Wednesday, July 25, 2012


A Spilled Bag of Cherries Giclee Print
Napoleon was said to be a fast and fussy eater. He was not a gastronome but he 
did understand and appreciate the fine art of the table. To wit? Napoleon left his 
entertaining decisions to his well selected staff.
"If Bonaparte had been as great an epicure as were Barras, Cambaceres and Tallyrand, 
the already rapid progress of gastronomy would have been very considerably speeded 
---The Gastronomy of France, Raymond Oliver, translated by Claude Durrell 

[Wine and Food Society:Cleveland OH] 1967 (p. 102)
"Even in the sumptuous days of the Empire, Napoleon never conformed with good 
grace to the ceremonies of the table. He ate quickly and gluttonously. After the meal, 
Constant, his valet, sometimes had to bring him clean garments to replace those he 
had spotted. At any hour of the day or night, his meals had to be ready to be served 
on call. His breakfasts, which he was apt to take from six o'clock in the morning on, 
were most often served to him on a little mahogany pedestal table, incrusted with 
mother-of-pearl: eggs fried in butter, a salad of beans and, for dessert, some Parmesan 
cheese or two olives. Dinner was heartier meal. The Emperor ate between six o'clock in 
the evening and two, three or even four o'clock in the morning, depending on his work 
or his audiences. He liked to eat alone. He was served a great number of dishes, each 
one under a cover which the Emperor lifted himself. He would keep the dishes he liked 
and return the others to the kitchen. 'How is it I never eat pork crepeinettes (small, flat 
sausages)?' he asked Danau, his maitre d'hotel, one day testily. 'Sire, that is not a choice 
dish..' 'I don't care! I want some crepinettes.' The next day Danau had crepinettes of 
pheasant prepared for his master. Napoleon clapped his hands (sic) and helped hemself 
thre times. A month later, the maitre d'hotel gave it to him again. 'What's this!' cried 
Napoleon in angry disgust, 'I'll have none of these hostler's dishes!' The Emperor would 
not allow string beans to be served. He was afraid of finding strings in them which, 
he said, felt like hairs in his mouth. At the siege of Cherbourg, when he was inspecting 
quarters and walked past the camp kitchen, he asked for a plate of 'ration soup.' It was 
served to him. He grimaced in disgust: there was a hair in the plate! Napoleon looked 
around, saw his old guard watching him, petrified with respect. The Emperor calmly 
went on eating his soup--he even asked for a second helping! 'The most extraordinary 
thing,' Constant relates, 'is that there was also a hair in the second plate.'... Napoleon was 
fond of starches, potatoes, beans, lentils and especially of pastas a l'italienne of which 
he consumed a full plate at least once a day. He never ate bread. Among cooked 
dishes--if one can believe Constant his faithful valet--his preferences leaned to Boudin 
a la Richelieu (blood pudding served on stewed apples fragrant with cinnamon), ragout 
of mutton, quenelles (force-meat balls). For dessert, nothing pleased him so much as 
macaroni timbales a la Milanaise. His favorite wine was Chambertin, diluted with water. 
He never drank alcohol or liqueur but ended every meal with a cup of coffee."
---An Illustrated History of French Cuisine From Charlemagne to Charles de Gaulle

Christian Guy, tranlsated by Elisabeth Abbott [Bramhall House:New York] 1962 (p.99-103)
"If Napoleon was not a gastronome, he nevertheless occupies an important place in the 
history of French cooking through a third person. 'Entertain in my place,' he ordered the 
Arch-Chancellor Cambaceres,' and let your table do honor to France.' 'Entertain, ' he 
said to Tallyrand his minister. 'Give a dinner for thirty-six people four times a week. 
See that all men of importance in France and all foreign friends are invited.' Both 
Cambareres and Tallyrand were ideally suited to play the part..."
---ibid (p. 107)

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