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GEORGE AUGUSTUS SALA.
One of the most accomplished men of his time, the readiest of writers, the rarest of humourists, a most winning orator, a most cunning draughtsman, laden with a learning which would crush most men, and blest with a heart which is almost that of a woman; he probably knows more about the history of cookery in all countrics of the world than any man alive, and to him therefore these pages are inscribed with sincere admiration.
HOEVER writes a new book on cookery has to begin with an apology-there are so many, and most of them so bad. All contain good ideas, original or borrowed; but most of them are chaotic and overlaid with rubbish,—the wildest confusion of receipts, distinctions without differences, and endless repetitions,—the result of stupidity, of vanity, and of slavish deference to authority. A trifling variation is given to a well-known dish; a new name is bestowed upon it to flatter somebody's vanity; and then follows another and another receipt to choke up the cookery books and to bewilder their readers. People run after novelties which are not novelties at all, and in the turmoil of details lose sight of the central idea which ought to govern the composition. Much as the folly of new names and the slavishness of imitation may have to do in producing such intolerable confusion, the worst part of it unhappily is due to sheer ignorance and stupidity, as a few examples will show.
In the first place, we find a multitude of receipts where one is enough. There is a well-known soup which appears in cookery books under nine or ten different names— Brunoise, Jardinière, Printanier, Chiffonnade, Macédoine, Julienne, Faubonne, Paysanne, Flamande, Mitonnage, Croûte au Pot. The same book may not use all these names, but it is puzzling to find one book using one name
and another another. One of them, the Julienne, is peculiar, but the peculiarity is nearly lost in modern cookery ; and we may say that practically all ten are one and the same soup, with differences which are wholly accidental. Put into the soup a variety of vegetables such as a gardener's wife might filch in her apron, and there is the soup à la Jardinière. It is also the soup à la Macédoine. Put into it the early spring vegetables, and there is the spring soup. Put into it the modest assortment, the onion and the cabbage, which a peasant's wife might command, and which corresponds very much to the limited supply of any winter garden, and there is the soup à la Paysanne. Put in crusts of bread, either because vegetables are scarce, or because you are afraid of them, and there is Croûte au Pot. Put in Brussels sprouts, and there is something to suggest a new name-Flemish soup-because Brussels is the capital of the Flemish country. There is nothing scientific in this. It is a mere senseless heaping up of names and receipts, to the ruin of cooks and to the incessant disappointment of the dinner-table.
In other cases we have a single receipt where we might well have half a dozen-as witness aspic jelly. The science of the kitchen is so proud of its achievement in this one receipt, that it rests in its triumph, makes no attempt at variety, and afflicts us with one eternal cold meat sauce. The English have been often satirised for their one sauce— the so-called melted butter. But French cookery, with all its pretensions, ought to be ashamed of the monotony produced by aspic. In England especially, where cold meats are in great request, the monotony of aspic is too palpable. The dinner of Englishmen, far more than of foreigners, implies a large joint of meat which has afterwards to be eaten cold. There is cold meat at breakfast, cold meat at luncheon, cold meat at supper, cold meat all the day—which is eaten with pickles for lack of good sauce. Here was a great opportunity for cooks to provide appropriate sauces.