Part 1 out of 3
The Cook's Decameron: A Study In Taste
Containing Over Two Hundred Recipes For Italian Dishes
Mrs. W. G. Waters
"Show me a pleasure like dinner, which comes every day and lasts an
hour." -- Talleyrand circa 1901
In memory of Certain Ausonian Feasts
Montaigne in one of his essays* mentions the high excellence
Italian cookery had attained in his day. "I have entered into this
Discourse upon the Occasion of an Italian I lately receiv'd into my
Service, and who was Clerk of the Kitchen to the late Cardinal
Caraffa till his Death. I put this Fellow upon an Account of his
office: Where he fell to Discourse of this Palate-Science, with
such a settled Countenance and Magisterial Gravity, as if he had
been handling some profound Point of Divinity. He made a Learned
Distinction of the several sorts of Appetites, of that of a Man
before he begins to eat, and of those after the second and third
Service: The Means simply to satisfy the first, and then to raise
and acute the other two: The ordering of the Sauces, first in
general, and then proceeded to the Qualities of the Ingredients,
and their Effects: The Differences of Sallets, according to their
seasons, which ought to be serv'd up hot, and which cold: The
Manner of their Garnishment and Decoration, to render them yet more
acceptable to the Eye after which he entered upon the Order of the
whole Service, full of weighty and important Considerations."
It is consistent with Montaigne's large-minded habit thus to
applaud the gifts of this master of his art who happened not to be
a Frenchman. It is a canon of belief with the modern Englishman
that the French alone can achieve excellence in the art of cookery,
and when once a notion of this sort shall have found a lodgment in
an Englishman's brain, the task of removing it will be a hard one.
Not for a moment is it suggested that Englishmen or any one else
should cease to recognise the sovereign merits of French cookery;
all that is entreated is toleration, and perchance approval, of
cookery of other schools. But the favourable consideration of any
plea of this sort is hindered by the fact that the vast majority of
Englishmen when they go abroad find no other school of cookery by
the testing of which they may form a comparison. This universal
prevalence of French cookery may be held to be a proof of its
supreme excellence--that it is first, and the rest nowhere;
but the victory is not so complete as it seems, and the facts would
bring grief and humiliation rather than patriotic pride to the
heart of a Frenchman like Brillat-Savarin. For the cookery we meet
in the hotels of the great European cities, though it may be based
on French traditions, is not the genuine thing, but a bastard,
cosmopolitan growth, the same everywhere, and generally vapid and
uninteresting. French cookery of the grand school suffers by being
associated with such commonplace achievements. It is noted in the
following pages how rarely English people on their travels
penetrate where true Italian cookery may be tasted, wherefore it
has seemed worth while to place within the reach of English
housewives some Italian recipes which are especially fitted for the
presentation of English fare to English palates under a different
and not unappetising guise. Most of them will be found simple and
inexpensive, and special care has been taken to include those
recipes which enable the less esteemed portions of meat and the
cheaper vegetables and fish to be treated more elaborately than
they have hitherto been treated by English cooks.
The author wishes to tender her acknowledgments to her husband for
certain suggestions and emendations made in the revision of the
introduction, and for his courage in dining, "greatly daring," off
many of the dishes. He still lives and thrives. Also to Mrs.
Mitchell, her cook, for the interest and enthusiasm she has shown
in the work, for her valuable advice, and for the care taken in
testing the recipes.
The First Day
The Second Day.
The Third Day.
The Fourth Day
The Fifth Day.
The Sixth Day.
The Seventh Day
The Eighth Day
The Ninth Day.
The Tenth Day.
Part II -- Recipes
1. Espagnole or Brown Sauce.
2. Velute Sauce.
3. Bechamel Sauce.
4. Mirepoix Sauce (for masking).
5. Genoese Sauce.
6. Italian Sauce.
7. Ham Sauce (Salsa di Prosciutto).
8. Tarragon Sauce.
9. Tomato Sauce.
10. Tomato Sauce Piquante.
11. Mushroom Sauce.
12. Neapolitan Sauce.
13. Neapolitan Anchovy Sauce.
14. Roman Sauce (Salsa Agro-dolce).
15. Roman Sauce (another way).
16. Supreme Sauce.
17. Pasta marinate (for masking Italian Frys).
18. White Villeroy.
19. Clear Soup.
20. Zuppa Primaverile (Spring Soup).
21. Soup alla Lombarda.
22. Tuscan Soup.
23. Venetian Soup.
24. Roman Soup.
25. Soup alla Nazionale.
26. Soup alla Modanese.
27. Crotopo Soup.
28. Soup all'Imperatrice.
29. Neapolitan Soup.
30. Soup with Risotto.
31. Soup alla Canavese.
32. Soup alla Maria l'ia.
33. Zuppa d'Erbe (Lettuce Soup).
34. Zuppa Regina di Riso (Queen's soup).
35. A Condiment for Seasoning Minestre, &c.
36. Minestra alla Casalinga.
37. Minestra of Rice and Turnips.
38. Minestra alla Capucina.
39. Minestra of Semolina.
40. Minestrone alla Milanese.
41. Minestra of Rice and Cabbage.
42. Minestra of Rice and Celery.
43. Anguilla alla Milanese (Eels).
44. Filletti di Pesce alla Villeroy (Fillets of Fish).
45. Astachi all'Italiana (Lobster).
46. Baccala alla Giardiniera (Cod).
47. Triglie alla Marinara (Mullet).
48. Mullet alla Tolosa.
49. Mullet alla Triestina.
50. Whiting alla Genovese.
51. Merluzzo in Bianco (Cod).
52. Merluzzo in Salamoia (Cod).
53. Baccala in Istufato (Haddock).
54. Naselli con Piselli (Whiting).
55. Ostriche alla Livornese (Oysters).
56. Ostriche alla Napolitana (Oysters).
57. Ostriche alla Neneziana (Oysters).
58. Pesci diversi alla Casalinga (Fish).
59. Pesce alla Genovese (Sole or Turbot).
60. Sogliole in Zimino (Sole).
61. Sogliole al tegame (Sole).
62. Sogliole alla Livornese (Sole).
63. Sogliole alla Veneziana (Sole).
64. Sogliole alla parmigiana (Sole).
65. Salmone alla Genovese (Salmon).
66. Salmone alla Perigo (Salmon).
67. Salmone alla giardiniera (Salmon).
68. Salmone alla Farnese (Salmon).
69. Salmone alla Santa Fiorentina (Salmon).
70. Salmone alla Francesca (Salmon).
71. Fillets of Salmon in Papiliotte.
Beef, Mutton, Veal, Lamb, &c.
72. Manzo alla Certosina (Fillet of Beef).
73. Stufato alla Fiorentina (Stewed Beef).
74. Coscia di Manzo al Forno (Rump Steak).
75. Polpettine alla Salsa Piccante (Beef Olives).
76. Stufato alla Milanese (Stewed Beef).
77. Manzo Marinato Arrosto (Marinated Beef).
78. Manzo con sugo di Barbabietole (Fillet of Beef).
79. Manzo in Insalata (Marinated Beef).
80. Filetto di Bue con Pistacchi (Fillets of Beef with Pistacchios).
81. Scalopini di Rizo (Beef with Risotto).
82. Tenerumi alla Piemontese (Tendons of Veal).
83. Bragiuole di Vitello (Veal Cutlets).
84. Costolette alla Monza (Veal Cutlets).
85. Vitello alla Pellegrina (Breast of Veal).
86. Frittura Piccata al Marsala (Fillet of Veal).
87. Polpettine Distese (Veal Olives).
88. Coste di Vitello Imboracciate (Ribs of Veal).
89. Costolette di Montone alla Nizzarda (Mutton Cutlets).
90. Petto di Castrato all'Italiana (Breast of Mutton).
91. Petto di Castrato alla Salsa piccante (Breast of Mutton).
92. Tenerumi d' Agnello alla Villeroy (Tendons of Lamb).
93. Tenerumi d' Agnello alla Veneziana (Tendons of Lamb).
94. Costoletto d'Agnello alla Costanza (Lamb Cutlets).
Tongue, Sweetbread, Calf's Head, Liver, Sucking Pig, &c.
95. Timballo alla Romana.
96. Timballo alla Lombarda.
97. Lingua alla Visconti (Tongue).
98. Lingua di Manzo al Citriuoli (Tongue with Cucumber).
99. Lingue di Castrato alla Cuciniera (Sheep's Tongues).
100.. Lingue di Vitello all'Italiana (Calves' Tongues).
101. Porcelletto alla Corradino (Sucking Pig).
102. Porcelletto da Latte in Galantina (Sucking Pig).
103. Ateletti alla Sarda.
1O4. Ateletti alla Genovese.
105. Testa di Vitello alla Sorrentina (Calf's Head).
106. Testa di Vitello con Salsa Napoletana (Calf's head).
107. Testa di Vitello alla Pompadour (Calf's Head).
108. Testa di Vitello alla Sanseverino (Calf's Head).
109. Testa di Vitello in Frittata (Calf's Head).
110. Zampetti (Calves' Feet).
111. Bodini Marinati.
112. Animelle alla Parmegiana (Sweetbread).
113. Animelle in Cartoccio (Sweetbread).
114. Animelle all'Italiana (Sweetbread).
115. Animelle Lardellate (Sweetbread).
116. Frittura di Bottoni e di Animelle (Sweetbreads and
117. Cervello in Filiserbe (Calf's Brains).
118. Cervello alla Milanese (Calf's Brains).
119. Cervello alla Villeroy (Calf's Brains).
120. Frittuta of Cervello (Calf's Brains).
121. Cervello alla Frittata Montano (Calf's Brains).
122. Marinata di Cervello alla Villeroy (Calf's Brains).
123. Minuta alla Milanese (Lamb's Sweetbread).
124. Animelle al Sapor di Targone (Lamb's Fry).
125. Fritto Misto alla Villeroy.
126. Fritto Misto alla Piemontese.
127. Minuta di Fegatini (Ragout of Fowls' Livers).
128. Minuta alla Visconti (Chickens' Livers).
129. Croutons alla Principessa.
130. Croutons alla Romana.
Fowl, Duck, Game, Hare, Rabbit, &c.
