Friday, September 21, 2012

Historical Cooking for Beginners Part 2

This week's post is Part 2 in GP's Historical Cooking for Beginners series.  Please welcome our newest guest writer, Chef Gaston Boudin, Hôtel de Valois

“Houde was the head chef at Boodle’s, which stood on the same street
as Westcott’s club, White’s. Of all of the famous club in the
neighborhood, Boodle’s was the least political and, traditionally, the
most resistant to foreign innovation. Its members were mainly
fox-hunting men, country gentlemen, and landowners, and their tastes,
left to their own devices, would probably have run to beefsteak, port
wine, and … more beefsteak. But management had decided that Boodle’s
was not to be left behind by such establishments as White’s and
Brooks’, at least in matters culinary, and had acquired their own
Frenchman. Houde’s pedigree was good, if not quite as stellar as the
famous Carême, who had cooked for Tallyrand and the Russian tsar and
now the Prince Regent and was rumored to be headed for the Pulteney
Hotel” (Banks, p. 112).

Marie-Antoine Carême was the most famous chef of his time and one of
the most famous chefs ever. He was most important for simplifying and
codifying cuisine, making it easier for chef and cooks to discuss
cuisine with a set of rules defining basic sauces and techniques. He
also popularized the, relatively, new idea of restaurants. And he
standardized what is still recognized as the “Chef’s Uniform.”
"Cooking for Kings" Ian Kelly
Before restaurants most commercially produced meals were eaten at
inns, public houses, chop houses and private clubs. Most of these
places had a ‘menu’ (if you really want to call it that) with a single
‘special of the day’ and maybe a soup. Your only choice was to eat
what was offered or not eat. In the case of the chop houses and many
private clubs this choice was the same day after day – beefsteak.

Carême’s arrival in England paved the way for an increased interest in
cuisine. This interest in food, especially French food, was further
aided by the Prince of Wales’ fondness for food, drink and parties.
With the end of the Napoleonic Wars food and drink supplies from
Europe became readily available again.
The Prince of Wales & Careme at the Brighton Pavilion

Beverage choices had also been limited by the Napoleonic wars. Beer
and Ale were just fine for the common folk (and sometimes for
breakfast in the upper classes), but the aristocracy had more refined
taste. Port was very popular in no small part because trade with
Portugal was strong. French brandy was consumed more than French wines
as both had to be smuggled, but brandy got you more alcohol from your
smuggling efforts.

All of this continental food and drink did not deter some Englishmen
from sticking to more traditional fare. The Sublime Society of
Beefsteaks was established in 1735 and continued to meet until 1867.
The Order’s menu consisted of beefsteak, grilled onions and a baked
potato. Toasted cheese was often offered as a second course and for
beverages you had a choice of port or porter.
Sublime Society of Beefsteaks, courtesy of "Supersizers Go: Regency"

Bon Appétit,
Chef Gaston Boudin, Hôtel de Valois

Banks, T.F. (2003). The Emperor’s Assassin
Kelly, Ian (2003). Cooking for Kings

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