Thursday, February 1, 2018

Etiquette and Royal Tastes

“When the future King Edward VII was visiting the U.S., the most striking thing to him was the prevalence of the eating of oysters, the smell of them, raw, cooking, and cooked, and the sight of the shells, being unpleasant to him...” – For centuries, the royal family was not allowed to eat oysters, crabs, and other shellfish and the future King may not have acquired the taste of oysters. It has always been included in the required etiquette for entertaining Royal family members, not to serve them shellfish. Before scientists understood shellfish allergies and food poisoning, it was advised that the Royal family abstain from shellfish to avoid dying from those common ailments. Nowadays it’s more of a personal preference than a hard rule. For example, Queen Elizabeth avoids shellfish altogether, while Prince Charles will occasionally enjoy a good oyster.
Taste is in the Mouth of the Beholder... And the Country of That Mouth’s Origin

The dish for which Esau sold his birthright — a dish of lentils — was hardly equivalent to one of dried beans. To an epicure, there might have been some excuse for the barter bad it been a choice viand, but little for anything so ordinary as lentils. The flesh pots after which the Israelites longed so much while in Egypt and on their journey through the desert, would hardly be appetizing to their descendants who are now scattered through the lands where gastronomy has become an art. 

Climate, as well as race, has much to do with this. In a warm one, a sober diet of drink and food is more essential than in a cold one. The English in India who refuse to recognize this law, return in a few years with a torpid liver and a yellow complexion. The appetite of the Arab is satisfied with rice, olives, bread, and an occasional meat stew, while the Russian sates himself with greasy food aud strong liquor. If nothing more unctuous is within reach, the peasant will eat a tallow dip with relish. The Italian of Southern Italy can content himself with maccaroni, while the Dutchman, surrounded with water and fog, requires meat, ale and gin, in generous portions. 

According to a medical authority of London, when the Indians, in their long journeys, are seized with hunger, they eat small balls of clay, which remain in the stomach and stop the appetite for many hours. Germans are in the habit of eating uncooked meat in the guise of ham, sausage and fresh meat, for which a physician affirms that many of them have had 50,000 worms in one inch of their flesh, penetrating everywhere, and producing death. The promptings of nature are not much heeded in the United States, for the food which is consumed in Maine is also eaten in Florida. The same pork, salted, cured, and fresh, seen in these two geographical extremes, is also familiar to the inhabitants of California, Indiana, and Delaware. The bills of fare of the restaurants of New Orleans resemble much those of New York, the promise, however, being more faithfully kept in the northern than in the southern city.

Each nation, notwithstanding cable telegrams and rapid steamships, retains certain food characteristics. Some of these, the stranger naturally remarks on, as soon as he comes into the country. When the Prince of Wales was here the most striking thing to him was the prevalence of the eating of oysters, the smell of them, raw, cooking, and cooked, and the sight of the shells, being unpleasant to him. During his sojourn he was always endeavoring to escape from the smell of them, and to this day probably his recollections of America are intimately associated with the testaceous animals. 

The amateur of cooked oysters will affirm, and probably with reason, that the Prince did not know what was good; but that is a matter of opinion. The Prince likely, as most Englishmen are, is fond of eating lettuce and cheese together, which the amateur of cooked oysters would probably dislike as much as the royal guest did his favorite food. According to the newspapers, when another member of a royal family, not long ago, was traveling through the United States, he said his chief objection to the country was that he could not get anything to eat; the remark being made after going through the South and West, and before reaching the metropolis. The hope was held out to him in Philadelphia that in New York he would find compensation for the trials which he had undergone in other parts ot the Union ; but he was skeptical, and counted on little improvement. If a reporter of the press may be credited, he went so far as to say that we were the worst fed ot all civilized peoples. Some weight may be attached to this opinion, as he who gave it has some reputation as a gas tronomer.

To go from royalty to the proletariat, the workingmen's delegates to the Centennial Exhibition complained of the food which was placed belore them by their fellow-workmen here. They were simple toilers, unaccustomed to the delicacies of the table. Thus all classes, from well-fed foreign countries, appear to entertain much the same opinion as regards the American kitchen. Eating a particular kind of food, together with the preparation of it, is so much a matter of custom that we are apt to like that best which we have been accustomed to eat ; hence it is that the foreigner favors his own nourishment and pronounces against ours to the extent that he does. 

Man everywhere is almost as tenacious of the form of his food as is of his religion ; errors and abuses in one being nearly as difficult to eradicate as in the other. But after making due allowance for prejudice in the mind of the foreigner, there is probably foundation for at least a portion of his criticism, entertained as it is in different lands. There is such unanimity on this head that there is warrant for believing, if an international congress of gastronomy were to be organized, that the United States would not hold the rank of some other nations which we are wont to regard as considerably behind this one in general civilization. — Galaxy, 1876

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia 

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