131. Soffiato di Cappone (Fowl Souffle).
132. Pollo alla Fiorentina (Chicken).
133. Pollo ali'Oliva (Chicken).
134. Pollo alla Villereccia (Chicken).
135. Pollo alla Cacciatora (Chicken).
136. Pollastro alla Lorenese (Fowl).
137. Pollastro in Fricassea al Burro (Fowl).
138. Pollastro in istufa di Pomidoro (Braized Fowl).
139. Cappone con Riso (Capon with Rice).
140. Dindo Arrosto alla Milanese (Roast Turkey).
141. Tacchinotto all'Istriona (Turkey Poult).
142. Fagiano alla Napoletana (Pheasant).
143. Fagiano alla Perigo (Pheasant).
144. Anitra Selvatica (Wild Duck).
145. Perniciotti alla Gastalda (Partridges).
146. Piccioni alla Diplomatica (Snipe).
147. Piccioni alla minute (Pigeons)
148. Piccioni in Ripieno (Stuffed Pigeons).
149. Lepre in istufato (Stewed Hare).
150. Lepre Agro-dolce (Hare).
151. Coniglio alla Provenzale (Rabbit).
152. Coniglio arrostito alla Corradino (Roast Rabbit).
153. Coniglio in salsa Piccante (Rabbit).
154. Asparagi alla salsa Suprema (Asparagus).
155. Cavoli di Bruxelles alla Savoiarda (Brussels Sprouts).
156. Barbabietola alla Parmigiana (Beetroot).
157. Fave alla Savoiarda (Beans).
158. Verze alla Capuccina (Cabbage).
159. Cavoli fiori alla Lionese (Cauliflower).
160. Cavoli fiori fritti (Cauliflower).
161. Cauliflower alla Parmigiana.
162. Cavoli Fiori Ripieni.
163. Sedani alla l'armigiana (Celery).
164. Sedani Fritti all'Italiana (Celery).
165. Cetriuoli alla Parmigiana (Cucumber).
166. Cetriuoli alla Borghese (Cucumber).
167. Carote al sughillo (Carrots).
168. Carote e piselli alla panna (Carrots and peas).
169. Verze alla Certosina (Cabbage).
170. Lattughe al sugo (Lettuce).
171. Lattughe farcite alla Genovese (Lettuce).
172. Funghi cappelle infarcite (Stuffed Mushrooms).
173. Verdure miste (Macedoine of Vegetables).
174. Patate alla crema (Potatoes in cream).
175. Cestelline cli patate alla giardiniera (Potatoes).
176. Patate al Pomidoro (Potatoes with Tomato Sauce).
177. Spinaci alla Milanese (Spinach).
178. Insalata di patate (Potato salad).
179. Insalata alla Navarino (Salad).
180. Insalata di pomidoro (Tomato Salad).
181. Tartufi alla Dino (Truffles).
Macaroni, Rice, Polenta, All Other Italian Pastes
182. Macaroni with Tomatoes Macaroni alla Casalinga.
183. Macaroni al Sughillo.
184. Macaroni alla Livornese.
186. Tagliarelle and Lobster.
188. Polenta Pasticciata.
190. Risotto all'Italiana.
191. Risotto alla Genoxese.
192. Risotto alla Spagnuola.
193. Risotto alla Capuccina.
194. Risotto alla Parigina.
196. Ravioli alla Fiorentina.
197. Gnoechi alla Romana.
198. Gnoechi alla Lombarda.
199. Frittata di Riso (Savoury Rice Pancake).
Omelettes and Other Egg Dishes
200. Uova ai Tartufi (Eggs with Truffles).
201. Uova al Pomidoro (Eggs and Tomatoes).
202. Uova ripiene (Canapes of Egg).
203. Uova alla Fiorentina (Eggs).
204. Uova in fili (Egg Canapes).
205. Frittata di funghi (Mushroom Omelette).
206. Frittata eon Pomidoro (Tomato Omelette).
207. Frittata con Asparagi (Asparagus Omelette).
208. Frittata eon erbe (Omelette with Herbs).
209. Frittata Montata (Omelette Souffle').
210. Frittata di Proseiutto (Ham Omelette).
Sweets and Cakes
211. Bodino off Semolina.
212. Crema rappresa (Coffee Cream).
213. Crema Montata alle Fragole (Strawberry Cream).
214. Croccante di Mandorle (Cream Nougat).
215. Crema tartara alla Caramella (Caramel Cream).
216. Cremona Cake.
217. Cake alla Tolentina.
218. Riso all'Imperatrice.
219. Amaretti leggier (Almond Cakes).
220. Cakes alla Livornese.
221. Genoese Pastry.
223. Iced Zabajone.
224. Panforte di Siena (Sienese Hardbake).
New Century Sauce
225. Fish Sauce.
226. Sauce Piquante (for Meat, Fowl, Game, Rabbit, &c.).
227. Sauce for Venison, Hare, &c.
228. Tomato Sauce Piquante.
229. Sauce for Roast Pork, Ham, &c.
230. For masking Cutlets, &c.
The Cook's Decameron
The Marchesa di Sant'Andrea finished her early morning cup of tea,
and then took up the batch of correspondence which her maid had
placed on the tray. The world had a way of treating her in kindly
fashion, and hostile or troublesome letters rarely veiled their
ugly faces under the envelopes addressed to her; wherefore the
perfection of that pleasant half-hour lying between the last sip of
tea and the first step to meet the new day was seldom marred by the
perusal of her morning budget. The apartment which she graced with her
seemly presence was a choice one in the Mayfair Hotel, one
which she had occupied for the past four or five years during her
spring visit to London; a visit undertaken to keep alive a number
of pleasant English friendships which had begun in Rome or Malta.
London had for her the peculiar attraction it has for so many
Italians, and the weeks she spent upon its stones were commonly the
happiest of the year.
The review she took of her letters before breaking the seals first
puzzled her, and then roused certain misgivings in her heart. She
recognised the handwriting of each of the nine addresses, and at
the same time recalled the fact that she was engaged to dine with
every one of the correspondents of this particular morning. Why
should they all be writing to her? She had uneasy forebodings of
postponement, and she hated to have her engagements disturbed; but
it was useless to prolong suspense, so she began by opening the
envelope addressed in the familiar handwriting of Sir John
Oglethorpe, and this was what Sir John had to say--
"My Dear Marchesa, words, whether written or spoken, are powerless
to express my present state of mind. In the first place, our
dinner on Thursday is impossible, and in the second, I have lost
Narcisse and forever. You commented favourably upon that supreme
of lobster and the Ris de Veau a la Renaissance we tasted last
week, but never again will you meet the handiwork of Narcisse. He
came to me with admirable testimonials as to his artistic
excellence; with regard to his moral past I was, I fear, culpably
negligent, for I now learn that all the time he presided over my
stewpans he was wanted by the French police on a charge of
murdering his wife. A young lady seems to have helped him; so I
fear Narcisse has broken more than one of the commandments in this
final escapade. The truly great have ever been subject to these
momentary aberrations, and Narcisse being now in the hands of
justice--so called--our dinner must needs stand over, though not, I
hope, for long. Meantime the only consolation I can perceive is
the chance of a cup of tea with you this afternoon.
Sir John Oglethorpe had been her husband's oldest and best friend.
He and the Marchesa had first met in Sardinia, where they had both
of them gone in pursuit of woodcock, and since the Marchesa had
been a widow, she and Sir John had met either in Rome or in London
every year. The dinner so tragically manque had been arranged to
assemble a number of Anglo-Italian friends; and, as Sir John was as
perfect as a host as Narcisse was as a cook, the disappointment was
a heavy one. She threw aside the letter with a gesture of
vexation, and opened the next.
"Sweetest Marchesa," it began, "how can I tell you my grief at
having to postpone our dinner for Friday. My wretched cook (I gave
her seventy-five pounds a year), whom I have long suspected of
intemperate habits, was hopelessly inebriated last night, and had
to be conveyed out of the house by my husband and a dear, devoted
friend who happened to be dining with us, and deposited in a four-
wheeler. May I look in tomorrow afternoon and pour out my grief to
you? Yours cordially,
"Pamela St. Aubyn Fothergill."
