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

Nov 11, 2011

War and Peace

Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace has several references to grand feasts and the preparations for them. Much as one would expect to find in this glorious encyclopaedia of Russian life. But seekers of rustic Russian cuisine may be slightly disappointed. Look at this.
At the beginning of March, old Count Ilya Rostov was very busy arranging a dinner in honor of Prince Bagration at the English Club.
The count walked up and down the hall in his dressing gown, giving orders to the club steward and to the famous Feoktist, the Club's head cook, about asparagus, fresh cucumbers, strawberries, veal, and fish for this dinner. The count had been a member and on the committee of the Club from the day it was founded. To him the Club entrusted the arrangement of the festival in honor of Bagration, for few men knew so well how to arrange a feast on an open-handed, hospitable scale, and still fewer men would be so well able and willing to make up out of their own resources what might be needed for the success of the fete. The club cook and the steward listened to the count's orders with pleased faces, for they knew that under no other management could they so easily extract a good profit for themselves from a dinner costing several thousand rubles.
"Well then, mind and have cocks' comb in the turtle soup, you know!"
"Shall we have three cold dishes then?" asked the cook.
The count considered.
"We can't have less - yes, three... the mayonnaise, that's one," said he, bending down a finger.
"Then am I to order those large sterlets?" asked the steward.
"Yes, it can't be helped if they won't take less. Ah, dear me! I was forgetting. We must have another entree. Ah, goodness gracious!" he clutched at his head. "Who is going to get me the flowers? Dmitri! Eh, Dmitri! Gallop off to our Moscow estate," he said to the factotum who appeared at his call. "Hurry off and tell Maksim, the gardener, to set the serfs to work. Say that everything out of the hothouses must be brought here well wrapped up in felt. I must have two hundred pots here on Friday."


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