THE SEPTUAGENARIAN EPICURE.
MY DEAR ELOISE,
Having now arrived at the conclusion of our labors, during -which you have in many instances thought me rather severe, and perhaps too exigeant in my remarks, especially about the selection, preparation, and cooking of food in general, which even to the last I must maintain, that for want of judgment and a little care, the greatest part of the nutrition of our aliments is often destroyed, which constitutes a considerable waste, being of no good to any one, but an evil to everybody ; and when you consider the monstrous quantity of food our fragile bodies consume in this sublunary sphere during the course of our life, the truth of my observation will be more apparent, and make you agree with me that in every instance people ought really to devote more tune, care, and personal attention to their daily subsistence, it being the most expensive department through life of human luxury. I shall, for example, give you a slight and correct idea of it, wliich I am confident you never before conceived. For this I shall propose to take seventy years of the life of an epicure, beyond wich age many of that class of ” bon vivants” arrive, and even above eighty, still in the full enjoyment of degustation, fcc., (for example, Talleyrand, Cambaceres, Lord Sefton, cfec.) if the first of the said epicures when entering on the tenth spring of his extraordinary career, had been placed on an eminence, say, the top of Primrose hill, and had had exhibited before his infantine eyes the enormous quantity of food his then insignificant person would destroy before he attained his seventy-first year, first, he would believe it must be a delusion; then, secondly, he would inquire, where the money could come from to purchase so much luxurious extravagance ? But here I shall leave the pecuniary expenses on one side, which a man of wealth can easily surmount when required.
So now, dearest, for the extraordinary fact : imagine on the top of the above-mentioned hill a rushlight of a boy just entering his tenth year, surrounded with the recherche provision and delicacies claimed by his rank and wealth, taking merely the medium consumption of his daily meals. By closely calculating he would be surrounded and gazed at by the following number of quadrupeds, birds, fishes, &c. : By no less than 30 oxen, 200 sheep, 100 calves, 200 lambs, 50 pigs ; in poultry, 1200 fowls, 300 turkeys, 150 geese, 400 ducklings, 263 pigeons ; 1400 partridges, pheasants, and grouse ; 600 woodcocks and snipes ; 600 wild ducks, widgeon, and teal ; 450 plovers, ruffes, and reeves ; 800 quails, ortolans, and dotterels, and a few guillemots and other foreign birds ; also 500 hares and rabbits, 40 deer, 120 Guinea fowl, 10 peacocks, and 360 wild fowl In the way of fish, 120 turbot, 140 salmon, 120 cod, 260 trout, 400 mackerel, 300 whitings, 800 soles and slips, 400 flounders, 400 red mullet, 200 eels, 150 haddocks, 400 herrings, 5000 smelts, and some hundred thousand of those delicious silvery whitebait, besides a few hundred species of fresh- water fishes. In shell-fish, 20 turtle, 30,000 oysters, 1500 lobsters or crabs, 300,000 prawns, shrimps, sardines and anchovies. In the way of fruit, about 500 Ibs. of grapes, 360 Ibs. of pine-apples, 600 peaches, 1400 apricots, 240 melons, and some hundred thousand plums, greengages, apples, pears, and some millions of cherries, strawberries, raspberries, currants, mulberries, and an abundance of other small fruit, viz., walnuts, chestnuts, dry figs and plums. In vegetables of all kinds, 5475 pounds weight, and about 2434| pounds of butter, 684 pounds of cheese, 21,000 eggs, 800 do. plovers’. Of bread, 4 tons, half a ton of salt and pepper, near 2% tons of sugar ; and, if he had happened to be a covetous boy, he could have formed a fortification or moat round the said hill with the liquids he would have to partake of to facilitate the digestion of the above-named provisions, which would amount to no less than 11,673| gallons, which may be taken as below : 49 hogsheads of wine, 1368| gallons of beer, 584 gallons of spirits, 342 liqueur, 2394| gallons of coffee, cocoa, tea, fec., and 304 gallons of milk, 2736 gallons of water, all of which would actually protect him and his anticipated property from any young tliief or fellow schoolboy, like Alexandre Dumas had protected Dante and his immense treasure from the pirates in his island of Monte Christo. You now, dearest, fancy that I am exaggerating in every way ; but to convince you, and to prevent your puzzling your brain to no purpose, I also enclose you a medium scale of the regular meals of the day, from which I have taken my basis, and in sixty years it amounts to no less than 33 tons weight of meat, farinaceous food and vegetables, &c. ; out of which I have named in detail the probable delicacies that would be selected by an epicure through life. But observe that I did not count the first ten years of his life, at the beginning of which he lived upon pap, bread and milk, &c., also a little meat, the expense of which I add to the age from then to twenty, as no one can really be called an epicure before that age ; it will thus make the expenses more equal as regards the calculation. The following is the list of what I consider his daily meals :
Three quarters of a pint of coffee, four ounces of bread, one ounce of butter, two eggs, or four ounces of meat, or four ounces of fish.
Two ounces of bread, two ounces of meat, or poultry, or game, two ounces of vegetables, and half a pint of beer or a glass of wine.
Half a pint of soup, a quarter of a pound of fish, half a pound of meat, a quarter of a pound of poultry, a quarter of a pound of savory dishes or game, two ounces of vegetables, two ounces of bread, two ounces of pastry or roasts, half an ounce of cheese, a quarter of a pound of fruit, one pint of wine, one glass of liqueur, one cup of coffee or tea ; at night one glass of spirits and water.
Now that I have given you these important details, perhaps you will give me some little credit for my exaction and severity respecting the attention which ought to be daily paid to the indispensable and useful art of cookery by our middle classes. I shall also observe to you, that those masses of provisions above described in the expose of sixty years, have been selected, dressed, and served, by scientific hands, every real epicure choosing through life the best cook, and consequently the best of provisions, which, had they have fallen into the hands ofinexperienced persons, would very likely have wasted one third, thereby increasing the expenses, and never giving any real satisfaction to the consumer ; therefore let us act in a small way as becomes us, as it is for the wealthy according to their incomes ; let every housekeeper devote more time to the study of domestic and practical economy; in many instances it will increase their incomes as well as their daily comforts, as I remarked to you that the pleasures of the table being not only the most expensive part of human luxury, but also the soul of sociability, require more attention bestowed upon it than is done at the present day.
Fare you well,
in, “The Modern Housewife Or Ménagère”, Alexys Soyer, 1851