Jump to content
  • Join For Free and Get Notified of New Chapters!

    Are you enjoying a great story and want to get an alert or email when a new chapter is posted? Join now for free and follow your favorite stories and authors!  You can even choose to get daily or weekly digest emails instead of getting flooded with an email for each story you follow. 

     

    AC Benus
  • Author
  • 6,268 Words
  • 1,395 Views
  • 28 Comments
Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Carême in Brighton — a mystery novel - 1. Chapter 1: Settling In & Second-Hand Pies

.


 

.

PART I

Summer 1816

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Chapter 1: Settling In & Second-Hand Pies

 

Whenever Cornelius Hook was tasked with something he thought beneath his station, he went about it with a taciturn chip on his shoulder.

His chore today was showing a newly arrived Frenchman around the Pavilion, but as he led the way, rattling off statistics, the Private Secretary’s mind wandered. A portly middle-aged man himself, he was not so sure the excited gossip preceding Carême’s arrival had been worth all the hot air it generated. After all, as a Royal retainer of a certain dignity – albeit a nobility mostly reinforced amongst his peers by the gold braid of his uniform – the secretary was left to wonder what was so strikingly ‘Romantic’ about a tall, well-built foreigner with fine features, a chiselled nose, dark wavy hair and a Byronesque stance . . . ? And surely, this celebrated  chef’s paltry thirty or so years of life on Earth put him at a considerable ways-of-the-world disadvantage.

Antonin Carême, for his part, tired and road-weary, dutifully followed the Regent’s personal lackey in a bit of a daze. Talleyrand’s descriptions of George’s seaside villa had failed to do justice to the house’s remarkable interior.

“The Pavilion is a work in progress,” intoned the officious Hook as they mounted the North Staircase. They were moving from the main level of the retreat – the ground floor – to the upper, or Chamber Floor. “You will find several areas analogous to Rome under construction.”

Fatigued as he was, the beauty of the three windows of the stair landing struck Carême the moment Hook stepped out of his line of sight. Natural light came through panes of satin glass overpainted with full-length portraits of Chinese Immortals – two goddesses on either side of Guan Yu, the god of war with martial flags rising behind his shoulders. Their size was incredible, for the windows went from the landing’s floor, up fifteen feet, ending in arches close to the stair hall’s ceiling. The room’s walls were a luxurious pink, grisailled in shades of indigo with foliage and exquisite birds in the fashion of Chinese blue and white porcelain; and the space was centrally lit by a soffit-enclosed skylight.

“So, I’m sorry,” concluded the Private Secretary.

Carême nearly ran into him. “Pardon?”

Miffed at being ignored, Hook repeated, “I said, I’m sorry you will find your stay with us inconvenient. Noise; dust; smell of wet plaster.”

“It’s no hindrance to me, Monsieur.  Perhaps I will appreciate watching the final form of the Pavilion take shape.”

“Yes.” The Regent’s secretary turned and continued to climb to the Chamber Floor, muttering, “If you stay that long.”

What Cornelius Hook could not have known is how serious Carême had been. A chef and pastry artist, the Frenchman’s interest in all things architectural was innate, and Prince George’s country home was proving to be a feast for the senses; tired as they were, everywhere the cook cast his eyes, new delights awaited.

More appeared, for at the top of the stairs, they passed through a pair of open doors into a very large room.

“This,” announced the functionary, “is the North Chamber Gallery. There is another attached to the South Staircase. You will find all the principal spaces of the Pavilion are symmetrical.”

Dark indigo walls rose to another soffited skylight. The decoration consisted of bamboo trellises painted between the four doors leading to the bedroom suites. Atop a golden carpet sat bamboo furniture to invite casual lounging, and the sofa across from the fireplace had a table pulled up to it perfect for meals. Cushions and upholstery were uniformly done in blue silk.

The secretary drew Carême’s attention to one of the portals. “This,” he chanted as if before the holy tabernacle, “is the Regent’s suite of private apartments.”

He then strode to an identical door on the opposite side of the Gallery. He opened it. “And these are my lodgings – directly across from the Prince.”

The men went inside. Carême’s trunk, and his various smaller bags, sat in the middle of the floor, in front of Hook’s bed.

“His Highness thought this would be the best place for you to live.”

Now the chef had uncovered one of the roots of the lackey’s hostility towards him. Placing his hand on the trunk, he said, “Non; non.  This will not do. Kindly have my things moved to the chef’s room in the Servants’ Hall. I will be content there.”

Failing to placate Cornelius Hook, the Prince’s secretary looked more incensed than ever. “You negate this honour . . . . You”a new, malicious light came into the Englishman’s eyes“prefer to be in the servants’ wing, no doubt closer to your . . . your . . . compatriot.”