When the Marchesa had opened four more letters, one from Lady
Considine, one from Mrs. Sinclair, one from Miss Macdonnell, and
one from Mrs. Wilding, and found that all these ladies were obliged
to postpone their dinners on account of the misdeeds of their
cooks, she felt that the laws of average were all adrift. Surely
the three remaining letters must contain news of a character to
counterbalance what had already been revealed, but the event showed
that, on this particular morning, Fortune was in a mood to strike
hard. Colonel Trestrail, who gave in his chambers carefully devised
banquets, compounded by a Bengali who was undoubtedly something of
a genius, wrote to say that this personage had left at a day's
notice, in order to embrace Christianity and marry a lady's-maid
who had just come into a legacy of a thousand pounds under the will
of her late mistress. Another correspondent, Mrs. Gradinger, wrote
that her German cook had announced that the dignity of womanhood
was, in her opinion, slighted by the obligation to prepare food for
others in exchange for mere pecuniary compensation. Only on
condition of the grant of perfect social equality would she consent
to stay, and Mrs. Gradinger, though she held advanced opinions, was
hardly advanced far enough to accept this suggestion. Last of all,
Mr. Sebastian van der Roet was desolate to announce that his cook,
a Japanese, whose dishes were, in his employer's estimation,
absolute inspirations, had decamped and taken with him everything
of value he could lay hold of; and more than desolate, that he was
forced to postpone the pleasure of welcoming the Marchesa di
Sant' Andrea at his table.
When she had finished reading this last note, the Marchesa gathered
the whole mass of her morning's correspondence together, and
uttering a few Italian words which need not be translated, rolled
it into a ball and hurled the same to the farthest corner of the
room. "How is it," she ejaculated, "that these English, who
dominate the world abroad, cannot get their food properly cooked at
home? I suppose it is because they, in their lofty way, look upon
cookery as a non-essential, and consequently fall victims to gout
and dyspepsia, or into the clutches of some international
brigandaccio, who declares he is a cordon bleu. One hears now and
again pleasant remarks about the worn-out Latin races, but I know
of one Latin race which can do better than this in cookery." And
having thus delivered herself, the Marchesa lay back on the pillows
and reviewed the situation.
She was sorry in a way to miss the Colonel's dinner. The dishes
which the Bengali cook turned out were excellent, but the host
himself was a trifle dictatorial and too fond of the sound of his
own voice, while certain of the inevitable guests were still worse.
Mrs. Gradinger's letter came as a relief; indeed the Marchesa had
been wondering why she had ever consented to go and pretend to
enjoy herself by eating an ill-cooked dinner in company with social
reformers and educational prigs. She really went because she liked
Mr. Gradinger, who was as unlike his wife as possible, a stout
youth of forty, with a breezy manner and a decided fondness for
sport. Lady Considine's dinners were indifferent, and the guests
were apt to be a bit too smart and too redolent of last season's
Monte Carlo odour. The Sinclairs gave good dinners to perfectly
selected guests, and by reason of this virtue, one not too common,
the host and hostess might be pardoned for being a little too well
satisfied with themselves and with their last new bibelot. The
Fothergill dinners were like all other dinners given by the
Fothergills of society. They were costly, utterly undistinguished,
and invariably graced by the presence of certain guests who seemed
to have been called in out of the street at the last moment. Van
der Roet's Japanese menus were curious, and at times inimical to
digestion, but the personality of the host was charming. As to Sir
John Oglethorpe, the question of the dinner postponed troubled her
little: another repast, the finest that London's finest restaurant
could furnish, would certainly be forthcoming before long. In Sir
John's case, her discomposure took the form of sympathy for her
friend in his recent bereavement. He had been searching all his
life for a perfect cook, and he had found, or believed he had
found, such an one in Narcisse; wherefore the Marchesa was fully
persuaded that, if that artist should evade the guillotine, she
would again taste his incomparable handiwork, even though he were
suspected of murdering his whole family as well as the partner of
That same afternoon a number of the balked entertainers
foregathered in the Marchesa's drawing-room, the dominant subject
of discourse being the approaching dissolution of London society
from the refusal of one human to cook food for another. Those
present were gathered in two groups. In one the Colonel, in spite
of the recent desertion of his Oriental, was asserting that the
Government should be required to bring over consignments of
perfectly trained Indian cooks, and thus trim the balance between
dining room and kitchen; and to the other Mrs. Gradinger, a gaunt,
ill-dressed lady in spectacles, with a commanding nose and dull,
wispy hair, was proclaiming in a steady metallic voice, that it was
absolutely necessary to double the school rate at once in order to
convert all the girls and some of the boys as well, into perfectly
equipped food-cooking animals; but her audience gradually fell
away, and in an interval of silence the voice of the hostess was
heard giving utterance to a tentative suggestion.
"But, my dear, it is inconceivable that the comfort and the
movement of society should depend on the humours of its servants.
I don't blame them for refusing to cook if they dislike cooking,
and can find other work as light and as well paid; but, things
being as they are, I would suggest that we set to work somehow to
make ourselves independent of cooks."
"That 'somehow' is the crux, my dear Livia," said Mrs. Sinclair.
"I have a plan of my own, but I dare not breathe it, for I'm sure
Mrs. Gradinger would call it 'anti-social,' whatever that may
"I should imagine that it is a term which might be applied to any
scheme which robs society of the ministrations of its cooks," said
"I have heard mathematicians declare that what is true of the whole
is true of its parts," said the Marchesa. "I daresay it is, but I
never stopped to inquire. I will amplify on my own account, and
lay down that what is true of the parts must be true of the whole.
I'm sure that sounds quite right. Now I, as a unit of society, am
independent of cooks because I can cook myself, and if all the
other units were independent, society itself would be independent--
"To speak in this tone of a serious science like Euclid seems
rather frivolous," said Mrs. Gradinger. "I may observe--" but here
mercifully the observation was checked by the entry of Mrs. St.
She was a handsome woman, always dominated by an air of serious
preoccupation, sumptuously, but not tastefully dressed. In the
social struggle upwards, wealth was the only weapon she possessed,
and wealth without dexterity has been known to fail before this.
She made efforts, indeed, to imitate Mrs. Sinclair in the
elegancies of menage, and to pose as a woman of mind after the
pattern of Mrs. Gradinger; but the task first named required too
much tact, and the other powers of endurance which she did not
"You'll have some tea, Mrs. Fothergill?" said the Marchesa. "It's
so good of you to have come."
"No, really, I can't take any tea; in fact, I couldn't take any
lunch out of vexation at having to put you off, my dear Marchesa."
"Oh, these accidents will occur. We were just discussing the best
way of getting round them," said the Marchesa. "Now, dear,"
--speaking to Mrs. Sinclair--"let's have your plan. Mrs. Gradinger
has fastened like a leech on the Canon and Mrs. Wilding, and won't
hear a word of what you have to say."
"Well, my scheme is just an amplification of your mathematical
illustrations, that we should all learn to cook for ourselves. I
regard it no longer as impossible, or even difficult, since you
have informed us that you are a mistress of the art. We'll start a
new school of cookery, and you shall teach us all you know."
"Ah, my dear Laura, you are like certain English women in the
hunting field. You are inclined to rush your fences," said the
Marchesa with a deprecatory gesture. "And just look at the people
gathered here in this room. Wouldn't they--to continue the horsey
metaphor--be rather an awkward team to drive?"
"Not at all, if you had them in suitable surroundings. Now,
supposing some beneficent millionaire were to lend us for a month
or so a nice country house, we might install you there as Mistress
of the stewpans, and sit at your feet as disciples," said Mrs.
"The idea seems first-rate," said Van der Roet; "and I suppose, if
we are good little boys and girls, and learn our lessons properly,
we may be allowed to taste some of our own dishes."
"Might not that lead to a confusion between rewards and
punishments?" said Sir John.
"If ever it comes to that," said Miss Macdonnell with a mischievous
glance out of a pair of dark, flashing Celtic eyes, "I hope that
our mistress will inspect carefully all pupils' work before we are
asked to eat it. I don't want to sit down to another of Mr. Van der
Roet's Japanese salads made of periwinkles and wallflowers."
"And we must first catch our millionaire," said the Colonel.
During these remarks Mrs. Fothergill had been standing "with parted
lips and straining eyes," the eyes of one who is seeking to "cut in."
Now came her chance. "What a delightful idea dear Mrs. Sinclair's
is. We have been dreadfully extravagant this year over buying
pictures, and have doubled our charitable subscriptions, but I believe
I can still promise to act in a humble way the part of Mrs. Sinclair's
millionaire. We have just finished doing up the 'Laurestinas,' a little
place we bought last year, and it is quite at your service, Marchesa,
as soon as you liketo occupy it."
This unlooked-for proposition almost took away the Marchesa's
breath. "Ah, Mrs. Fothergill," she said, "it was Mrs. Sinclair's
plan, not mine. She kindly wishes to turn me into a cook for I know
not how long, just at the hottest season of the year, a fate I should
hardly have chosen for myself."
"My dear, it would be a new sensation, and one you would enjoy
beyond everything. I am sure it is a scheme every one here will hail
with acclamation," said Mrs. Sinclair. All other conversation had
now ceased, and the eyes of the rest of the company were fixed on the
speaker. "Ladies and gentlemen," she went on, "you have heard my
suggestion, and you have heard Mrs. Fothergill's most kind and
opportune offer of her country house as the seat of our school of
cookery. Such an opportunity is one in ten thousand. Surely all of
us---even the Marchesa--must see that it is one not to be neglected."
"I approve thoroughly," said Mrs. Gradinger; "the acquisition of
knowledge, even in so material a field as that of cookery, is always
a clear gain."
"It will give Gradinger a chance to put in a couple of days at Ascot,"
whispered Van der Roet.
"Where Mrs. Gradinger leads, all must follow," said Miss Macdonnell.
"Take the sense of the meeting, Mrs. Sinclair, before the Marchesa
has time to enter a protest."
"And is the proposed instructress to have no voice in the matter?"
said the Marchesa, laughing.
"None at all, except to consent," said Mrs. Sinclair; "you are going
to be absolute mistress over us for the next fortnight, so you
surely might obey just this once."
