September 21, 2008
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Sauternes with lamb chops for breakfast?

I've been curious lately about the famous literary breakfasts that Monckton Milnes (and others) served in Victorian London. At an antiquarian book fair in New Hampshire, I was thumbing through Mary Foote Henderson’s Practical Cooking and Dinner Giving (1876), which recalls Macaulay saying:

"Dinner parties are mere formalities; but you invite a man to breakfast because you want to see him."

Victorian company meals, of course, seem huge to us; Henderson’s breakfast menus have six or even seven courses. Here's her Early Spring Breakfast:

  1. An Havana orange for each person, dressed on a fork
  2. Boiled shad, Maître d'hôtel; Saratoga potatoes. Tea or coffee.
  3. Lamb-chops, tomato sauce. Chateau Yquem.
  4. Omelet with green pease, or garnished with parsley and thin diamonds of ham, or with shrimps, etc., etc.
  5. Fillets of beef, garnished with water-cresses and little round radishes; muffins.
  6. Rice pancakes, with maple sirup.

This is an intense and a luxurious brunch, but perhaps it’s not beyond endurance. Not a quick bite before rushing off to work, surely, but perhaps this would work for a long, comfortable talk. It would be tricky, of course, but nowadays we can eat in the kitchen if we want. Reading this now, I think, “I could do that.” I’m not sure lamb chops and beef tenderloin really belong on the same menu, and I think I’d translate the muffins to popovers.

But, more seriously folks: sauternes with lamb chops? Seriously? It seems strange, but as I think about it.... (If you have insights here, please Email me. )