The Epicure's Almanac or Diary of Good Living
Author's introduction to the Almanac:
ALTHOUGH it may be said that no apology or explanation is required, from one who attempts to serve others, from the result of his own experience, still I feel that I shall prove to the purchasers of this slight manual, the value of the directions it contains, if I account, however briefly, for the way in which I became initiated into the mysteries of “culinary chemistry.”
That I was born in a city renowned for good eating, I have already recorded; and was, as a child, accustomed to the comforts of a “goodman's board.” I left the luxuries and delicacies of home to munch mutton at Marlow, and feed at Woolwich on beef and stick-jaw, for such was the inelegant, but appropriate name applied to the baked suet-puddings, given as a bonus by the housekeeper of the Royal Military Academy.
Leaving these for the Artillery mess, where, if a man does not get his dessert, he is sure of his three courses, I must have been deficient in taste had I not acquired some little judgment as a gourmet, or, to quote the learned Mr. Walker, an Aristologist. From this daily banquet, which would have shamed either Apicius or Lucullus, or forced sighs from Quin or Alexander Pope, -by the way, not the poet who said,
“Today be bread and peace my lot!"
but the actor, who, when dining with Dr. Kitchiner, burst into tears on hearing that there was a haunch of venison yet to come, fearing that he had not appetite enough left to do it justice.
I was, in due time, sent on a tour of duty, to an out quarter, where I found no mess, but any I might choose to prepare for myself, and a soldier-servant, who thought a rasher of bacon with bread, cheese, and onions, a feast for the gods.
Often has he given me strong and convincing proof of his adoration to the tear-extracting bulb. 'Tis true I had attached to my barrack-room, one kitchen, one ditto chair, one ditto table, one ditto set of fire-irons, -and, will it be believed that so considerate a thought should have entered the hearts and heads of the Barrack board?-one ditto bellows!
My first directions, on viewing this state of things, were to order such essentials to domestic comfort as a teakettle, saucepan, frying-pan and gridiron; though who was to superintend the use of the two latter I knew not at the moment. Finding that my man was not a man cook, I began to experimentalize on my own account; and as the labour brought its own reward, I acquired a certain taste for novelties not too expensive or troublesome, and trying my hand at their concoction.
Many of the recipes here given are the results - improvements which suggested themselves to me in the course of my fry and stewpan studies. These are of the economical class.
Others, demanding an outlay not at all consistent with a poor subaltern as I then was, or of a poor author, as I now am, have been furnished me by ladies at whose tables the various tempting preparations have been submitted to my judgment; and as in most cases I declared conscientiously their excellence, my verdict was rewarded by the gratifying promise –
“You shall have the receipt.”
Among others who have performed this promise, is Mrs. W. Sams, of Upper Sheen, to whom and to the few like her, I here dedicate m y grateful respect.
Foreign service also taxing my inventiveness to make some variety in my rations, led me to the know ledge of many valuable hints connected with Continental dishes; of these I have availed myself, in my present Brochure; a Gallic name more appropriate to this than to many other works which bear it.
I twill, I trust, be observed that my object has been to render my directions perfectly lucid. I have, where
MS. receipts have been presented me, entirely removed the old-fashioned phraseology of “Split your head in half, take out your brains, and lay them on your dish.” “Pick your nose, and cut out your tongue.”
Nay, so far had this strange figure of speech intruded on the style of one of my fair contributors, that, in a direction for fabricating black puddings, I found the appalling words, “Stuff your g-ts.” — A charge most supererogatory to Britons with good fare before them.
In these days, when pictorial illustrations are so much the rage, it is somewhat strange that I have ventured to offer this Work , so intimately connected with good dishes, without having furnished my readers with plates. I trust, however, I shall suggest to their minds some very agreeable cuts.
Let none who know me laugh at such a work from my hands, but remember that those at whose tables
“Your very good mutton's a very good treat,”
have imaginations of the most civic sumptuousness.
The celebrated recipe for roasting a goose alive, and forcing the bird to stuff and baste herself, emanated from the cell of a monk, whose best banquets were sauceless salt-fish, black bread, and raw carrots.
BROMPTON, April, 1841.