The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

In Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander, there is some fine discussion of food (and language). Amidst all the slaughter and filth of the naval life, there is always an opportunity for some gustatory pleasures.
They sat at a round table in a bow widow that protruded from the back of the inn high above the water, yet so close it that they had tossed the oyster-shells back into their native element with no more than a flick of the wrist: and from the unloading tartan a hundred and fifty feet below them there arose the mingled scents of Stockholm tar, cordage, sail-cloth and China turpentine. 
'Allow me to press you to a trifle of this ragoo'd mutton, sir,' said Jack. 
'Well, if you insist,' said Stephen Maturin. 'It is so very good.' 
'It is one of the things the Crown does well,' said Jack. 'Though it is hardly decent in me to say so. Yet I had ordered duck pie, alamode beef and soused hog's face as well, apart from the kickshaws. No doubt the fellow misunderstood. Heaven knows what is in that dish by you, but it is certainly not hog's face. I said, visage de porco, many times over; and he nodded like a China mandarin. It is provoking, you know, when one desires them to prepare five dishes, cinco platos, explaining carefully in Spanish, only to find there are but three, and two of those the wrong ones. I am ashamed of having nothing better to offer you, but it was not from want of good will, I do assure you.' 
'I have not eaten so well for many a day, nor' -- with a bow -- 'in such pleasant company, upon my word,' said Stephen Maturin. 'Might it not be that the difficulty arose from your own particular care -- from your explaining in Spanish, in Castilian Spanish?' 
'Why,' said Jack, filling their glasses and smiling through his wine at the sun, 'it seemed to me that in speaking to Spaniards, it was reasonable to use what Spanish I could muster.' 
'You were forgetting, of course, that Catalan is the language they speak in these islands.'
. . .
'This excellent dish by me, for instance (and I see that they did their best to follow your orders), is jabalí in Spanish, whereas in Catalan it is senglar.' 
'Is it swine's flesh?' 
'Wild boar. Allow me . . .' 
'You are very good. May I trouble you for the salt? It is capital eating, to be sure; but I should never have guessed it was swine's flesh. What are these well-tasting soft dark things?' 
'There you pose me. They are bolets in Catalan: but what they are called in English I cannot tell. . .'


Anonymous said...

Soused hog's face...mmm yum. Not.

Fëanor said...

cb: missed this comment as well! but then, i've been travelling, innit? ;) do you object to the hog being soused? or its face?

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