Carême sighed, knowing what he had to say would fail to do him no good. “Monsieur  Hook, you will forgive me, but I am tired from the long journey. In addition, I am not used to trying to express myself in a foreign tongue, which for me is English. I do hope we have not started off on the wrong hoof, as they say. I will make amends if we have.”

The functionary sneered; he was at a crossroads. Cornelius could accept the chef’s invitation to a peaceful coexistence, or “In the first place, it’s ‘foot.’ Off on the wrong foot. And secondly, I am not a man used to being asked by Royal staff members to accommodate their inadequacies. This, I trust, you will under-stand.”

Tired, it is true, but not easily intimidated, Carême stepped up to the man. He altered his methodology, as being direct had led him to a roadblock.  

“Mr. Secretary, I would like to ask you: What size meal does the Prince usually take for dinner?”

Hook blinked. “Well, that is dependent on the number of guests at the Pavilion at any one time. If for himself and one or two family members, then generally the Prince will be served a soup, two entrees, a roast, two side dishes and a pudding.”

Carême was aghast, suddenly questioning his entire raison d’être  for being there. “Monsieur, I am not accustomed to laying any dinner service for less than two soups and four entrées.”

“Well”the secretary exhibited a bit of hesitation“it should be noted the Regent is watching his weight, as the whole Nation watches it anyway. And, they’ve  only ever seen it expand!”

Carême was dismayed, not only at the information, but at what he perceived as Hook’s disloyalty. He’d have to be cautious around this one.

“D’accord. Now, concerning my position in the household, I wish to be where I, as chef de cuisine,  belong – in the servants’ quarters. Please see to it my belongings are moved there. And then, you, may continue to rest your head here, at the Prince’s beck and call, non?”

Having extinguished the functionary’s fires – for now – Carême gestured for Hook to continue his tour.

A few minutes later, they’d retraced their steps down the North Staircase and had travelled halfway along the Central Corridor, when Carême noticed something and stopped them.

On a large table against the pink and blue wall sat an architectural model under glass.

“Ah, yes,” explained the secretary, “this is Mr. Nash’s vision for the completed Pavilion.”

It was fantastical: the variety of shapes and forms of the roofscape were done in liberal-handed interpretations of the best of Mogul architecture, and yet the overall impression retained the charming whimsy of a child’s playhouse.

“This,” Hook said, pointing straight down in the middle, “is the central onion dome over the Salon; the room right behind us.” The man then motioned to the far ends of the building model. Here, two identical blocks anchored the extremities of the Pavilion and were capped with enormous curving tent rooves. “The one on the right will be the Music Room the ballroom, in essence and the other on the left is the Banqueting Room. The shells of both have been built, but His Highness diverted all construction efforts to completing the dining space first, in your honour.”

Carême’s eyes were still going over the minute details of the model. The dominant Indian features were traced out and completed with fascinating detailing relating more to European gothic than anything Eastern. The hybrid design was captivating.

“You know,” the secretary continued low, “I hope you will conduct yourself in a manner befitting your situation in a large household.”

“What do you mean?” Carême stood upright.

“I mean, I hope you’ll ‘be cricket,’ as we say, and not try to outshine the rest of the Pavilion staff.”

“You are saying I should remember my place?”

“Indeed.”

“Then I will remember the Regent engaged me to bring the Pavilion up to Continental – or, as your countrymen say, ‘European’ – standards for Royal residences.”

The functionary snarked, “Engaged at exorbitant prices.”

“What I earn should not be any concern of yours, but my success should. For my artistic triumphs here will benefit all – my rising tide will elevate even your presumably already high reputation, monsieur Hook.”

The secretary was oddly gratified. If this was the attitude the Frenchman was going to exhibit in England, then his time here was bound to be short. The man pasted on a bland smile, gesturing. “Shall we?”

The lackey led them towards a pair of unpromising mirrored panels. Under the landing of the South Staircase, they were full-height, unadorned and gave the impression of being low, which they were not. Sounds of construction and workman-voices increased the closer they got, and Carême suspected the Private Secretary was ushering them through discreet servant doors.

Nothing could have been further from the truth, and the chef’s willpower alone kept him from gasping. For they passed into an enormous room; at least sixty feet to the opposite wall from where they stood. The central portion was some forty-foot-square, and rose to an arched ceiling of that height or more, resting on triangular pendentives. Between these flaring supports needed to transition a square base into a circular dome, large openings in the wall allowed for clerestory windows. Sunlight poured in on a construction scene where men on towering scaffolds executed geometric stuccowork on the lower half of the ceiling. More plasterers travailed on laying and smoothing the acres of wall space.

As it stood, every detail of the architecture was white, and Carême felt as if one of his monumental sugar models had come to life.

“This,” the secretary announced as he started to breeze through it, “is the Banqueting Room. I trust it will serve your needs, when complete.”

