in conjunction. When you have a reader like me, who's not so much inclined to read non-fiction, and especially not history books, to alternate chapters that are full of details about construction and landscaping and bureacracy with chapters about a serial killer who is luring in and preying on various women, well ... it could work against you. I often find it's difficult to finish the chapter about what type of boats they should use to ferry the passengers about when I could just skip ahead to see how the killer convinces his wife's sister that he's a good guy, and then kills them both and starts wooing another woman. I mean ... which would you rather read?

But in one chapter, the author describes a dinner held in honor of the fair and to boost enthusiasm for it, and included in the description is the entire menu. Check it out. I'll provide Wikipediation for your edification:

Oysters
A glass or two of Montrachet
Consomme of Green Turtle
Amontillado
Broiled Shad a la Marechal ["a la Marechal" means "Marshal style." I couldn't find exactly what it means, but I suspect it means chaud-froid]
Cucumbers. Potatoes a la Duchesse
Filet Mignon a la Rossini [I think named after the composer, who seems to have had all kinds of dishes named after him]
Chateau Lafite and Rinnart Brut [I'm operating under the assumption that this is a typo for "Ruinart"]
Fonds d'Artichaut Farcis [Stuffed Artichoke Hearts]
Pommery Sec
Sorbet au Kirsch
Cigarettes
Woodcock [tee hee! I'm 12] on Toast
Asparagus Sala [I think this is a typo for salad]
Ices: Canton Ginger [common ginger]
Cheeses: Pont l'Eveque; Rocquefort; Coffee. Liquers.
Madeira, 1815
Cigars

Of course the thing that jumps out at me is that they all stop and have cigarettes in the middle of the meal. I'm trying to imagine wanting to take a bite of nice juicy woodcock (tee hee hee hee!) when the room is still filled with everyone's stale smoke. Blech. I also don't think of a the ashen taste of cigarettes as a great palate cleanser, but what do I know?

I know that that is some good wine and I am now craving Kirsch sorbet and ginger ice.

3 comments:

I was reading and enjoying that very book last July on the plane back from France. Your post reminds me that I should pick it up and finish it. And also reminds me to order woodcock at every opportunity

said by Vaguely Urban at 9:05 AM Delete

Yes, I'mpretty far behind in my reading list. I got this book with leftover Lexis-Nexis points when I finished law school, so it's only taken me about a year and a half to get to reading it. Not bad!

Don't forget to have a smoke before you get your woodcock.

Hmm ... you'd think it would be AFTER.

said by KT at 10:18 AM Delete

I say that book a while back and have been meaning to ask someone about it. How well written is it?

You could always smoke the woodcock. Two birds with one stone, as it were.

said by Chubbypanda at 3:05 PM Delete

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