Friday, June 30, 2017

What to eat? How? When in Rome, Paris or London, partaking of dinner parties was a ritual fit to burst your buttons! European dining rooms that inspire!

Formal Dining Room at Malmaison where Josephine entertained
before and after Napoleon divorced her.
 If you were invited to a dinner party in the nineteenth century, you would have to be on your manners and either starving or terribly polite!

Why?

The meal was hours-long. The service slow and measured. The servants ready to deliver your every need. And the portions to the numerous courses were hearty.

Here are a few of my pictures of houses and dining rooms I adore. In them, kings and queens, emperors and generals ate, laughed and decided the fate of millions of others.
Shall we talk about an average evening and the menu?

Oh, let's!

First, do let out your corset an inch. You're going to need the room to breathe.
Second, roll back your long gloves, darling. No getting those dirty. Just put them in your lap after you've been assisted in your chair by a footman.
Third, remember to sit ramrod straight as your third governess taught you and please do not crush your bustle!
Fourth, you should know which fork or spoon to begin with. Your fourth governess taught you that, remember? Yes, that's right, the soup spoon is the big bowled one.
Remember your nanny's instructions about soup? "Like a ship upon the sea, I scoop my soup away from me!" Good.
That other one above your serving plate? It's for the cream, or shall we say, the ice, later. Hmm. Right.
Fish fork? Tiny, ugly thing. Unmistakeable.
Dinner fork, you'll know right off. Knife too.
Butter knife, ditto.

Now as we begin remember we speak only to the one gentleman on our right. He gets to chat you up for half the meal. If he has not cultivated the art of conversation at teatime with his granny, you must pick up his slack. He needs his bit of talk and you are his to enchant or vice versa, if he is lacking. This means you may well need to be well versed in botany, architecture or archeology, bugs, worms or coal mining. While it is best not to display an understanding of stocks and bonds, it is useful (in your future life as a duchess, etc etc.) to understand farming, goats and sheep, sale thereof, grassland availability on your property, weather patterns. All of this helps immensely when in need of sound dinner conversation.

On to the menu.
First Service:
   Potages (Soup) 
      For example: Consomme or  Puree
   Poisson (Fish)
      Any type: roasted, grilled, sauteed, fried or souped
   Entrees:
      Chicken, Beef or Lamb in any cut or form
   Larger Service:
       Venison
        Beef roast, etc
Second Service:
     Roti:
         Vegetable with meat, fish, protein
     Entremets:
          Salad
           Fruit
           Gateau of fruit (baked, custard, etc with fruit)
      Cheese        
Now you can see that you have eaten your way through your corset and volunteer to walk home! The meal was truly heavy. Furthermore, we have now learned that many of the well-to-do in this era suffered from obesity, too few vegetables in their diet and too much protein. The added sugar in desserts did not help make them any healthier. To be so, one had to be selective in portions and in the types of foods consumed.
       As for me, I am happy to have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, fresher meals and fish, all of which is deemed safe before it is stocked in our groceries!

(And yes, all of these photographs are mine!)
Napoleon and Josephine's gold plate, minted for him at Sevres China Factory and given to Josephine's son,
Eugene after her death. Thereafter it was owned by a family in Russia until recently when the French Government
bought it back to display here.
Dining room in Palais Imperial at Compiegne, France set for Emperor Napoleon III and his wife.

A bit different, oui? The servants' dining hall in Vaux le Vicomte south of Paris!

Vive la difference! This is the owners' dining room (set with only half a table) in Vaux le Vicomte!
The Pump Room in Bath, England!
Do go for a full cream tea, music, atmosphere and warm mineral water from the spring!


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