Carême as a consummate courtier could smell when an arch remark came his way, so ignored it.

In truth, although known for his large-scale catering – including baking the wedding cake for Bonaparte’s second marriage – the fruits of his labours had yet to be showcased in a grander, purpose-built dining room than this one promised to be.

Through another set of doors catty-corner from where they’d entered, Hook showed the chef into a long intermediary space. Deep counters lined the side walls, providing copious storage below. The worksurfaces above were spacious enough to hold the serving trays of an entire army. Although, where they entered, a set of French doors led outside, the room was mostly lit by a continuous skylight down the centre.

“In here is the Decking Room. A staging area for the dishes, glasses, food, linens, and on and on. Everything that goes in or out of the dining room.”

“But, pardon,”  asked Carême, “if the Banqueting Room is unfinished

“The family take dinner in the Salon most afternoons. But if there are many guests, then either the Blue– or Yellow Drawing Room can be set for up to thirty-five place settings.”

“Thirty-five 'covers'; but, d’accord. This is good information.”

Leaving the Decking Room, the pair entered a neat and tidy service corridor. There were pretty Chinese-design blue and white Delft tiles from the floor to a wainscot.

Turning left, and proceeding down a good run of the Central Service Corridor, the secretary turned left once more through a pair of open wooden doors.

Carême’s senses were instantly bombarded with the familiar: the smells of fresh produce and meat being prepared for cooking; of wood smoke and the heavy feel of charcoal fumes. There were also voices of professional cooks coordinating their intricately timed work with one another.

“And here,” the functionary proclaimed, “is the Great Kitchen. His Highness rushed this room to completion specifically for your arrival. You should find nothing lacking.”

And indeed, visually Carême saw before him a work-space of nearly per-fect arrangement, and what a space! Thirty-five feet wide, and at least forty-foot long, four iron columns cast and painted to resemble bamboo supported a central smoke trap in the ceiling. Entirely windowed in glass, ventilation and natural light was in abundance. The placement of the slender pillars neatly divided the space into separate work zones: roasting on one long wall; cooking ranges on the other; and symmetrical preparation tables and an oval steam table down the centre.

Not merely a ‘kitchen’ in the basic sense of the word, here was a temple – nay, a cathedral – to cuisine. ‘Europe’ contained no rival, and it was ready for his command.

Carême caught the functionary eyeing his chefly wonder. Trying on Hook’s bland smile for himself, he replied, “It will do.”

They were distracted.

Kitchen staff slowly halted their activities one by one to watch the unfold-ding ‘scene,’ for a flurry of heated voices were advancing towards the two men’s position.

In the vanguard of the charge was François Distré; several of the eyes amongst the crowd noting how confidently the mid-twenties man conducted himself.

“Chef Carême,” he announced, “talk to this . . . this, head waiter

“I am not the head waiter.” Gris Thorndyke defended himself. “I mean, I am not a waiter  at all, as I told you, but the Chief Footman.”

“Not in that costume.” François gestured dismissively to the servant’s uniform.

For indeed, the otherwise prime-of-life man appeared juvenile in his white stockings, black satin knee britches and red-liveried cutaway coat, tortured in gold braid.

“In France,” Distré insisted, “we have done away with such humiliating suits in favour of proper dining-room attire.”

The chef got an unexpectedly candid inspection of the troops under his command, for cap- and apron-wearing undercooks stood with folded, idle arms. And to Carême’s dismay, he saw a few women among the cooks’ ranks, one of whom stood next to a guffawing man with the end of a pencil-thin cigar sticking out from under his cap. More junior staff stood in small groups, including a younger, teenage clot of undercooks who openly laughed with raised knees and shoulder-grabs onto their ‘mates’ to keep from thrashing around on the floor in giggles. One particular fair-haired youth seemed to be their leader, as he had an extra sparkle in his eye. Next to these tittering, older-teen slouches gathered the kitchen’s youngest workers – spit-jacks stayed with sweep-up boys, and scullery maids with wash-up girls.

“François” Carême started but was cut off.

“And what about you”Thorndyke thrust a finger in François’ chest“what’s a may-tra doh tell anyway? Maybe you’re the waiter disguised under a fancy, made-up title.”

The Chief Footman gestured to another gentleman of the group. “That sounds like the job of Head Table Decker, John Lightfoot.”

“He sets the table,” insisted François, “but I help him do it to accommodate the food placement plans Carême creates, and do it with the Chef’s authority.”

Mr. Lightfoot spoke up in François’ defence. “I’m supportive of Monsewer Distray’s help. Another pair of hands and eyes are always welcome, especially if the Chef has specific arrangements in mind.”

Gris was gobsmacked. “There have never been any kitchen expeditors in England before and we’ve managed just fine.”

François scoffed. “You  think.”

