John Stokes and Mark W. Turner (eds), The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde, Vol. 6: Journalism, Vol. 1
pg 3912Editor’s NoteEditor’s Note[PMG (7 March 1885), 5]1DINNERS AND DISHES
Editor’s Note2A man can live for three days without bread, but no man can live for one 3day without poetry, was an aphorism of Baudelaire's: you can live without Editor’s Note4pictures and music, but you can't live without eating, says the author of 5"Dinners and Dishes:" and this latter view is no doubt the more popular. 6Who indeed, in these degenerate days, would hesitate between an ode and Editor’s Note7an omelette, a sonnet and a salmi? Yet the position is not entirely Philistine; Editor’s Note8cookery is an art; are not its principles the subject of South Kensington Editor’s Note9lectures, and does not the Royal Academy give a banquet once a year? 10Besides, as the coming democracy will no doubt insist on feeding us all on 11penny dinners, it is well that the laws of cookery should be explained: for 12were the national meal burned, or badly seasoned, or served up with the 13wrong sauce, a dreadful revolution might follow.
14Under these circumstances we strongly recommend "Dinners and 15Dishes" to every one: it is brief, and concise, and makes no attempts at Editor’s Note16eloquence, which is extremely fortunate. For even on ortolans who could 17endure oratory? It also has the advantage of not being illustrated. The 18subject of a work of art has of course nothing to do with its beauty, but still Editor’s Note19there is always something depressing about the coloured lithograph of a leg 20of mutton.
21As regards the author's particular views, we entirely agree with him on Editor’s Note22the important question of macaroni. "Never," he says, "ask me to back a 23bill for a man who has given me a macaroni pudding." Macaroni is 24essentially a savoury dish, and may be served with cheese, or tomatoes, but Editor’s Note25never with sugar and milk. There are also, a useful description of how to 26cook risotto, a delightful dish too rarely seen in England, an excellent Editor’s Note27chapter on the different kinds of salads, which should be carefully studied 28by those many hostesses whose imaginations never pass beyond lettuce and Editor’s Note29beetroot, and actually a recipe for making Brussels sprouts eatable. The last 30is of course a masterpiece.
31The real difficulty, however, that we all have to face in life, is not so much 32the science of cookery, as the stupidity of cooks. And in this little handbook Editor’s Note33to practical Epicureanism, the tyrant of the English kitchen is shown in her Editor’s Note34proper light. Her entire ignorance of herbs, her passion for extracts and 35essences, her total inability to make a soup which is anything more than a Editor’s Note36combination of pepper and gravy, her inveterate habit of sending up bread-37poultices with pheasants, – all these sins, and many others, are ruthlessly Editor’s Note38unmasked by the author. Ruthlessly and rightly. For the British cook is a 39foolish woman, who should be turned, for her iniquities, into a pillar of salt 40which she never knows how to use.
pg 4041But our author is not local merely. He has been in many lands; he has Editor’s Note42eaten back-hendl at Vienna, and kulibatsch at St. Petersburg; he has Editor’s Note43had the courage to face the buffalo veal of Roumania, and to dine with a 44German family at one o'clock; he has serious views on the right method of Editor’s Note45cooking those famous white truffles of Turin, of which Alexandre Dumas Editor’s Note46was so fond, and, in the face of the Oriental Club, declares that Bombay 47curry is better than the curry of Bengal. In fact he seems to have had 48experience of almost every kind of meal, except the "square meal" of the 49Americans. This he should study at once; there is a great field for the Editor’s Note50philosophic epicure in the United States. Boston beans may be dismissed 51at once as delusions, but soft shell crabs, terrapin, canvas-back ducks, 52blue fish, and the pompono of New Orleans, are all wonderful delicacies, Editor’s Note53particularly when one gets them at Delmonico's. Indeed, the two most 54remarkable bits of scenery in the States are undoubtedly Delmonico's, and Editor’s Note55the Yosemité Valley, and the former place has done more to promote a good 56feeling between England and America than anything else has in this 57century.
58We hope that "Wanderer" will go there soon, and add a chapter to 59"Dinners and Dishes," and that his book will have in England the influence Editor’s Note60it deserves. There are twenty ways of cooking a potato, and three hundred 61and sixty-five ways of cooking an egg, yet the British cook up to the present 62moment knows only three methods of sending up either one or the other.
"Dinner and Dishes." By "Wanderer." Price 2s. 6d. (London: Simpkin and Marshall, 1885.)