Paris in July for 2018 is upon us. It will be a wonderful month with exchanging anything French with fellow bloggers. Some of you have already started. The pressure (although pleasant) is on and here is my first post. The inspiration comes from Zola. I am reading his Nana and a non fiction book about him, The Disappearance of Émile Zola, Love Literature and the Dreyfus Case. The theme? Food.
After his J'Accuse article he was brought to trial for criminal libel, and rather than going to prison he left for England where he stayed for a year, before he was allowed back to France. Being a writer he kept a diary and his comments about everything English is fascinating. One thing he does not love though is the food.
The following quote comes from a dinner that Nana is hosting.
"Thick asparagus soup a la comtesse, clear soup a la Deslignac," muttered the waiters, carrying about platefuls in rear of the guests. ... The waiters took away the soup plates and circulated rissoles of young rabbit with truffles had "niokys" and powdered cheese. ... The third course, consisting of a Rhine carp a la Chambord and a saddle of venison a l'anglaise, was being served ... After the third course the entrees had made their appearance; they consisted of pullets a la marechale, fillets of sole with shallot sauce and escalopes of Strasbourg pate. ...Yet the supper was flagging; no one was eating now, though platefuls of crepes a l'italienne and pineapple fritters a la Pompadour were being mangled. The champagne, however, which had been drunk ever since the soup course, was beginning little by little to warm the guests into a state of nervous exaltation."
The following quote is from Zola's notes on English food.
"One way he could distract himself from these thoughts (the Dreyfus case and its implications for himself) was to read novels - though he was beginning to find Stendhal irritating - and then, just as we might expect, English food irritated him even more. Why didn't they put any salt in the food? The vegetables were cooked without any butter or oil; the cutlets and steaks were uneatable; the sauces were so bad they had to be avoided altogether; English bread was lika sponge. Plain, boiled, watery potato and greens were abominations. He found the roasts palatable, and these could be supplemented with ham, eggs and salad. Plum tart was bearable but why did the English insist on eating it hot, when everyone knew that tarte should be served cold? Apple pudding was a disgusting invention and who could have thought up the appalling idea of making 'gravy' by pouring water on steak instead of garnishing it with butter and parsley? A small pleasure could be found making visits to the fishmonger where he discovered the delights of the British kipper and bloater."Well, I guess he has a point. I think though, that English food has improved since his days. It is quite interesting to see with what love he describes the food in Nana, although it is just as a line here and there inserted into the description of the evening with its guests and discussions. Reviews of the two books will follow.