The Private Secretary tried to interject, “Now, men

“English standards are just as high as French.”

François snorted. “Ha! The state of the culinary and serving Arts are far more advanced in France than England; everybody knows that. Anyone who’s honest.”

Carême placed a calming hand on his maître d’hôtel’s arm. For in point of fact, the twenty-five-year-old François – born in 1791 – was a true child of the Terror and exhibited his generation’s particular combination of zeal and restraint, once the need for restraint had been shown to them. “I believe we have gone off on a tangent. What was the original topic of this ‘discussion’?”

“Suits,” Thorndyke said. “How our footman uniform needs to be replaced.”

“Why?” asked the astounded secretary, fingering a bit of his own braid.

“Every dining room in France,” François explained with far more calm, “is served by men in street attire, as they are no less citizens than those sitting at table. Republican suits, Carême, was our topic, and how the Regent’s home needs to join the 19th century.”

The chef could see François’ point. The britches and red coats appeared very ancien régeime to Carême’s modern sensibilities.

“Just off the boat,” griped Thorndyke, “and already wants to mess about and change things!”

François restrained himself.

“Ah! Just the person we need.” Hook motioned towards a dour man fast approaching the group. Once he was close enough, the secretary did the introductions. “Chef Carême, may I present Donald Bland, Financial Comptroller of His Highness’ kitchens, Brighton.”

Gris dove in with both feet. “Yes – these ‘Republican Suits’ for me and my men will cost money; money Mr. Bland may not have

“Just a moment, Mr. Thorndyke,” the newly arrived functionary said. “We will settle this in my office, but for now, we are taking the Chef’s time before he has a proper lay of the land.” Bland snapped his fingers and pointed at the leader of the roustabouts. “He’ll show you the various support spaces.”

In another moment, the Comptroller had ushered the arguing parties to his office and told the rest of the kitchen staff to “Be about your duties!”

Carême turned; he was face to face with the boy’s smiling blue eyes. “What is your name?”

The young man whipped off his cap, smile gone – replaced by a multi-hued blush. “Thomas Daniels, sir.”

“Age and rank?”

“Undercook; soon to be eighteen, Chef.”

“Bon. Après vous.”

The boy modestly stood there; mouth slightly agape.

Carême gestured. “I said, please lead the way.”

“Yes, Chef.” The undercook brushed aside the edge of his apron to stick his crumpled cap dangling from his rear pocket.

They entered the blue-tiled Central Service Corridor, heading back towards the Decking Room, but turned left into a spur corridor.

Thomas pointed to glass doors at the end. “That’s the main servant entry, and the Pastry- and Cold Kitchens are off this hallway.”

He ducked through the door closest to the exterior entry.

“This is the Cold Kitchen, or the Confectionary.”

The room met Carême’s expectations. There was good, natural light, the walls were tiled up to the ceiling in plain, cream-coloured rectangles, and numerous tables and cooling shelves were capped in white marble.

The chef stepped to the cooler. He lifted the lid and spied a perfectly clear, crystalline five-pound weight of ice.

“Bon,” Carême said. “And there is more, non?”

“Oh, shure – tonnes more. There’s an ice house buried under the southwest corner of the grounds, and with the winter we had this year, she’s full to the brim.”

A steady supply was necessary if Carême was to make the expected ice creams, gelatine-set dishes and his famous, colourfully layered suédois.

As they moved on with the tour, exiting the Cold Kitchen through another door, Carême couldn’t help noticing how tempting the boy’s cap looked in its current position.

Thomas, perhaps sensing this, became chatty. “I hope you are finding everything to your liking.” He shed an apple-cheeked grin on the chef.

Carême gathered his thoughts. “The size, layout, light and ventilation of the Great Kitchen is unexpectedly well done.”

“She’s all down due to your predecessor, Chef Weltje, a Dutchman. He had some clever notions which turned into solutions.”

“Like what?”

“Well – as you mentioned, ventilation. Weltje wanted the clerestory windows to open and close quickly, and be operated by anybody with a free hand. So, the architect built hidden rods in the walls with cranks down in the corners. He can solve any problem.”

“The Regent’s architect?”

“Yes, sir. And Chef Weltje saw that everything was in place for your arrival. Rumour has it the copper range hoods and the hundreds of pots and pans cost six thousand Pounds. Enough to buy a very large mansion outright, for shure.”

Despite the boy’s warmth and charm – artless as it was – Carême felt obliged to begin Master Daniels’ education. “When referring to a kitchen’s complement of ‘pots and pans,’ you should say batterie de cuisine.  That way, everybody knows exactly what you mean. Proper French terms keep all things precise.”

“Yes, Chef.” The lad’s expression betrayed his confident words.

“I mean, a roux  is a roux,  ever and always. But a translated ‘brown butter paste,’ or ‘butter and browned flour base,’ or many hundreds of other descriptions waste time and leave one guessing whether a roux  is actually meant.”