"You have been denouncing one of our cherished institutions,
Marchesa," said Lady Considine, "so I consider you are bound to help
us to replace the British cook by something better."
"If Mrs. Sinclair has set her heart on this interesting experiment.
You may as well consent at once, Marchesa," said the Colonel, "and
teach us how to cook, and--what may be a harder task--to teach us
to eat what other aspirants may have cooked."
"If this scheme really comes off," said Sir John, "I would suggest
that the Marchesa should always be provided with a plate of her own
up her sleeve--if I may use such an expression--so that any void in
the menu, caused by failure on the part of the under-skilled or
over-ambitious amateur, may be filled by what will certainly be a
"I shall back up Mrs. Sinclair's proposition with all my power,"
said Mrs. Wilding. "The Canon will be in residence at Martlebridge
for the next month, and I would much rather be learning cookery
under the Marchesa than staying with my brother-in-law at Ealing."
"You'll have to do it, Marchesa," said Van der Roet; "when a new
idea catches on like this, there's no resisting it."
"Well, I consent on one condition--that my rule shall be absolute,"
said the Marchesa, "and I begin my career as an autocrat by giving
Mrs. Fothergill a list of the educational machinery I shall want,
and commanding her to have them all ready by Tuesday morning, the
day on which I declare the school open."
A chorus of applause went up as soon as the Marchesa ceased
"Everything shall be ready," said Mrs. Fothergill, radiant with
delight that her offer had been accepted, "and I will put in a full
staff of servants selected from our three other establishments."
"Would it not be as well to send the cook home for a holiday?" said
the Colonel. "It might be safer, and lead to less broth being
"It seems," said Sir John, "that we shall be ten in number, and I
would therefore propose that, after an illustrious precedent, we
limit our operations to ten days. Then if we each produce one
culinary poem a day we shall, at the end of our time, have provided
the world with a hundred new reasons for enjoying life, supposing,
of course, that we have no failures. I propose, therefore, that
our society be called the 'New Decameron.'"
"Most appropriate," said Miss Macdonnell, "especially as it owes
its origin to an outbreak of plague--the plague in the kitchen."
The First Day
On the Tuesday morning the Marchesa travelled down to the
"Laurestinas," where she found that Mrs. Fothergill had been as
good as her word. Everything was in perfect order. The Marchesa
had notified to her pupils that they must report themselves that
same evening at dinner, and she took down with her her maid, one of
those marvellous Italian servants who combine fidelity with
efficiency in a degree strange to the denizens of more progressive
lands. Now, with Angelina's assistance, she proposed to set before
the company their first dinner all'Italiana, and the last they
would taste without having participated in the preparation. The
real work was to begin the following morning.
The dinner was both a revelation and a surprise to the majority of
the company. All were well travelled, and all had eaten of the
mongrel French dishes given at the "Grand" hotels of the principal
Italian cities, and some of them, in search of adventures, had
dined at London restaurants with Italian names over the doors,
where--with certain honourable exceptions--the cookery was
French, and not of the best, certain Italian plates being included
in the carte for a regular clientele, dishes which would always be
passed over by the English investigator, because he now read, or
tried to read, their names for the first time. Few of the
Marchesa's pupils had ever wandered away from the arid table d'hote
in Milan, or Florence, or Rome, in search of the ristorante at
which the better class of townsfolk were wont to take their
colazione. Indeed, whenever an Englishman does break fresh ground
in this direction, he rarely finds sufficient presence of mind to
controvert the suggestions of the smiling minister who, having
spotted his Inglese, at once marks down an omelette aux fines
herbes and a biftek aux pommes as the only food such a creature can
consume. Thus the culinary experiences of Englishmen in Italy have
led to the perpetuation of the legend that the traveller can indeed
find decent food in the large towns, "because the cooking there is
all French, you know," but that, if he should deviate from the
beaten track, unutterable horrors, swimming in oil and reeking with
garlic, would be his portion. Oil and garlic are in popular
English belief the inseparable accidents of Italian cookery, which
is supposed to gather its solitary claim to individuality from the
never-failing presence of these admirable, but easily abused, gifts
"You have given us a delicious dinner, Marchesa," said Mrs. Wilding
as the coffee appeared. "You mustn't think me captious in my
remarks--indeed it would be most ungracious to look a gift-dinner
in the--What are you laughing at, Sir John? I suppose I've done
something awful with my metaphors--mixed them up somehow."
"Everything Mrs. Wilding mixes will be mixed admirably, as
admirably, say, as that sauce which was served with the Manzo alla
Certosina," Sir John replied.
"That is said in your best style, Sir John," replied Mrs. Wilding;
"but what I was going to remark was, that I, as a poor parson's
wife, shall ask for some instruction in inexpensive cooking before
we separate. The dinner we have just eaten is surely only within
the reach of rich people."
"I wish some of the rich people I dine with could manage now and
then to reach a dinner as good," said the Colonel.
"I believe it is a generally received maxim, that if you want a
truth to be accepted you must repeat the same in season and out,
whenever you have the opportunity," said the Marchesa. "The
particular truth I have now in mind is the fact that Italian
cookery is the cookery of a poor nation, of people who have scant
means wherewith to purchase the very inferior materials they must
needs work with; and that they produce palatable food at all is, I
maintain, a proof that they bring high intelligence to the task.
Italian culinary methods have been developed in the struggle when
the cook, working with an allowance upon which an English cook
would resign at once, has succeeded by careful manipulation and the
study of flavouring in turning out excellent dishes made of fish
and meat confessedly inferior. Now, if we loosen the purse-strings
a little, and use the best English materials, I affirm that we
shall achieve a result excellent enough to prove that Italian
cookery is worthy to take its stand beside its great French rival.
I am glad Mrs. Wilding has given me an opportunity to impress upon
you all that its main characteristics are simplicity and cheapness,
and I can assure her that, even if she should reproduce the most
costly dishes of our course, she will not find any serious increase
in her weekly bills. When I use the word simplicity, I allude, of
course, to everyday cooking. Dishes of luxury in any school require
elaboration, care, and watchfulness."
Menu -- Dinner*
Zuppa d'uova alla Toscana. Tuscan egg-soup.
Sogliole alla Livornese. Sole alla Livornese.
Manzo alla Certosina. Fillet of beef, Certosina sauce.
Minuta alla Milanese. Chickens' livers alla Milanese.
Cavoli fiodi ripieni. Cauliflower with forcemeat.
Cappone arrosto con insalata. Roast capon with salad.
Zabajone. Spiced custard.
Uova al pomidoro. Eggs and tomatoes.
*The recipes for the dishes contained in all these menus will be
found in the second part of the book. The limits of the seasons
have necessarily been ignored.
The Second Day
Wednesday's luncheon was anticipated with some curiosity, or even
searchings of heart, as in it would appear the first-fruits of the
hand of the amateur. The Marchesa wisely restricted it to two
dishes, for the compounding of which she requisitioned the services
of Lady Considine, Mrs. Sinclair, and the Colonel. The others she
sent to watch Angelina and her circle while they were preparing the
vegetables and the dinner entrees. After the luncheon dishes had
been discussed, they were both proclaimed admirable. It was a true
bit of Italian finesse on the part of the Marchesa to lay a share
of the responsibility of the first meal upon the Colonel, who was
notoriously the most captious and the hardest to please of all the
company; and she did even more than make him jointly responsible,
for she authorised him to see to the production of a special curry
of his own invention, the recipe for which he always carried in his
pocket-book, thus letting India share with Italy in the honours of
the first luncheon.
"My congratulations to you on your curry, Colonel Trestrail," said
Miss Macdonnell. "You haven't followed the English fashion of
flavouring a curry by emptying the pepper-pot into the dish?"
"Pepper properly used is the most admirable of condiments," the
"Why this association of the Colonel and pepper?" said Van der
Roet. "In this society we ought to be as nice in our phraseology
as in our flavourings, and be careful to eschew the incongruous.
You are coughing, Mrs. Wilding. Let me give you some water."
"I think it must have been one of those rare grains of the
Colonel's pepper, for you must have a little pepper in a curry,
mustn't you, Colonel? Though, as Miss Macdonnell says, English
cooks generally overdo it."
"Vander is in one of his pleasant witty moods," said the Colonel,
"but I fancy I know as much about the use of pepper as he does
about the use of oil colours; and now we have, got upon art
criticism, I may remark, my dear Vander, I have been reminded that
you have been poaching on my ground. I saw a landscape of yours
the other day, which looked as if some of my curry powder had got
into the sunset. I mean the one poor blind old Wilkins bought at
your last show."
"Ah, but that sunset was an inspiration, Colonel, and consequently
beyond your comprehension."
"It is easy to talk of inspiration," said Sir John, "and, perhaps,
now that we are debating a matter of real importance, we might
spend our time more profitably than in discussing what is and what
is not a good picture. Some inspiration has been brought into our
symposium, I venture to affirm that the brain which devised and the
hand which executed the Tenerumi di Vitello we have just tasted,
were both of them inspired. In the construction of this dish there
is to be recognised a breath of the same afflatus which gave us the
Florentine campanile, and the Medici tombs, and the portrait of
Monna Lisa. When we stand before any one of these masterpieces, we
realise at a glance how keen must have been the primal insight, and
how strenuous the effort necessary for the evolution of so
consummate an achievement; and, with the savour of the Tenerumi di
Vitello still fresh, I feel that it deserves to be added to the
list of Italian capo lavori. Now, as I was not fortunate enough to
be included in the pupils' class this morning, I must beg the next
time the dish is presented to us -- and I imagine all present will
hail its renaissance with joy -- that I may be allowed to lend a
hand, or even a finger, in its preparation."
