Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Banquets of the Nations

Robert H. Christie - Banquets of the Nations (1911)

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A club in Edinburgh decided it would explore the world by hosting dinners based on the cuisine of various countries which was then documented in this book.  As best I can judge it's reasonably accurate and mostly open-minded (the introduction that describes serving procedures does mention "primitive" from time to time but then it also frequently brings up servants and dancing girls).  The meals are not quite banquet-level but certainly more elaborate than everyday eating.  And for a bonus most of the recipes are actually possible to cook even in a modern kitchen - only occasionally is there a call for an entire lamb or day-long cooking times.

There are a few oddities.  The American menu for instance includes stewed terrapins which I wonder were ever very popular (at least for a more formal dinner).  I've never heard of oyster omelette souffle (isn't the "omelette" and the "souffle" redundant?) and curried calves' feet seem wrong - not the calves' feet which I can still buy at a grocery near me but the curry in America at this time.  The Mexico menu isn't quite Tex-Mex but it's close.  It does have mackerel in tomato sauce and stewed beef but also enchiladas and frijoles.  The Jamaican crab salad is something I grew up eating as West Indies salad.  The sashimi dish calls for a live fish (bream - is that common in Japan?).   As you might expect India is covered in great detail but the rest of Asia sparingly (there's no Vietnam unless it's under another name).  And where's Canada?

Still, this is interesting browsing even if today most of us do the equivalent by simply finding a restaurant even if the selection is skewed away from Europe.  (In literally ten minutes driving I can get to Malaysian, Burmese, Thai, Japanese, Turkish and a variety of Indian places but don't know if this city even has Finnish, German or Romanian.)