“I see your point, monsieur  Carême. I will get better.”

And here, this teenage youth’s sincerity for improvement, touched Carême. Cooking was a hard life needing commitment first and foremost.

Thomas had guided them into a large and homey room. “This is the Staff Dining Hall.”

They walked across it, left straight through the other narrow end and into another corridor. As the pair strode past several shut doors, Thomas said, “These are the offices of various Pavilion staff.”

“Is one for my use?”

“Not here, no,” Thomas replied, glancing over his shoulder. “You have a glass office off of the Great Kitchen.”

“D’accord. Very well.”

“The Kitchen Comptroller moved himself in there after Chef Weltje’s departure, but he’s packing up now – and not happy about it either.”

This was useful intelligence to Carême. It might make it into his first report to Talleyrand.

In the Delft-tiled corridor once more, heading back towards the Great Kitchen, Thomas turned right and walked through an open door. “This,” he told Carême, “is the Household Kitchen.”

Carême noted it was also large, neat and tidy, and again lit by its own skylight.

They went straight through it, into a space of equal size. “This is the Steaming Kitchen, sir.” He pointed to a corner where huge copper boilers were polished to gleaming perfection. “There’s the station for syrups and sugar works, Chef.”

This room had windows and a door to the outside. Young Master Daniels led Carême into a colonnaded open space. “The Kitchen Courtyard, sir. And over there”Thomas gestured to the far left where the walkway pillars came to an end“she’s the Kitchen Stables. Right now, there are only a few cows and goats we keep for the milk.”

This gratified Carême, for it was much easier to keep a few well-fed Holsteins than to risk procuring a variable product on the open market – especially the cream.

They were not alone in the court; two of the undercooks, a man and woman, were smoking leaning against the wall.

As Thomas ducked back into the Steaming Kitchen, he told Carême in soft tones, “That’s James and Audrey Keenan, Irish cooks.”

If Carême had been displeased to discover women undercooks in his kitchen, he was shocked to learn that some were also married to each other!

Saying nothing while Thomas led them back through thee Household Kitchen, Carême’s head was filled with notions of how eccentric this England was. Little did he know he’d just seen the tip of the iceberg.

Straight across the Central Service Corridor, Thomas conducted the chef into another open court.

An octagonal tower of bricks rose nine or ten stories in the air. Carême was astonished.

“This is the Water Tower,” Thomas explained. “Well water is filtered as she’s pumped to a tank at the top, and then filtered again with charcoal as she’s piped into each kitchen with regulated pressure. You will find the Pavilion’s water is always soft, sweet and fresh.”

“That’s ideal for baking,” the chef found himself mumbling.

Thomas chuckled. “Speaking of which, step this way.”

From the Water Tower Court, the pair passed through a door into a brick-lined room.

“This is the Pastry Kitchen.”

There were spotless wooden tables, dough troughs and proofing racks, enough baking capacity to feed a small city. Carême was pleased.

And then, Chef”the young man exited through an internal door“we have the Pastry Larder.”

The storage space was shelved all around, and good smells abounded from containers of spice, blue-paper-wrapped sugar cones, boxes of Irish moss, food colours, and a hundred items stacked, arranged and coded for quick use.

Next to this room was a larger one with glass-doored cabinets on each side. “In here,” Thomas said, “Chef Weltje archived his sugar work centrepieces.”

“His pièces montées?”

“Yes. He left ‘em here to inspire future artistic efforts at the Pavilion.”

Carême opened a door to take a closer look. He saw a sugar work rustic folly with green fencing around it. Carême tried not to sound dismissive as he asked, “And you? What do you think of the details; of the colouring?”

Thomas didn’t know and shrugged like a small boy put on the spot.

“I think,” clarified Carême, “the modelling is sub-par, and there is a total lack of delicacy in the colours. The green, for instance, is much too strong.”

Inappropriately, perhaps, Thomas Daniels laughed, his eyes though, kept gazing in wonder. “I can imagine what old Dutchman Weltje would say to you. But I’d tell you, he was also a pastry chef, just like Monsieur.”

Carême felt slighted. Line-order cooks who grew to be chefs des cuisines derided bakers grown to the same positions, even though the generalists couldn’t produce a brioche to save their lives. “I can only hope pastry chefs are treated with more respect in England than they are in France.”

The chef’s attempt to let the boy know he’d just insulted his boss failed.

Instead of feeling humbled, Thomas felt emboldened. With a jocular stance, he told the handsome Frenchman, “People must tell you you look more like a poet than a cook.”

Carême was taken aback. “Your ‘Byron’?”

Eyebrows flared above his radiant smile. “Him too, but I was thinking of Shelley.