"Veal, with the possible exception of Lombard beef, is the best
meat we get in Italy," said the Marchesa, "so an Italian cook, when
he wants to produce a meat dish of the highest excellence,
generally turns to veal as a basis. I must say that the breast of
veal, which is the part we had for lunch today, is a somewhat
insipid dish when cooked English fashion. That we have been able
to put it before you in more palatable form, and to win for it the
approval of such a connoisseur as Sir John Oglethorpe, is largely
owing to the judicious use of that Italian terror--more dire to
many English than paper-money or brigands--garlic."
"The quantity used was infinitesimal," said Mrs. Sinclair, "but it
seems to have been enough to subdue what I once heard Sir John
describe as the pallid solidity of the innocent calf."
"I fear the vein of incongruity in our discourse, lately noted by
Van der Roet, is not quite exhausted," said Sir John. "The Colonel
was up in arms on account of a too intimate association of his name
with pepper, and now Mrs. Sinclair has bracketed me with the calf,
a most useful animal, I grant, but scarcely one I should have
chosen as a yokefellow; but this is a digression. To return to our
veal. I had a notion that garlic had something to do with the
triumph of the Tenerumi, and, this being the case, I think it would
be well if the Marchesa were to give us a dissertation on the use
of this invaluable product."
"As Mrs. Sinclair says, the admixture of garlic in the dish in
question was a very small one, and English people somehow never
seem to realise that garlic must always be used sparingly. The
chief positive idea they have of its characteristics is that which
they gather from the odour of a French or Italian crowd of peasants
at a railway station. The effect of garlic, eaten in lumps as an
accompaniment to bread and cheese, is naturally awful, but garlic
used as it should be used is the soul, the divine essence, of
cookery. The palate delights in it without being able to identify
it, and the surest proof of its charm is manifested by the flatness
and insipidity which will infallibly characterise any dish usually
flavoured with it, if by chance this dish should be prepared
without it. The cook who can employ it successfully will be found
to possess the delicacy of perception, the accuracy of judgment,
and the dexterity of hand, which go to the formation of a great
artist. It is a primary maxim, and one which cannot be repeated
too often, that garlic must never be cut up and used as part of the
material of any dish. One small incision should be made in the
clove, which should be put into the dish during the process of
cooking, and allowed to remain there until the cook's palate gives
warning that flavour enough has been extracted. Then it must be
taken out at once. This rule does not apply in equal degree to the
use of the onion, the large mild varieties of which may be cooked
and eaten in many excellent bourgeois dishes; but in all fine
cooking, where the onion flavour is wanted, the same treatment
which I have prescribed for garlic must be followed."
The Marchesa gave the Colonel and Lady Considine a holiday that
afternoon, and requested Mrs. Gradinger and Van der Roet to attend
in the kitchen to help with the dinner. In the first few days of
the session the main portion of the work naturally fell upon the
Marchesa and Angelina, and in spite of the inroads made upon their
time by the necessary directions to the neophytes, and of the
occasional eccentricities of the neophytes' energies, the dinners
and luncheons were all that could be desired. The Colonel was not
quite satisfied with the flavour of one particular soup, and Mrs.
Gradinger was of opinion that one of the entrees, which she wanted
to superintend herself, but which the Marchesa handed over to Mrs.
Sinclair, had a great deal too much butter in its composition.
Her conscience revolted at the action of consuming in one dish
enough butter to solace the breakfast-table of an honest working
man for two or three days; but the faintness of these criticisms
seemed to prove that every one was well satisfied with the
rendering of the menu of the day.
Menu -- Lunch
Tenerumi di Vitello. Breast of veal.
Piccione alla minute. Pigeons, braized with liver, &c.
Menu -- Dinner
Zuppa alla nazionale. Soup alla nazionale.
Salmone alla Genovese. Salmon alla Genovese.
Costolette alla Costanza. Mutton cutlets alla Costanza.
Fritto misto alla Villeroy. Lamb's fry alla Villeroy.
Lattughe al sugo. Stuffed Lettuce.
Dindo arrosto alla Milanese. Roast turkey alla Milanese.
Crema montata alle fragole. Strawberry cream.
Tartufi alla Dino. Truffles alla Dino.
The Third Day
"I observe, dear Marchesa," said Mrs. Fothergill at breakfast on
Thursday morning, "that we still follow the English fashion in our
breakfast dishes. I have a notion that, in this particular
especially, we gross English show our inferiority to the more
spirituelles nations of the Continent, and I always feel a new
being after the light meal of delicious coffee and crisp bread and
delicate butter the first morning I awake in dear Paris."
"I wonder how it happens, then, that two goes of fish, a plateful
of omelette, and a round and a half of toast and marmalade are
necessary to repair the waste of tissue in dear England?" Van der
Roet whispered to Miss Macdonnell.
"It must be the gross air of England or the gross nature of the--"
The rest of Miss Macdonnell's remark was lost, as the Marchesa
cried out in answer to Mrs. Fothergill, "But why should we have
anything but English breakfast dishes in England? The defects of
English cookery are manifest enough, but breakfast fare is not
amongst them. In these England stands supreme; there is nothing to
compare with them, and they possess the crowning merit of being
entirely compatible with English life. I cannot say whether it may
be the effect of the crossing, or of the climate on this side, or
that the air of England is charged with some subtle stimulating
quality, given off in the rush and strain of strenuous national
life, but the fact remains that as soon as I find myself across the
Channel I want an English breakfast. It seems that I am more
English than certain of the English themselves, and I am sorry that
Mrs. Fothergill has been deprived of her French roll and butter. I
will see that you have it to-morrow, Mrs. Fothergill, and to make
the illusion complete, I will order it to be sent to your room."
"Oh no, Marchesa, that would be giving too much trouble, and I am
sure you want all the help in the house to carry out the service as
exquisitely as you do," said Mrs. Fothergill hurriedly, and
blushing as well as her artistic complexion would allow.
"I fancy," said Mrs. Sinclair, "that foreigners are taking to
English breakfasts as well as English clothes. I noticed when I
was last in Milan that almost every German or Italian ate his two
boiled eggs for breakfast, the sign whereby the Englishman used to
be marked for a certainty."
"The German would probably call for boiled eggs when abroad on
account of the impossibility of getting such things in his own
country. No matter how often you send to the kitchen for properly
boiled eggs in Germany, the result is always the same cold slush,"
said Mrs. Wilding; "and I regret to find that the same plague is
creeping into the English hotels which are served by German
"That is quite true," said the Marchesa; "but in England we have no
time to concern ourselves with mere boiled eggs, delicious as they
are. The roll of delicacies is long enough, or even too long
without them. When I am in England, I always lament that we have
only seven days a week and one breakfast a day, and when I am in
Italy I declare that the reason why the English have overrun the
world is because they eat such mighty breakfasts. Considering how
good the dishes are, I wonder the breakfasts are not mightier than
"It always strikes me that our national barrenness of ideas appears
as plainly in our breakfasts as anywhere," said Mrs. Gradinger.
"There is a monotony about them which--"
"Monotony!" interrupted the Colonel. "Why, I could dish you up a
fresh breakfast every day for a month. Your conservative
tendencies must be very strong, Mrs. Gradinger, if they lead you to
"Conservative! On the contrary, I--that is, my husband--always
votes for Progressive candidates at every election," said Mrs.
Gradinger, dropping into her platform intonation, at the sound of
which consternation arose in every breast. "I have, moreover, a
theory that we might reform our diet radically, as well as all
other institutions; but before I expound this, I should like to say
a few words on the waste of wholesome food which goes on. For
instance, I went for a walk in the woods yesterday afternoon, where
I came upon a vast quantity of fungi which our ignorant middle
classes would pronounce to be poisonous, but which I--in common
with every child of the intelligent working-man educated in a board
school where botany is properly taught--knew to be good for food."
"Excuse me one moment," said Sir John, "but do they really use
board-school children as tests to see whether toadstools are
poisonous or not?"
"I do not think anything I said justified such an inference," said
Mrs. Gradinger in the same solemn drawl; "but I may remark that the
children are taught from illustrated manuals accurately drawn and
coloured. Well, to come back to the fungi, I took the trouble to
measure the plot on which they were growing, and found it just ten
yards square. The average weight of edible fungus per square yard
was just an ounce, or a hundred and twelve pounds per acre. Now,
there must be at least twenty millions of acres in the United
Kingdom capable of producing these fungi without causing the
smallest damage to any other crop, wherefore it seems that, owing
to our lack of instruction, we are wasting some million tons of
good food per annum; and I may remark that this calculation pre-
supposes, that each fungus springs only once in the season; but I
have reason to believe that certain varieties would give five or
six gatherings between May and October, so the weight produced
would be enormously greater than the quantity I have named."
Here Mrs. Gradinger paused to finish her coffee, which was getting
cold, and before she could resume, Sir John had taken up the
parole. "I think the smaller weight will suffice for the present,
until the taste for strange fungi has developed, or the pressure of
population increased. And before stimulating a vastly increased
supply, it will be necessary to extirpate the belief that all
fungi, except the familiar mushroom, are poisonous, and perhaps to
appoint an army of inspectors to see that only the right sort are
brought to market."
