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

Aug 8, 2011

A Tramp Abroad

Poor Mark Twain. There he was, A Tramp Abroad, sorely missing that good ol' fashioned food which America is rightly known for - size and succulence entirely its own.
To particularize: the average American's simplest and commonest form of breakfast consists of coffee and beefsteak; well, in Europe, coffee is an unknown beverage. You can get what the European hotel-keeper thinks is coffee, but it resembles the real thing as hypocrisy resembles holiness. It is a feeble, characterless, uninspiring sort of stuff, and almost as undrinkable as if it had been made in an American hotel. The milk used for it is what the French call "Christian" milk - milk which has been baptized.
After a few months' acquaintance with European "coffee", one's mind weakens, and his faith with it, and he begins to wonder if the rich beverage of home, with its clotted layer of yellow cream on top of it, is not a mere dream, after all, and a thing which never existed.
Next comes the European bread - fair enough, good enough, after a fashion, but cold; cold and tough, and unsympathetic; and never any change, never any variety - always the same tiresome thing.
Next, the butter - the sham and tasteless butter; no salt in it, and made of goodness knows what.
Then there is the beefsteak. They have it in Europe, but they don't know how to cook it. Neither will they cut it right. It comes on the table in a small, round pewter platter. It lies in the center of this platter, in a bordering bed of grease-soaked potatoes; it is the size, shape, and thickness of a man's hand with the thumb and fingers cut off. It is a little overdone, is rather dry, it tastes pretty insipidly, it rouses no enthusiasm.
Imagine a poor exile contemplating that inert thing; and imagine an angel suddenly sweeping down out of a better land and setting before him a mighty porterhouse steak an inch and a half thick, hot and sputtering from the griddle; dusted with a fragrant pepper; enriched with little melting bits of butter of the most unimpeachable freshness and genuineness; the precious juices of the meat trickling out and joining the gravy, archipelagoed with mushrooms; a township or two of tender, yellowish fat gracing an outlying district of this ample county of beefsteak; the long white bone which divides the sirloin from the tenderloin still in its place; and imagine that the angel also adds a great cup of American home-made coffee, with a cream a-froth on top, some real butter, firm and yellow and fresh, some smoking hot-biscuits, a plate of hot buckwheat cakes, with transparent syrup - could words describe the gratitude of this exile?


Maddy said...

his travelogue was such a marvellous read, have you read his acounts of india?

Fëanor said...

Maddy: yes, indeed, I've read 'em. Thanks for the link as well.

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