Baked Elephant’s Foot. Just one of the exotic dishes that features in Spotlight on Lucullus, A miniature Anthology of the pleasures of the Table –which is twenty-eighth in the series of ‘ minithologies ‘ created by a certain Max Crombie, some of the others being devoted to bird poetry, Christmas, love lyrics, the prose of Richard Jefferies, drink songs and the four seasons. Originating from the modest Knights Press in Northwood, Middlesex, from c 1940 to 1942, these booklets were slightly smaller than Penguin paperbacks and certainly shorter, being, in most cases, no more than twenty four pages in length. Well known book illustrators provided the ‘decorations ‘in the form of vignettes. The subject matter covered was presumably chosen to lift wartime spirits ( though the irony of describing banquets at a time of wartime shortages was doubtless not lost on many readers,) and perhaps to inject a little nationalist pride into a demoralised populace.
As for the account of the baked elephant’s foot, it was supplied by the French gastronome Le Vaillant, who witnessed the culinary practices of the Hottentots while travelling through Africa:
‘They cut off the four feet of the animal, and made in the earth a hole about three feet square. This was filled with live charcoal, and, covering the hole with very dry wood, a large fire was kept up during part of the night. When they thought the hole was large enough it was emptied; a Hottentot then placed within it the four feet of the animal, covered then with hot ashes, and with charcoal and small wood; and this fire was kept burning until the morning. My servants presented me at breakfast with an elephant’s foot. It had considerably swelled in the cooking; I could hardly recognise the shape, but it appeared so good, exhaled so inviting an odour, that I hastened to taste it. I could not conceive how so heavy , so material an animal as the elephants, could furnish a dish so fine and delicate, and I devoured without bread, my elephant’s foot, while my Hottentots, seated around me, regaled themselves with other parts which they found equally delicious.’