"Yes, and that will give pleasant and congenial employment to those
youths of the working-classes who are ambitious of a higher career
than that of their fathers," said Lady Considine, "and the
ratepayers will rejoice, no doubt, that they are participating in
the general elevation of the masses."
"Perhaps Mrs. Gradinger will gather a few of her less deadly fungi,
and cook them and eat them herself, pour encourager les autres,"
said Miss Macdonnell. "Then, if she doesn't die in agonies, we may
all forswear beef and live on toadstools."
"I certainly will," said Mrs. Gradinger; "and before we rise from
table I should like--"
"I fear we must hear your remarks at dinner, Mrs. Gradinger," said
the Marchesa. "Time is getting on, and some of the dishes to-day
are rather elaborate, so now to the kitchen."
Menu -- Lunch.
Risotto alla Genovese. Savoury rice.
Pollo alla Villereccia. Chicken alla Villereccia.
Lingue di Castrato alla cucinira. Sheeps' tongues alla cucinira.
Menu -- Dinner
Zuppa alla Veneziana. Venetian soup.
Sogliole alla giardiniera. Sole with Vegetables.
Timballo alla Romana. Roman pie.
Petto di Castrato alla salsa di burro. Breast of mutton with butter sauce.
Verdure miste. Mixed vegetables.
Crema rappresa. Coffee cream.
Ostriche alla Veneziana. Oyster savoury.
THE FOURTH DAY
THE Colonel was certainly the most severely critical member of the
company. Up to the present juncture he had been sparing of
censure, and sparing of praise likewise, but on this day, after
lunch, he broke forth into loud praise of the dish of beef which
appeared in the menu. After specially commending this dish he went
"It seems to me that the dinner of yesterday and to-day's
lunch bear the cachet of a fresh and admirable school of cookery.
In saying this I don't wish to disparage the traditions which have
governed the preparation of the delicious dishes put before us up
to that date, which I have referred to as the parting of the ways,
the date when the palate of the expert might detect a new hand upon
the keys, a phrase once employed, I believe, with regard to some
man who wrote poetry. To meet an old friend, or a thoroughly
tested dish, is always pleasant, but old friends die or fall out,
and old favourite dishes may come to pall at last; and for this
reason I hold that the day which brings us a new friend or a new
dish ought to be marked with white chalk."
"And I think some wise man once remarked," said Sir John, "that
the discovery of a dish is vastly more important than the discovery
of a star, for we have already as many stars as we can possibly
require, but we can never have too many dishes."
"I was wondering whether any one would detect the variations I
made yesterday, but I need not have wondered, with such an expert
at table as Colonel Trestrail," said the Marchesa with a laugh.
"Well, the Colonel has found me out; but from the tone of his
remarks I think I may hope for his approval. At any rate, I'm sure
he won't move a vote of censure."
"If he does, we'll pack him off to town, and sentence him to dine
at his club every day for a month," said Lady Considine.
"What crime has this particular club committed?" said Mrs.
Sinclair in a whisper.
"Vote of censure! Certainly not," said the Colonel, with an angry
ring in his voice. Mrs. Sinclair did not love him, and had
calculated accurately the carrying power of her whisper. "That
would be the basest ingratitude. I must, however, plead guilty to
an attack of curiosity, and therefore I beg you, Marchesa, to let
us into the secret of your latest inspiration."
"Its origin was commonplace enough," said the Marchesa, "but in a
way interesting. Once upon a time--more years ago than I care to
remember--I was strolling about the Piazza Navona in Rome, and
amusing myself by going from one barrow to another, and turning
over the heaps of rubbish with which they were stocked. All the
while I was innocently plagiarising that fateful walk of Browning's
round the Riccardi Palace in Florence, the day when he bought for a
lira the Romana homocidiorum. The world knows what was the outcome
of Browning's purchase, but it will probably never fathom the full
effect of mine. How do his lines run?"
I picked the book from. Five compeers in flank
Stood left and right of it as tempting more--
A dog's-eared Spicilegium, the fond tale
O' the frail one of the Flower, by young Dumas,
Vulgarised Horace for the use of schools,
The Life, Death, Miracles of Saint Somebody,
Saint Somebody Else, his Miracles, Death and Life."
"Well, the choice which lay before me on one particular barrow was
fully as wide, or perhaps wider than that which met the poet's eye,
but after I had espied a little yellow paper-covered book with the
title La Cucina Partenopea, overo il Paradiso dei gastronomi, I
looked no farther. What infinite possibilities of pleasure might
lie hidden under such a name. I secured it, together with the
Story of Barlaam and Josaphat, for thirty-five centesimi, and
handed over the coins to the hungry-eyed old man in charge, who
regretted, I am sure, when he saw the eager look upon my face, that
he had not marked the books a lira at least. I should now be a
rich woman if I had spent all the money I have spent as profitably
as those seven sold. Besides being a master in the art of cookery,
the author was a moral philosopher as well; and he addresses his
reader in prefatory words which bespeak a profound knowledge of
life. He writes: 'Though the time of man here on earth is passed
in a never-ending turmoil, which must make him often curse the
moment when he opened his eyes on such a world; though life itself
must often become irksome or even intolerable, nevertheless, by
God's blessing, one supreme consolation remains for this wretched
body of ours. I allude to that moment when, the forces being spent
and the stomach craving support, the wearied mortal sits down to
face a good dinner. Here is to be found an effectual balm for the
ills of life: something to drown all remembrance of our ill-
humours, the worries of business, or even family quarrels. In
sooth, it is only at table that a man may bid the devil fly away
with Solomon and all his wisdom, and give himself up to an earthly
delight, which is a pleasure and a profit at the same time.'"
"The circumstances under which this precious book was found seem to
suggest a culinary poem on the model of the 'Ring and the Book,"'
said Mrs. Sinclair, "or we might deal with the story in practical
shape by letting every one of us prepare the same dish. I fancy
the individual renderings of the same recipe would vary quite as
widely as the versions of the unsavoury story set forth in Mr.
Browning's little poem."
"I think we had better have a supplementary day for a trial of the
sort Mrs. Sinclair suggests," said Miss Macdonnell. "I speak with
the memory of a preparation of liver I tasted yesterday in the
kitchen--one of the dishes which did not appear at dinner."
"That is rather hard on the Colonel," said Van der Roet; "he did
his best, and now, see how hard he is trying to look as if he
didn't know what you are alluding to!"
"I never in all my life--" the Colonel began; but the Marchesa,
fearing a storm, interfered. "I have a lot more to tell you about
my little Neapolitan book," she went on, "and I will begin by
saying that, for the future, we cannot do better than make free use
of it. The author opens with an announcement that he means to give
exact quantities for every dish, and then, like a true Neapolitan,
lets quantities go entirely, and adopts the rule-of-thumb system.
And I must say I always find the question of quantities a difficult
one. Some books give exact measures, each dish being reckoned
enough for four persons, with instructions to increase the measures
in proportion to the additional number of diners but here a rigid
rule is impossible, for a dish which is to serve by itself, as a
supper or a lunch, must necessarily be bigger than one which merely
fills one place in a dinner menu. Quantities can be given
approximately in many cases, but flavouring must always be a
question of individual taste. Latitude must be allowed, for all
cooks who can turn out distinguished work will be found to be
endowed with imagination, and these, being artists, will never
consent to follow a rigid rule of quantity. To put it briefly,
cooks who need to be told everything, will never cook properly,
even if they be told more than everything. And after all, no one
takes seriously the quantities given by the chef of a millionaire
or a prince; witness the cook of the Prince de Soubise, who
demanded fifty hams for the sauces and garnitures of a single
supper, and when the Prince protested that there could not possibly
be found space for them all on the table, offered to put them all
into a glass bottle no bigger than his thumb. Some of
Francatelli's quantities are also prodigious, as, for instance,
when to make a simple glaze he calls for three pounds of gravy
beef, the best part of a ham, a knuckle of veal, an old hen, and
Menu -- Lunch
Maccheroni al sugillo. Macaroni with sausage and tomatoes.
Manzo in insalata. Beef, pressed and marinated.
Lingue di vitello all'Italiana. Calves' tongues.
Menu -- Dinner.
Zuppa alla Modanese. Modenese soup.
Merluzzo in salamoia. Cod with sauce piquante.
Pollastro in istufa di pomidoro. Stewed chicken with tomatoes.
Porcelletto farcito alla Corradino. Stuffed suckling pig.
Insalata alla Navarino. Navarino salad.
Bodino di semolino. Semolina pudding.
Frittura di cocozze. Fried cucumber.
The Fifth Day
The following day was very warm, and some half-dozen of the party
wandered into the garden after lunch and took their coffee under a
big chestnut tree on the lawn. "And this is the 16th of June,"
said Lady Considine. "Last year, on this very day, I started for
Hombourg. I can't say I feel like starting for Hombourg, or any
other place, just at present."
"But why should any one of us want to go to Hombourg?" said Sir
John. "Nobody can be afraid of gout with the admirable diet we
"I beg you to speak for yourself, Sir John," said Lady Considine.
"I have never yet gone to Hombourg on account of gout."
"Of course not, my dear friend, of course not; there are so many
reasons for going to Hombourg. There's the early rising, and the
band, and the new people one may meet there, and the change of
diet--especially the change of diet. But, you see, we have found
our change of diet within an hour of London, so why--as I before
remarked--should we want to rush off to Hombourg?"
"I am a firm believer in that change of diet," said Mrs. Wilding,
"though in the most respectable circles the true-bred Briton still
talks about foreign messes, and affirms that anything else than
plain British fare ruins the digestion. I must say my own
digestion is none the worse for the holiday I am having from the
preparations of my own 'treasure.' I think we all look remarkably
well; and we don't quarrel or snap at each other, and it would be
hard to find a better proof of wholesome diet than that."