 

“Thus shall icy hearts be heated,

Freed complete from their frozen rills,

For ne’er will Spring be defeated,

‘Spite the hoarfrost-wilt daffodils.”

 

Being compared to a writer suited Carême’s artist self-perception, but them again, what was the chef supposed to do with this boy’s overly familiar nature?

 

 

 + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

 

 

Several minutes later, Thomas had taken the Frenchman to the glass-walled office where the Kitchen Comptroller stood, packing papers and ledgers into a rectangular basket.

He knocked and immediately opened the door, startling Donald Bland. “What is it?”

“I’ve finished giving the chef a tour

“Fine. Come in, Carême.”

Thomas was all smiles. “But, sir

“Boy”the Comptroller got needlessly assertive“get back to your duties.”

“But

Bland yelled, “Do as you’re told!”

Carême, complacently watching this unguarded exchange, had an unbidden notion crash upon him. He saw on Thomas the sad deflating of his naturally ebullient character. The young man’s jokester happiness had been crushed in the way only one with a personal connection can inflict on another.

This was more intelligence, albeit of a matter he might keep to himself.

Carême closed the door behind him.

Bland pushed the basket aside, and then made Carême sit as if a guest. The moneyman plopped down in his seat behind the desk, all elbows and intimidation.

“Well,” he said, half-bored, “how was your tour? Ours is a facility of a quality you are probably not used to”he paused, seeking out a suitably dismissive term“over there.”

“The arrangements appear satisfactory. But the proof will only come once these Kitchens are tested executing one of my large dinners, say with thirty-two or more entrées.”

Carême could instantly see the cost  of such a dinner pinged the Comptroller’s banker-heart.

And then”Carême had an enquiry of his own“what resolution did you find for the clothes question?”

Bland was belittling; haughty. “The footmen shall stay dressed as they are, as is the tradition, in red jackets and black knee-britches.”

Carême let the subject go, knowing it was far from settled.

The functionary pulled a fat ledger from the top of his basket. “Now we must get down to some business. This,” he said, opening the tome to a marked page, “is the Book of Entitlements. Each Royal Kitchen has one; it says how much extra money each servant in the operation of the food preparation is entitled to at the end of the year.”

“Bonuses.”

“Crudely put, yes.”

“And these entitlements,  work how?”

“The excess food and drink from His Highness’ table are sold to agents around Brighton. I keep the records here.” The man’s finger slid over a row of figures. “Take our German Sous-chef, Friederich Bauda, for example. Last year he was entitled to the income from twenty loins of veal at 15 Shillings each; twenty pounds of butter at 1-Shilling-10-Pence a pound; and 19 Pounds in ‘used’ liquor sales. This came to 35 Pounds extra income for him – or the equivalent of the yearly wage of a Royal footman.”

Carême was astounded, but shrewd. He knew the true game afoot. “And Herr Bauda must run around to the local chop houses with these joints of veal?”

Bland blinked. “Well . . . no. I . . . I take care of the money. The system is like that of ‘a lay’ on a commercial ship. Each crewmember who signs the Articles of a voyage is entitled to a percentage of the final sales of the cargo, but it is recorded as equivalents in the books – Crewmember 1 gets fifteen combs; Crewmember 2 gets 20 hand mirrors, et cetera.”

“And who in this kitchen,” queried the chef with undue calm, “has direct oversight of the sales? Who handles the money for  the staff until they get paid off at the end of the year?”

The Comptroller blushed in anger. He slowly rose to his feet, hands flat on the desk. “I do. And if you are . . . are . . . suggesting

There was a knock at the door. François was on the other side, lining up Sous-chef Bauda and all the head undercooks in charge of various crews.

Bland stormed to the door, opened it and went out briefly, barking, “Carême will be with you shortly!”

By the time he headed back into the office, Carême had serenely assumed his proper station – in his  chair, behind his  desk.

Bland controlled himself; what choice did he have? “So, will you sign the Book?”

“Non.  This system is . . . how do you say it? Arcane.”

Miffed he had to say the word himself, Bland repeated, “Arcane.”

“Oui – so, no. François and I, we will not be signing it.”

“But, with your celebrity’s name, and the amounts we’ll get for second-hand pies made by you, the entitlement pool will grow very large.”

“And all the ‘second-hand pies’ I make, François will sell so that he and I can split the money.”

“But, but,” the functionary sputtered, “you’re taking cash away from the Entitlement Pool; out of the hands of your fellow chefs and colleagues.”

“Out of the hands of middlemen, yes.” Carême slammed the book shut, shoving it towards the Comptroller. “At the end of the year, I shall present my own bonuses to deserving staff. They will not suffer.”

Bland appeared to hate the Frenchman. Gathering up his things – including the ledger – he stormed off.

Carême sat a moment more and thought he might have trouble with that one.

