Sound advice and some complaints from Johnnie and Fanny Cradock

Taken from Bon Viveurs’s London and the British Isles (1956).

1) For wine drinkers.

Whenever possible order your wine in advance of your meal so that whites may be properly chilled and the reds brought gently and slowly to room temperature. It ruins a wine to stuff it into a pan of hot water…Do not smoke while drinking wine…Take a mouth of claret or burgundy, for example, draw in a good lungful of cigarette smoke and see how much bouquet and flavour you can detect through the smoke barrage. Now rinse out you r mouth with lukewarm water. Stub out that cigarette, eat a crust of bread and start all over again. If you do not notice a difference, SMOKE; you must be choked with catarrh and would not taste anything anyway. Do you begin to follow now?

Do not obey the final idiocy, which we have heard declaimed in public recently and also read in famous publications,‘ put yourself in the hands of the wine-waiter’! Do nothing of the sort. The chances are ten to one he knows less than you do! Either he knew years ago and is now too old and tired to remember, or care; or else he doesn’t know because he is too young, having grown up through the war years when he could not learn because there was practically no wine. He was, anyway, not a waiter in all probability during the war. Let us remember this with respect, he much more likely was a member of one of His Majesty’s fighting forces.

Avoid at all costs being a vintage or price snob. It is fallacious to suppose that you must purchase great wines in order to have vinous pleasures. You choose how much you want to spend. You keep the wine list and read it as slowly and carefully as you like. You select the wine you want to try. But if this happens to be one which you have never tasted before, copy out the details about it and add your own comments on its colour, nose, bouquet and its flavour. Remember, a wine connoisseur is a man with a long memory, and memory, like everything else, must be helped and trained at the beginning

Arrange your meal—however simple—the way you want. Do not be bullied by us or by anyone else either. Choose the wine or wines and build the meal around it or them. Choose the food and select the wines to blend harmoniously with your chosen dishes. Just remember, wine should not be the boss and food should not be the boss. Your aim is to achieve a happy marriage in which each p-lays a part producing a balanced harmonious whole in which flatters and enhances the other, and does not strive to steal a majority of the thunder.

2) What goes with what.

Any fish cocktail             Nothing ( there will be vinegar in the mayonnaise)

with mayonnaise

Caviare                             Vodka

Hors d’Oeuvre                 Dry sherry, dry Rhine wine, or Alsatian wine

Oysters                             Chablis, dry Champagne

Soup                                 Preferably nothing, but a sherry or a dry Madeira if you must

Fish                                   Rhine or Alsatian, dry white Bordeaux, or white Burgundy

Entrees                              Claret

Joint or Game                   Claret, red Burgundy or Rhone wine 

Cheese                              The last and best glass of your chosen red wine

Sweets ( entremets)           Sauternes or champagne. With Christmas pudding, Marsala, Madeira or a cream or milk sherry.

Dessert                              Port, Madeira, brown sherry.

3)  Reasons for not recommending some well-known restaurants.

A certain restaurateur who proudly presented a dish of green salad to accompany a main course dish of veal. The unfortunate lettuce, at which he beamed fondly, had been finely shredded with a knife! A howling crime. Tear it man, tear it always !

Having shared in a considerable debate on the merits of several fine old brandies, a sommelier at another establishment proceeded to warm the ‘ balloons’ with a great flourish and without asking us of we wanted this mayhem performed. Only firewater needs hotted-up containers to take the first venom from its rawness.

The wine waiter who conferred long and earnestly over Johnnie’s selection of three very fine wines to marry with our chosen dinner, and then said brightly, ‘ And now what about a nice cocktail while you’re waiting’?

The ‘ mousse’ offered in a fashionable establishment which the waiter truthfully assured us was not from an outside caterer—he spoke the truth, but he omitted to tell us that it was bought vanilla ice cream, melted down, stiffened with gelatine and suitably coloured; overall cost about 1 ½d.,listed price 3s.6d.

[R.M Healey]

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