"But I fancied Mrs. Gradinger looked a little out of sorts this
morning, and I'm sure she was more than a little out of temper when
I asked her how soon we were to taste her dish of toadstools," said
"I expect she had been making a trial of the British fungi in her
bedroom," said Van der Roet; "and then, you see, our conversation
isn't quite 'high toned' enough for her taste. We aren't
sufficiently awake to the claims of the masses. Can any one
explain to me why the people who are so full of mercy for the mass,
are so merciless to the unit?"
"That is her system of proselytising," said the Colonel, "and if
she is content with outward conversion, it isn't a bad one. I
often feel inclined to agree to any proposition she likes to put
forward, and I would, if I could stop her talking by my
"You wouldn't do that, Colonel, even in your suavest mood," said
Van der Roet; "but I hope somebody will succeed in checking her
flow of discourse before long. I'm getting worn to a shadow by the
grind of that awful voice."
"I thought your clothes were getting a bit loose," said the
Colonel, "but I put that phenomenon down to another reason. In
spite of Mrs. Wilding's praise of our present style of cooking, I
don't believe our friend Vander finds it substantial enough to
sustain his manly bulk, and I'll tell you the grounds of my belief.
A few mornings ago, when I was shaving, I saw the butcher bring
into the house a splendid sirloin, and as no sirloin has appeared
at table, I venture to infer that this joint was a private affair
of Vander's, and that he, as well as Mrs. Gradinger, has been going
in for bedroom cookery. Here comes the Marchesa; we'll ask her to
solve the mystery."
"I can account for the missing sirloin," said the Marchesa. "The
Colonel is wrong for once. It went duly into the kitchen, and not
to Mr. Van der Roet's bedroom; but I must begin with a slight
explanation, or rather apology. Next to trial by jury, and the
reverence paid to rank, and the horror of all things which, as poor
Corney Grain used to say, 'are not nice,' I reckon the Sunday
sirloin, cooked and served, one and indivisible as the typical
fetish of the great English middle class. With this fact before my
eyes, I can assure you I did not lightly lay a hand on its
integrity. My friends, you have eaten that sirloin without knowing
it. You may remember that yesterday after lunch the Colonel was
loud in praise of a dish of beef. Well, that beef was a portion of
the same, and not the best portion. The Manzo in insalata, which
pleased the Colonel's palate, was that thin piece at the lower end,
the chief function of which, when the sirloin is cooked whole,
seems to lie in keeping the joint steady on the dish while
paterfamilias carves it. It is never eaten in the dining-room hot,
because every one justly prefers and goes for the under cut;
neither does it find favour at lunch next day, for the reason that,
as cold beef, the upper cut is unapproachable. I have never heard
that the kitchen hankers after it inordinately; indeed, its
ultimate destination is one of the unexplained mysteries of
housekeeping. I hold that never, under any circumstances, should
it be cooked with the sirloin, but always cut off and marinated and
braized as we had it yesterday. Thus you get two hot dishes; our
particular sirloin has given us three. The parts of this joint
vary greatly in flavour, and in texture as well, and by
accentuating this variation by treatment in the kitchen, you escape
that monotony which is prone to pervade the table so long as the
sirloin remains in the house. Mrs. Sinclair is sufficiently
experienced as a housekeeper to know that the dish of fillets we
had for dinner last night was not made from the under cut of one
sirloin. It was by borrowing a little from the upper part that I
managed to fill the dish, and I'm sure that any one who may have
got one of the uppercut fillets had no cause to grumble. The
Filetto di Bue which we had for lunch to-day was the residue of the
upper cut, and, admirable as is a slice of cold beef taken from
this part of the joint, I think it is an excellent variation to
make a hot dish of it sometimes. On the score of economy, I am
sure that a sirloin treated in this fashion goes a long way
"The Marchesa demolishes one after another of our venerable
institutions with so charming a despatch that we can scarcely
grieve for them," said Sir John. "I am not philosopher enough to
divine what change may come over the British character when every
man sits down every day to a perfectly cooked dinner. It is
sometimes said that our barbarian forefathers left their northern
solitudes because they hankered after the wine and delicate meats
of the south, and perhaps the modern Briton may have been led to
overrun the world by the hope of finding a greater variety of diet
than he gets at home. It may mean, Marchesa, that this movement of
yours for the suppression of English plain cooking will mark the
close of our national expansion."
"My dear Sir John, you may rest assured that your national
expansion, as well as your national cookery, will continue in spite
of anything we may accomplish here, and I say good luck to them
both. When have I ever denied the merits of English cookery?"
said the Marchesa. "Many of its dishes are unsurpassed. These
islands produce materials so fine, that no art or elaboration can
improve them. They are best when they are cooked quite plainly,
and this is the reason why simplicity is the key-note of English
cookery. A fine joint of mutton roasted to a turn, a plain fried
sole with anchovy butter a broiled chop or steak or kidney, fowls
or game cooked English fashion, potatoes baked in their skins and
eaten with butter and salt, a rasher of Wiltshire bacon and a new-
laid egg, where will you beat these? I will go so far as to say no
country can produce a bourgeoises dish which can be compared with
steak and kidney pudding. But the point I want to press home is
that Italian cookery comes to the aid of those who cannot well
afford to buy those prime qualities of meat and fish which allow of
this perfectly plain treatment. It is, as I have already said, the
cookery of a nation short of cash and unblessed with such excellent
meat and fish and vegetables as you lucky islanders enjoy. But it
is rich in clever devices of flavouring, and in combinations, and I
am sure that by its help English people of moderate means may fare
better and spend less than they spend now, if only they will take a
Menu -- Lunch
Gnocchi alla Romana. Semolina with parmesan.
Filetto di Bue al pistacchi. Fillet of beef with pistachios
Bodini marinati. Marinated rissoles.
Menu -- Dinner.
Zuppa Crotopo. Croute au pot soup.
Sogliole alla Veneziana. Fillets of sole.
Ateletti alla Sarda. Atelets of ox-palates, &c.
Costolette di Montone alla Nizzarda. Mutton cutlets.
Pollo alla Fiorentina. Fowl with macaroni.
Crema tartara alla Caramella. Caramel cream.
Uova rimescolati al tartufi. Eggs with truffles.
The Sixth Day
The following morning, at breakfast, a servant announced that Sir
John Oglethorpe was taking his breakfast in his room, and that
there was no need to keep anything in reserve for him. It was
stated, however, that Sir John was in no way indisposed, and that
he would join the party at lunch.
He seated himself in his usual place, placid and fresh as ever;
but, unharmed as he was physically, it was evident to all the
company that he was suffering from some mental discomposure. Miss
Macdonnell, with a frank curiosity which might have been trying in
any one else, asked him point-blank the reason of his absence from
the meal for which, in spite of his partiality for French cookery,
he had a true Englishman's devotion.
"I feel I owe the company some apology for my apparent
churlishness," he said; "but the fact is, that I have received some
very harrowing, but at the same time very interesting, news this
morning. I think I told you the other day how the vacancy in my
kitchen has led up to a very real tragedy, and that the abhorred
Fury was already hovering terribly near the head of poor Narcisse.
Well, I have just received from a friend in Paris journals
containing a full account of the trial of Narcisse and of his fair
accomplice. The worst has come to pass, and Narcisse has been
doomed to sneeze into the basket like a mere aristocrat or
politician during the Terror I was greatly upset by this news, but
I was interested, and in a measure consoled, to find an enclosure
amongst the other papers, an envelope addressed to me in the
handwriting of the condemned man. This voix d'outre tombe, I
rejoice to say, confides to me the secret of that incomparable
sauce of his, a secret which I feared might be buried with Narcisse
in the prison ditch."
The Marchesa sighed as she listened. The recipe of the sauce was
safe indeed, but she knew by experience how wide might be the gulf
between the actual work of an artist and the product of another
hand guided by his counsels, let the hand be ever so dexterous, and
the counsels ever so clear. "Will it be too much," she said, "to
ask you to give us the details of this painful tragedy ?"
"It will not," Sir John replied reflectively. "The last words of
many a so-called genius have been enshrined in literature:
probably no one will ever know the parting objurgation
of Narcisse. I will endeavour, however, to give you some notion as
to what occurred, from the budget I have just read. I fear the
tragedy was a squalid one. Madame, the victim, was elderly,
unattractive in person, exacting in temper, and the owner of
considerable wealth--at least, this is what came out at the trial.
It was one of those tangles in which a fatal denouement is
inevitable; and, if this had not come through Mademoiselle Sidonie,
it would have come through somebody else. The lovers plotted to
remove madame by first drugging her, then breaking her skull with
the wood chopper, and then pitching her downstairs so as to produce
the impression that she had met her death in this fashion. But
either the arm of Mademoiselle Sidonie--who was told off to do the
hammering--was unskilled in such work, or the opiate was too weak,
for the victim began to shriek before she gave up the ghost.