 

 

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

 

 

Many hours later, the time fast approaching one in the morning, Carême sat in his quarters writing his first coded Intelligence Report to Talleyrand. As the desk was situated in front of a window, he occasionally glanced at movement atop the Pavilion’s water tower. While watching the gilt dragon weathervane swivel in the wind, he once more wondered how much information to hold in reserve against the all-powerful Grand Chamberlain of France.

He picked up his pen.

 

1 kj39de 2 ke3 mwl4nf. 3 8 om3c 9 10 kmw3ck lnd3mge8snv ynd9 un2 qpl4m8xjtzl wfvu 1 agnh 7 ngvd8f 3 dsw4cx 2 lkmb8ch. Gm9cuvyrpb, 8 it8k 3 bethgn7dcpmq 6 xzw8mvntdh 3 10 opflbn8kwf nr7g  blj3jn.  1 wumk4jmx 5 hb4k 3 xze, hv fjc4ex 3 . . .

Le voyage a été pénible. De la boue et une bruine continuelle nous ont accompagnés tout le long du chemin de Calais à Douvres. Maintenant, la côte de l’Angleterre est recouverte d'un brouillard sans  soleil.  L'humidité du bord de mer, si proche de . . .

The journey was arduous. Mud and continual drizzle accompanied us all the way from Calais to Dover. Now the English coast is blanketed by sunless fog. The damp of the seashore, being so close to the villa, aggravates my condition, and the Pavilion itself is run as an undisciplined mess. Here the sound of constant hammering is accompanied by the acrid smell of paint. The cooking facilities are complete, but the staff seem organized as if it were 1716 and not 1816. Unbelievably, but there is a man and wife working in the kitchen as undercooks! This will suffice to show the lack of proper order in which these selles de rosbif  wallow.

But, enough. We will have our first dinner service tomorrow, and I’ll keep my ears open for important information. So far, my access has been limited to functionaries – men born to ‘merit’ through accidental titles and not risen to their positions through honest work – or, those who are called ‘stuffed shirts’ in this country. I’ve had the distinct displeasure of navigating the self-appointed turf of the Regent’s Personal Secretary and the Financial Comptroller of the Pavilion’s kitchens. Needless to say, both men’s manoeuvring will be irrelevant as soon as I gain access to the Prince himself . . . .

 

Carême had to stop. He pulled his sketchbook over to hide his spy missive because François had just knocked gently on the inter-connecting door between their rooms.

The younger man entered without waiting for a reply.

The chef needn’t have worried, for François acted oblivious to Carême and his current activities. Instead, he paced the floor.

“Incroyable!  These . . . these backward cretins do not know what a maître d’hôtel  is or what one is expected to do for his chef.”

Carême’s tone was soothing. “Villon,  the dust has yet to settle. We are learning about them; they are learning about us. It is a process that must play out in its own time.”

“I suppose you are right, as always. But still

“François, come here.”

The impassioned young man ceased his roundabout motions. Carême had turned his chair and was inviting François to rest in a familiar position. He went to his mentor and sat on the floor, resting his back between the man’s legs.

Carême smoothed François’ hair. “We are foreigners in a foreign land. We need time to settle in here. And what an exotic place this Brighton is.”

“The Pavilion is a strange building. I’ve already been exploring.”

The chef chuckled; he knew François would have investigated their environs by this point. “And what have you uncovered?”

François began to feel the effects of Carême’s touch. He spoke more tenderly. “I’ve been up on the roof and looked at the iron framing for the unbuilt onion dome. I’ve been to the top of the water tower and looked at the view. I’ve found hidden stairs and discovered the upper floor of this building is like a maze.”

“You always did like to explore. You showed me interesting places at the Château Valençay every time we cooked there.”

François laughed. “And you launched an expedition against every nook and cranny of the musty old library of the Château. Too bad you didn’t find the Menon thesis on court cooking on its shelves.”

“Yes, that was a disappointment. But, never mind; we did uncover rare old volumes of poetry there . . . ones that turned out to be important – personally – to you and me

François reached behind and took Carême’s hand. “You don’t regret it, do you?”

“Regret what?”

“Making me your protégé.”

Carême chuckled again, this time due to warm nostalgia. “It seems like only yesterday I pulled you away from Chef Laguipierre at the Élysée Palace.”

François said, full of true Gallic sincerity brooding and dark “I owe everything to you. I strive every day to implement your teachings to the best of my abilities.”

Carême turned him around and descended on François’ lips. “I have no regrets, Villon.”

 

 

_

Copyright © 2022 AC Benus; All Rights Reserved.
  • Like 14
  • Love 13
Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
You are not currently following this author. Be sure to follow to keep up to date with new stories they post.

