I have seen the mahoganies of many men " (Thackeray, " Mr. Brown's Letters to his Nephew").
On what Indian cooks call "painted dishes," and on cooks running opposition shops to decorative artists-Dainty meals and real cookery capable of achievement with far less trouble.
If there is one thing in this world you, my dear reader, and I can cordially agree about, that one thing, assuredly, must be our dinner-the everyday "plain roast and boiled," as well as the average dinner party. The monotony of the former, I know, is as hateful to you as the vulgar richness of the latter. Do you remember Mrs. Smith-is Jenkins', the other day, with its pretentions, endless French menu, and the " saumon en surprise" consisting of a cupid in rice paste, adorned with rose-coloured horse-shoes, and underneath these a green-dyed puree of salmon ? And the "foie gras," stuffed into a flock of miniature geese (again in rice paste), these delectable geese floating in a pond of green aspic-jelly ? Why all this masquerade, I ask ? Are we a parcel of children that we require victuals in the shape of toys ? Is it because of the cook's ancient, but silly, privilege to show us they, too, can be painters and sculptors ? No, it is because of our insane desire to dish up everything in some astonishing way-what things taste like matters not. Nor could you expect excellence of flavour when " dummies " and garnishes absorb more of the cook's time than the cooking itself.
All this is vanity, humbug, and affectation, if we would only be candid enough to own it. Eeal cookery-sincere and honest cookery-is quite another thing.
The object I have in view is to explain to you how, with comparatively little trouble, both your own every-day meal and the magnificent parade of Mrs. Smith-Jenkins could be made pleasant, digestible, and delightful, and it would be easier for me to make myself understood if you will permit me, for the moment, to imagine you slightly dyspeptic, and, therefore, most particular as to the preparation of your food.*
To illustrate the " messy " way we now have of dressing simple things, suppose we take a plain lamb cutlet. It does not matter where you may call for that simple dish, whether hotel, restaurant, or club, you will be served with a parcel of thin, bread-crumbed cutlets fried to death, and swimming in, not a sauce, but a sort of soup, flavoured with tomato-extract and, possibly, with Peppershire or similar sauces as well. If your palate be so depraved as to make you fancy you enjoy this dish, your common sense, if not your experience, must tell you it is very far from the digestible, tasty cutlet you require, and that the true mode of serving it is a very different one. I need not tell you, an old traveller, that a plain lamb cutlet (cotellete d'agneau nature) means all over France and the civilised Continent, a moderately thick juicy cut, carefully grilled over a brisk charcoal fire, and served with its own gravy only, with a slice of lemon on a bed of watercresses. This brings me to my first three points, discussed in the next chapter.
* For those who are really dyspeptic, or invalids, I have sketched a bill of fare, with a view to the patient submitting it to his medico. As a rule, the doctor's time being limited, the bills of fare or directions as to diet they give to their patients are equally limited, and, as many classes of sufferers require a varied diet, I would urge all such to get their physicians to look through this bill of fare, amplified by them if they have favourite dishes to insert. I venture to say the medical man could more quickly strike out what is unsuitable than he could write out himself what is fit for his patient. Thus the patient may be tempted to eat, and so to gain strength, by a judiciously varied bill of fare. The cooking in every care must be simple but dainty. (See page 77.)