Detection seemed imminent, so Narcisse, in whom the quality of
discretion was evidently predominant, bolted at once and got out of
the country. But the facts were absolutely clear. The victim
lived long enough to depose that Mademoiselle Sidonie attacked her
with the wood chopper, while Narcisse watched the door. The
advocate of Narcisse did his work like a man. He shed the
regulation measure of tears; he drew graphic pictures of the
innocent youth of Narcisse, of his rise to eminence, and of his
filial piety as evidenced by the frequent despatch of money and
comestibles to his venerable mother, who was still living near
Bourges. Once a year, too, this incomparable artist found time to
renew his youth by a sojourn in the simple cottage which saw his
birth, and by embracing the giver of his life. Was it possible
that a man who treated one woman with such devotion and reverence
could take the life of another? He adduced various and picturesque
reasons to show that such an event must be impossible, but the jury
took the opposite view. Some one had to be guillotined, and the
intelligent jury decided that Paris could spare Narcisse better
than it could spare Mademoiselle Sidonie. I fear the fact that he
had deigned to sell his services to a brutal islander may have
helped them to come to this conclusion, but there were other and
more weighty reasons. Of the supreme excellence of Narcisse as an
artist the jury knew nothing, so they let him go hang--or worse--
but of Mademoiselle Sidonie they knew a good deal, and their
knowledge, I believe, is shared by certain English visitors to
Paris. She is one of the attractions of the Fantasies d'Arcadie,
and her latest song, Bonjour Coco, is sung and whistled in every
capital of Europe; so the jury, thrusting aside as mere pedantry
the evidence of facts, set to work to find some verdict which would
not eclipse the gaiety of La Ville Lumiere by cutting short the
career of Mademoiselle Sidonie. The art of the chef appealed to
only a few, and he dies a mute, but by no means inglorious martyr:
the art of the chanteuse appeals to the million, the voice of the
many carries the day, and Narcisse must die."
"It is a revolting story," said Mrs. Gradinger, "and one possible
only in a corrupted and corrupting society. It is wonderful, as
Sir John remarks, how the conquering streams of tendency manifest
themselves even in an affair like this. Ours is a democratic age,
and the wants and desires of the many, who find delight in this
woman's singing, override the whims of the pampered few, the
employers of such costly luxuries as men cooks."
"You see you are a mere worm, Sir John," laughed Miss Macdonnell,
"and you had better lay out your length to be trampled on."
"Yes, I have long foreseen our fate, we who happen to possess what
our poor brother hankers after. Well, perhaps I may take up the
worm's role at once and 'turn', that is, burn the recipe of
"O Sir John, Sir John," cried Mrs. Sinclair "any such burning would
remind me irresistibly of Mr. Mantalini's attempts at suicide.
There would be an accurate copy in your pocket-book, and besides
this you would probably have learnt off the recipe by heart."
"Yes, we know our Sir John better than that, don't we?" said the
Marchesa; "but, joking apart, Sir John, you might let me have the
recipe at once. It would go admirably with one of our lunch dishes
But on the subject of the sauce, Sir John--like the younger Mr.
Smallweed on the subject of gravy--was adamant. The wound caused
by the loss of Narcisse was, he declared, yet too recent: the very
odour of the sauce would provoke a thousand agonising regrets. And
then the hideous injustice of it all: Narcisse the artist,
comparatively innocent (for to artists a certain latitude must be
allowed), to moulder in quicklime, and this greedy, sordid
murderess to go on ogling and posturing with superadded popularity
before an idiot crowd unable to distinguish a Remoulade from a
Ravigotte! "No, my dear Marchesa," he said, "the secret of Narcisse
must be kept a little longer, for, to tell the truth, I have an
idea. I remember that ere this fortunes have been made out of
sauces, and if this sauce be properly handled and put before the
public, it may counteract my falling, or rather disappearing rents.
If only I could hit upon a fetching name, and find twenty thousand
pounds to spend in advertising, I might be able once more to live
on my acres."
"Oh, surely we shall be able to find you a name between us," said
Mrs. Wilding; "money, and things of that sort are to be procured in
the city, I believe; and I daresay Mr. Van der Roet will design a
pretty label for the sauce bottles."
Menu -- Lunch.
Pollo all'olive. Fowl with olives.
Scaloppine di rive. Veal cutlets with rice.
Sedani alla parmigiana. Stewed celery.
Menu -- Dinner.
Zuppa primaverile. Spring soup
Sote di Salmone al funghi. Salmon with mushrooms.
Tenerumi d'Agnello alla veneziana. Breast of lamb alla Veneziana.
Testa di Vitello alla sorrentina. Calf's head alla Sorrentina.
Fagiano alla perigo. Pheasant with truffles.
Torta alla cremonese. Cremona tart.
Uova alla fiorentina, Egg savoury.
The Seventh Day
"It seems invidious to give special praise where everything is so
good," said Mrs. Sinclair next day at lunch, "but I must say a word
about that clear soup we had at dinner last night. I have never
ceased to regret that my regard for manners forbade me ask for a
"See what it is to have no manners," said Van der Roet. "I plunged
boldly for another portion of that admirable preparation of calf's
head at dinner. If I hadn't, I should have regretted it for ever
after. Now, I'm sure you are just as curious about the
construction of these masterpieces as I am, Mrs. Sinclair, so we'll
beg the Marchesa to let us into the secret."
"Mrs. Sinclair herself had a hand in the calf's-head dish, 'Testa
di Vitello alla sorrentina,' so perhaps I may hand over that part
of the question to her. I am very proud that one of my pupils
should have won praise from such a distinguished expert as Mr. Van
der Roet, and I leave her to expound the mystery of its charm. I
think I may without presumption claim the clear soup as a triumph,
and it is a discovery of my own. The same calf's head which Mrs.
Sinclair has treated with such consummate skill, served also as the
foundation for the stock of the clear soup. This stock certainly
derived its distinction from the addition of the liquor in which
the head was boiled. A good consomme can no doubt be made with
stock-meat alone, but the best soup thus made will be inferior to
that we had for dinner last night. Without the calf's head you
will never get such softness, combined with full roundness on the
tongue, and the great merit of calf's head is that it lets you
attain this excellence without any sacrifice of transparency."
"I have marvelled often at the clearness of your soups, Marchesa,"
said the Colonel. "What clearing do you use to make them look like
"No one has any claim to be called a cook who cannot make soup
without artificial clearing," said the Marchesa. "Like the poet,
the consomme is born, not made. It must be clear from the
beginning, an achievement which needs care and trouble like every
other artistic effort, but one nevertheless well within the reach
of any student who means to succeed. To clear a soup by the
ordinary medium of white of egg or minced beef is to destroy all
flavour and individuality. If the stock be kept from boiling until
it has been strained, it will develop into a perfectly clear soup
under the hands of a careful and intelligent cook. The fleeting
delicate aroma which, as every gourmet will admit, gives such
grateful aid to the palate, is the breath of garden herbs and of
herbs alone, and here I have a charge to bring against contemporary
cookery. I mean the neglect of natural in favour of manufactured
flavourings. With regard to herbs, this could not always have been
the rule, for I never go into an old English garden without finding
there a border with all the good old-fashioned pot herbs growing
lustily. I do not say that the use of herbs is unknown, for of
course the best cookery is impossible without them, but I fear that
sage mixed with onion is about the only one which ever tickles the
palate of the great English middle-class. And simultaneously with
the use of herb flavouring in soup has arisen the practice of
adding wine, which to me seems a very questionable one. If wine is
put in soup at all, it must be used so sparingly as to render its
presence imperceptible. Why then use it at all? In some sauces
wine is necessary, but in all cases it is as difficult to regulate
as garlic, and requires the utmost vigilance on the part of the
"My last cook, who was very stout and a little middle-aged, would
always use flavouring sauces from the grocer's rather than walk up
to the garden, where we have a most seductive herb bed," said Mrs.
Wilding; "and then, again, the love of the English for pungent-made
sauces is another reason for this makeshift practice. 'Oh, a
table-spoonful of somebody's sauce will do for the flavouring,' and
in goes the sauce, and the flavouring is supposed to be complete.
People who eat their chops, and steaks, and fish, and game, after
having smothered the natural flavour with the same harsh condiment,
may be satisfied with a cuisine of this sort, but to an unvitiated
palate the result is nauseous."
"Yet as a Churchwoman, Mrs. Wilding, you ought to speak with
respect of English sauces. I think I have heard how a libation of
one of them, which was poured over a certain cathedral, has made it
look as good as new," said Miss Macdonnell, "and we have lately
learned that one of the most distinguished of our party is
ambitious to enter the same career."
"I would suggest that Sir John should devote all that money he
proposes to make by the aid of his familiar spirit--the ghost of
Narcisse--to the building of a temple in honour of the tenth muse,
the muse of cookery," said Mrs. Sinclair; "and what do you think,
Sir John, of a name I dreamt of last night for your sauce, 'The New
Century Sauce'? How will that do?"
"Admirably," said Sir John after a moment's pause; "admirably
enough to allow me to offer you a royalty on every bottle sold.
'The New Century Sauce', that's the name for me; and now to set to
work to build the factory, and to order plans for the temple of the
Menu -- Lunch.
Maccheroni al pomidoro. Macaroni with tomatoes,
Vitello alla pellegrina. Veal cutlets alla pellegrina.
Animelle al sapor di targone. Sweetbread with tarragon sauce.
Menu -- Dinner.
Zuppa alla Canavese. Soup alla Canavese
Naselli con piselli. Whiting with peas.
Coscia di manzo al forno. Braized ribs of beef.
Lingua alla Visconti. Tongue with grapes.
Anitra selvatica. Wild duck.
Zabajone ghiacciato. Iced syllabub.
Crostatini alla capucina. Savoury of rice, truffles, &c.
The Eighth Day
"We are getting unpleasantly near the end of our time," said the
Colonel, "but I am sure not one of us has learnt one tithe of what