The Accompaniments of Wine

bordeaux chateau bottled 1934The great oenophile and gastronome T. Earle Welby had sound and sensible, if occasionally harshly expressed, views on what to eat with wine. Here are some of his opinions taken from the brilliant Cellar Key (1933).

‘With the exception of Champagne, which is never better than when taken in the forenoon, and Sherry, which is highly adaptable, all wines need, for full enjoyment, to be accompanied or immediately preceded by food. It is thus an important part of connoisseurship to know the affinities and antipathies between particular wines and food.

To begin with the enemies of all wine whatsoever, almost all hors d’oeuvres are inimical. To a great extent they consist of smoked, pickled, or highly condimented articles, and are therefore bound to blur the palate. But there is nothing to be said against plain melon, caviare, or oysters. Genuine Chablis is proverbially most enjoyable with oysters; and all the fine white Burgundies…will accord excellently with oysters, as indeed with crab or lobster or fish of any kind. But unless melon or caviare or oysters be selected, it is wise to eliminate hors d’oeuvres on a serious vinous occasion, and simply have Spanish olives in brine put on the table as a preliminary, and kept there till the meal is at an end.

Egg dishes are usually not favourable to the enjoyment of wine, for eggs very often have more a less a sulphurous flavour, and though this may hardly matter when one is drinking the baser, over-sulphured white wines of Bordeaux, it is very harmful to all delicate wines. Continue reading

Dr Marx would not have approved

services_rr_624x304bThe removal of the British Library from Bloomsbury to St Pancras seems to have ushered in a new, more relaxed, attitude towards the rules governing who can acquire a reader’s card, according to a Guardian article of 2005. In it the Reading Room is described as being crowded with undergraduates, anxious, no doubt, to obtain an advantage over their peers. Under the rules prevailing in 1938, and which are contained in a Guide to the Use of the Reading Room, a copy of which we found recently in a box of ephemera, restrictions which perhaps Karl Marx might have recognised, were doubtless drawn up to limit the number of readers using the famous Rotunda. There is a distinctly schoolmasterly tone to the following advice:

The Reading Room is in fact, as well as in theory, a literary workshop and not a place for recreation, self improvement or reference to books which are obtainable elsewhere…

No person will be admitted for the purpose of preparing for examination, of writing prize essays, or of competing for prizes, unless on special reason being shown; or for the purpose of consulting current directories, racing systems, lists of unclaimed moneys , or similar publications.

‘Racing systems’ and ‘lists of unclaimed moneys’. How redolent of the seedy world of Brighton Rock, which appeared a year later.

There is also a touch of ‘Greeneland’ about the advice offered to those prospective Readers seeking a testimony :

The Trustees cannot accept the recommendations of hotel-keepers or of boarding- house or lodging-house keepers in favour of their lodgers… [R.R.]

 

photo-2

Canon John Vaughan, forgotten botanist

Found - an illuminating pencilled note by one Christopher Bell in the front of  The Wild-Flowers of Selborne: and other Papers, by John Vaughan (London, John Lane, 1906.) It has more information than has been currently available on Canon Vaughan (1855 - 1922) - a distinguished botanist and writer on natural history, unknown to the DNB and Wikipedia. COPAC record 10 books by him including: A short memoir of Mary Sumner: founder of the Mothers' Union / A short history of Portchester Castle (his first work from 1894) Lighter studies of a country rector / The music of wild flowers (his last work from 1920) A mirror of the soul, short studies in the Psalter /Winchester Cathedral close: its historical and literary associations.  Bell writes:

I knew John Vaughan and worked with him as my fellow curate (and senior) in the Parish of Alton. He was then (1884) considered the best botanist in all Hampshire and had a fine herbarium (pp 62, 85). He generally had bog bean and other plants in his room and was a very interesting preacher. I got hints from him and started collecting plants for a herbarium after his example. I went to Selborne and found Monotropa on the Hanger. In 1909 - after 25 years - I met him at Walberswick Church at H. C. AV 8. AM. He said he knew me at once. He always had a charm of language - a literary style with a touch of magniloquence (as on page 115 may be seen) that contrasted with his modest and somewhat reserved sort of manner. He married the vicar's daughter - Miss Whyley. [1911]

The magniloquent ('high flown, fancy, flowery') passage referred to on page 115 reads thus:

When prehistoric man reared his barrows to tumuli over the remains of his distinguished dead, there is no reason to doubt that then, as now, the frog-orchis blossomed on Old Winchester Hill, and the autumnal gentian was abundant on Crawley Down. When the Druid priest, clothed in white raiment and bearing a golden sickle, went forth to cut the mistletoe, the Selago flourished on the heath, and the Samolus by the running stream. When the Romans made their straight road from Portchester to Winchester, through the dense forest of Anderida, the dogwood and the spindle tree fell before their axes, and the wild daffodil was trampled under their feet. When the black boats of the Northmen made their way up the Hamble River, the marsh sapphire covered the muddy banks, and the sea holly blossomed on the shore. Unnoticed and uncared for, the wild flowers, then as now, each in their own season throughout the changing year, "wasted their sweetness on the desert air".

Jot-101-snail-syrup-c1890510-1

Snail recipe

From Les Boissons et Liqueurs economique by Etienne Ducret (Paris, c 1890.)
This was sent in by loyal jotter and foodie RR.

A recipe for snail syrup.

First: pound together very finely:500 grammes of snails and 500 grammes of sugar ; then, pass this paste through a fine sieve.

Second: combine 500grammes of sweet almonds; 150 grammes of bitter almonds. Pound them with 500 grammes of sugar and 125 grammes of water. Dilute this paste in 825 grammes of water. Strain vigorously.

Third: add to this emulsion your mixture of sugar and snails that you dissolved in a bain marie on a low heat.

Fourth: when the sugar has melted add a certain quantity of orange flower water.

For consumption and bronchitis, 3 to 6 teaspoonfuls of this syrup is recommended per day.

Only ingredient missing------puppy dogs’ tails. Incidentally, M. Ducret (1829 – 1909), as well as being a gastronome (he also wrote a book on patisserie) seems to have been a literary hack in fin de siècle Paris. His book contains several recipes for absinthe.