Recommended Comments

Chapter Comments



7 hours ago, Lyssa said:

Awww what a great surprise to see, that you started posting. The first chapter painted already an elaborated picture and leaves me excited to read more. It filled my mind with memories of the Brighton Pavilion. Looking forward to the next chapter! :yes:

@LyssaThanks! You know this project has takes some time to work out, and it seems like you and I were discussing Princess Charlotte way back in 2018! :huh: :*) :huh:

  • Like 4
  • Love 1
Link to comment
2 hours ago, Clancy59 said:

Wow.  That’s quite a complex!  Thank you for the diagram.  It helped me position everything in my mind.  I think I will be referring to it frequently while reading this story. :thankyou:

Thanks, @Clancy59! I suppose I can post other sections of the plan as we begin to see more and more of the Pavilion. Thanks again for reading and commenting 

  • Like 4
  • Love 1
Link to comment
scrubber6620

Posted (edited)

I am looking forward to the next chapter

Edited by scrubber6620
  • Love 5
Link to comment
AC Benus

Posted (edited)

On 4/7/2022 at 8:08 AM, scrubber6620 said:

I am looking forward to the next chapter

A million thanks, @scrubber6620! To be honest, I am really delighted (and a bit surprised) to see chapter 1 go over so well. I think readers will find chapters 2 and 3 really pick up the pace, introduce new personalities, and make great overall reads. I'm looking forward to posting them.

Thanks again!   

Edited by AC Benus
  • Love 5
Link to comment

Such promise for the future chapters. Culture conflict, romantic intrigues, power bases, and power sources; I'a ready for it.

I visited the pavilion in 1987 after a cyclonic storm uprooted trees and caused damage to the building. 

The time period and setting is a favorite.

Thanks for a great start.😀

  • Love 4
Link to comment
AC Benus

Posted (edited)

On 4/10/2022 at 12:38 PM, Theo Wahls said:

Such promise for the future chapters. Culture conflict, romantic intrigues, power bases, and power sources; I'a ready for it.

I visited the pavilion in 1987 after a cyclonic storm uprooted trees and caused damage to the building. 

The time period and setting is a favorite.

Thanks for a great start.😀

Thank you, @Theo Wahls! I was a visitor to the marine villa when I was seventeen years old. It was a special day trip from London to see it, but I had to go as my mother had given me my first education on the wonders of the Pavilion. This was 1985, and they had just finished restoring the Music Room from the tragic fire at the house in 1975. They were still working on replacing the furniture though, so I only saw the ball room as a shell -- albeit a perfectly restored shell.   

Chapter two will be posting on Wednesday. Thanks again for you reading and sharing your enthusiasm with me! 

Edited by AC Benus
  • Love 3
Link to comment
1 hour ago, dughlas said:

Oh, this is fun. I'm enjoying it.

Thank you, @dughlas! I do hope the whole project proves both entertaining and rewarding by the end.

Thanks again

  • Love 2
Link to comment

It's amazing how much modernization has changed the food industry.  Even a giant kitchen, like one might find in a high end Las Vegas casino, would output as much food as one large royal dinner with a fraction of the labor.  I wasn't aware of the selling of leftovers, I can only imagine a bunch of line cooks driving around town selling "bloomin onions" and "riblets" out of their cars!  

  • Love 3
Link to comment
AC Benus

Posted (edited)

28 minutes ago, CincyKris said:

It's amazing how much modernization has changed the food industry.  Even a giant kitchen, like one might find in a high end Las Vegas casino, would output as much food as one large royal dinner with a fraction of the labor.  I wasn't aware of the selling of leftovers, I can only imagine a bunch of line cooks driving around town selling "bloomin onions" and "riblets" out of their cars!  

Thank you, @CincyKris! I hadn't thought about it until reading your comment just now, but maybe a version of the staff getting extra income from the selling of uneaten food should be revived. The twin factors of large kitchens producing a lot of food that they do little with (except throw out), and the abundance of need in some communities for food, could be a win / win. I suppose the problem though is the same one facing the old system of needing middlemen to "hold" the money until it's distributed. That's still a problem.

But hey, slightly soggy Wolfgang Puck pizza, out a car window, back of the Strip, could be a HUGE tourist draw. Folks would be on the look out for guys whispering "Get your arugula / truffle pie right here." :) I like your way of thinking  

Edited by AC Benus
  • Haha 3
Link to comment

Very impressed and entertained by this story so far! The descriptions are so detailed, it's like we're right there, watching it all unfold. I'm curious to see where the story goes and how Careme fares in England, especially given the synopsis of the story. 

  • Love 3
Link to comment

View Guidelines

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Newsletter

    You probably have a crazy and hectic schedule and find it hard to keep up with everything going on.  We get it, because we feel it too.  Signing up here is a great way to keep in touch and find something relaxing to read when you get a few moments to spare.

    Sign Up
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

Our Privacy Policy can be found here: Privacy Policy. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue..