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    AC Benus
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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 - 15. Chapter 14: A Morning in the Life of a Banquet

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Chapter 14: A Morning in the Life of a Banquet

 

 

 7 A.M. —

 

As Carême strode out of his office to begin the workday, he was aware the Great Kitchen had already been a bursting hive of activity for a couple of hours. And not merely the Great Kitchen, but every nook and cranny of the Pavilion’s suite of concoction spaces had been organized to pay their part in pulling off the Regent’s State Dinner for the Russian heir-apparent, Grand Duke Nicholas.

The chef locked hands behind his back while he inched past the preparation tables. They were laid out for his inspection with all the fresh produce and herbs the cooks would be relying upon today. One leaf out of place, one black mark, and the master of this domain would pluck the offending vegetable matter out of service.

However, having worked with Chef Carême for the better part of a year now, the leafy greens and plump root bulbs selected for use were all of the best, unblemished quality. Because of this, Carême let a little smile of satisfaction show; he knew from his own days as underchef this was reward enough for a job well done.

His staff, waiting patiently on the other side of the table, responded by relaxing a bit. Over their shoulders, he spied stocks, roux, fonds and aspics – all in closed pots on the ranges – waiting for use.

While he inspected the staggering array of poultry, game, fowl, rabbit, pork, veal and beef arranged for his inspection on the other preparation surface, Carême noted the activity opposite this second table. The roasting fires were being lit. Spit-jack boys stoked the coals, and the first whiff of stifling carbon monoxide clogged the kitchen airways.

There was a loud thud, rattling stacks of silver cloches on the great oval warming table in the middle of the room.

Carême turned to chastise whoever it was disturbing his morning peace and saw Donald Bland, the Kitchen Comptroller, with a scowl on his face.

The chef, keeping his hands behind him, walked over to the man.

“There,” said Bland sharply. He’d banged a string-and-brown-paper parcel on the table and now flashed his carbon steel penknife under Carême’s nose. “Here are your cartes de menus back from the printer.” He angrily cut the string on the bundle. “I hope you know it will take an Act of Parliament to pay for this meal: Forty entrees?!” The Comptroller ripped the paper off. “In a year when thousands have starved to—”

The chef stayed the functionary with the mere lifting of his finger. “I thank you, and will let you know if you’re needed or wanted in His Highness’ kitchens today. Now, go.”

Bland, slowly, methodically, sheathed his blade, his eyes glossing over with contempt. “Fine, but get ready for your master’s tables to be meagre for months after this. What? – two soups, four entrees – you’ll be bored to tears making apple sauce to go with the tough old goose his creditors will give him to roast.” He turned to walk away. “Artist! Ha.”

To characterize Donald Bland’s leave-taking as curt would be an understatement, but Carême did not care. The chef’s task was to create a meal fit for the annals of history, and by God – or the memory of the French Republic – he would do it.

He picked up a gold-edged menu card from the stack, admiring the engraved emblems of Empire at the top, both British and Russian. But as his eyes scanned the neat, dense lines of text below, he scoffed at Bland internally. Forty entrées! As if that were our biggest concern, when there are also forty entremets, eight soups, eight fish and sixteen roasts. Not to mention more than a dozen trays of hor-d’oeuvres, and a hundred-fifty individual servings of hot dessert – soufflés of apple and vanilla, plus molten chocolate fondant cakes. The latter was yet another of Carême’s inventions.  

The chef placed the card back, suddenly confronted with what an overwhelming day it would be.

 

 

 8 A.M. —

 

As the new hour struck, half a dozen covered trays from the Great Kitchen’s steam table were picked up by the waiting army of footmen. These young men would troop into the Salon with the Family’s breakfast service. As soon as the servers departed, a second round of fifteen footmen picked up identical trays for the guest’s breakfast service in the Red Drawing Room.

Cornelius Hook was also there, glancing at his pocket watch and tapping a surly foot. The Regent’s Private Secretary personally waited to take up the Prince’s breakfast tray. But he was not alone. Besides the black-suited valet to the Grand Duke, Brigitte de Saint-Exupéry scanned the line and instantly recognized her charger to take up to Charlotte and Leopold. The Royal Couple had been at Brighton for a week now, and the pair had grown so fond of Carême’s version of baba au rhum, miniature versions even appeared on the princely breakfast tray. She inspected to insure that nothing was amiss, and hurried off with the tray to the other side of the villa.

Removed from the bustle and steam of the Great Kitchen, Carême and François, and the entire battery of pastry and confectionary chefs, camped out in the Cold Kitchen.

Eight sugar work pièces montées needed to be completed: two scenic; two rustic; two pavilions; and two Classical-style trophies.

The bases for the scenic sculptures had been finished the night before, and now that they had set rock-hard, were being decorated. A pair of boys applied goldleaf on a rocky cliff face and burnished it with agate irons to flawless perfection. Surmounted on top would be a sculpted double-headed Russian eagle made of ‘feathery’ prunes.

Another set of young men applied green tints to the other scenic base – a grassy island isolated by ribbony blue waters.

Carême and François worked side by side.

Using marzipan modelling tools, the master had already converted an uninspiring four pounds of sweetened pork lard into a work of art – a lion asleep, his shaggy-maned head resting in the crook of his right arm. Later, its whiteness would disappear as a fine brown powder got blown into each of its sculpted crevices for a realistic effect. Eventually, the lion would be placed upon its island, nearly covering it entirely.

“I don’t know,” François said, shaking his head and partially laughing.

“Do not know what?” Carême glanced at François’ task. The maître d’hôtel busied himself making the shields: Romanov for the eagle’s breast and Plantagenet to lie against the recumbent lion’s flank.

“I don’t know why we work this hard,” explained François, his tone more mirth than menace. “After all, this banquet is to celebrate France’s humiliating defeat at barbarian hands.”

Carême returned to his task, relieved to know only rhetoric was at stake.

“Because,” François concluded with a grin, “now the pigs are swilling their way through the pearls of French Cuisine. But you and I, we know they are unworthy.”

Now it was Carême’s turn to smile. “Oui, Villon. Why do you think we are doing the Russian eagle in prunes and the British lion in lard?”

After a pause, both Frenchmen laughed openly – it was their little comeuppance on ‘their betters.’

 

 

  9 A.M.

 

The Great Kitchen was awash in flesh. It all had to receive preparation for cooking: large, lean joints larded with laces of fatback for internal basting on the spit; poultry, trussed and seasoned for the braising pans; wiry game, like rabbit and venison, barded with pure-white drapes of caul to add moisture while they were grilled. It was here Thomas Daniels showed his assertive self, for Carême had put him in charge of prepping the roasts, and seeing the grosses pièces all the way to completion.

“What’s a gross piece again?” a fellow undercook asked Thomas.

“They’re the centrepieces of the First Table. No flowers! Food is on display – they’ll be placed down the centre, evenly spaced.”

The other young man peered over the impressive lay-out of meat and poultry on the prep table. “Which to do first?”

“Start with the centrepiece roasts – the turkey, then the round of beef, the quarter of veal, and those three pheasants. They have to be prepped and given to the Roasters first.”

“Oh, yes,” his companion remembered. “They have to cool completely so Carême can decorate them.”

“That’s right, with sauce and thin-cut chives, et cetera. The other eight roasts for the main course can be barded now, trussed up in string, and then taken to the cooler downstairs. We won’t need them finished cooking for hours; not until about 15 minutes before we set the Second Table.”

“Don’t they need much time to cool?”

“No. They’ll go to the table hot! And with minimal surface decoration, but with tasteful accompaniments on the planters, like tartlets of salsify root; whole, simmered black truffles, and pan-fried potato balls. Lyonnaise, those are called.”

The other young man nodded, already trussing the turkey.

Thomas paused a moment, surveying the table of fresh. A small surge of panic edged his tone, saying, “Hurry! After the roasts, we’ve got to start on the forty entrées!”

Meanwhile, in the Table Decking Room, François glanced over the nearly sixty-foot-long sideboard completely covered with freshly polished platters. Near the doors to the Banqueting Room, carts stood by, stacked high with the Pavilion’s china dinner service. Today, all 120 place settings would be used to set, and then re-set the fifty-foot table for Carême’s two courses.

Close to these carts sat houseboys and sweep-up lads from the kitchens. They were on the floor, set to their task by the maitre-d’, with rags in hands going over every piece of flatware to ensure it sparkled.

Suddenly Gris Thorndyke was there yelling at François. The usurped Chief Footman had his own ideas on priorities. “Distré – what the hell! These boys should be wiping down the glassware for the table, not the soup spoons.”

François walked over to be very close to the jealous Englishman. “Anyone who is not an amateur knows, monsieur Lightfoot, the Head Table Decker, needs the flatware first to compose the basic table settings.” François deftly snatched a rag and threw it in Gris’ face. “If you want to be helpful, then you can start wiping the glasses.”

“Mr. Lightfoot . . . !” Thorndyke was already storming into the Banqueting Room to play tattletale.

François returned to his task at the sideboard. He glanced over the platters, knowing he’d have to come back and assign each one a number relating to a menu item. But for now, he inspected the sixteen stands Carême had selected yesterday for choice entrées and entremets that needed higher positions on the table. Gratified they were all immaculately polished, he set them aside for later use.

François had also singled out two round and two square trays for the pièces montées not architectural in nature. These he grabbed and headed back to the Cold Kitchen.

When he arrived, after closing the door quietly behind him, he set the round trays close to where the completed trophies were drying. The marine example was a Classical column with the prows of Roman ships sticking out symmetrically in three levels. It represented Britain’s power at sea. Next to it was another Classical trophy, but this time, round shields formed a core against which Roman armour was attached. Like a barbed porcupine, spears stuck out from behind the armour and represented Russia’s land army sweeping across the European continent. François considered it a bitter memorial for raping and pillaging from the Prussian frontier all the way to the steps of the Louvre. What Glory.

To clear his head, he went to observe an artist at work.

Carême was seated on a high stool, busy with his sugar work pavilion a miniature version of Nash’s onion dome and arcade for the Salon. It was breathtakingly beautiful, for months ago, Carême had drawn the Pavilion’s architects’ intricate trefoil design of the stone tracery for the arcade onto a block of wood. One of the Royal Household carpenters had carefully incised and cut the pattern into the wood, and Carême had used the mould to make sugar-paste grates for his model. These rested on the table before him all sixteen of them while Carême finished the drum to receive the dome. He applied shingles all around the roof just below the onion dome, and which resembled fish scales to François’ eyes. The magnificent dome itself was complete and accurate right down to clear panels of candy glass in the dome’s windows. François knew Carême had also bettered Nash with a small lamp ready to go inside the dome and illuminate the windows from the inside.

The matching piece to this gazebo was not as complete, but as “the Russian Pavilion,” it featured baroque columns supporting an undulating dome of the type one might see in Saint Petersburg, designed by Bartolomeo Rastrelli, the great architect who built much of the Czar’s city.

Eventually this sugar work dome would be burnished in blue gold leaf, and a second lamp stood by to illuminate its edible windows from within.

The door rattled open without warning. “Begging pardon, sir.” One of the red-cheeked spit jacks was standing there.

“What is it?” François asked.

“Begging pardon, sir – Chef Carême – but you are summoned to the Great Kitchen.”

Carême turned, eyeing the lad narrowly. “Summoned, by whom?”

“Prince George, sir.”

Carême stood. “François, take over for me. Apply the shingles as I’ve started.”

“Yes, Chef.”

During what seemed an interminable walk back to the main kitchen, Carême feared the Regent’s presence signalled a change to the 4 o’clock serving of dinner. It would be disastrous, but not uncommon for the caprice-prone Prince.

The second reason was almost worse – George on one of his house tours for ‘very important people.’

As soon as the chef de cuisine cleared the corridor doorway, he saw it was the second reason. The Regent’s group of seven blocked the natural flow of work, standing as they were at the far end of a preparation table.

He took a deep breath and strode over to them. “Your Highness.”

“Ah, Carême, I’ve brought you some visitors. They are dying to see how things ‘work’ at the Pavilion.”

The Prince’s Private Secretary sneered over the Regent’s shoulder like a lurking shadow.

Carême bowed, slightly. Enchanté.”

“May I present,” the Prince continued, “the Marquess of Londonderry”—he motioned to a mousy man—“and Lady Frances, the Marchioness. Also, their son Charles Stewart.”

The Regent didn’t have to gesture to him, for the strongly good-looking, blue-eyed Adonis was standing left hand leaning on the table like a party bored- partly amused Apollo Belvedere. The mere mention of his name conjured his résumé d’action for Carême, for the notorious blade had first ‘distinguished’ himself at the Congress of Vienna by fist-fighting cab drivers for fares, and then by pinching the first-rate ladies’ backsides in the Opera’s foyer.

The Prince patted the boy’s shoulder, breaking the young man from his stupor for a bit. “Stewart’s our Ambassador to the Austro-Hungarians, but his diplomatic star may be rising even farther very soon.”

The final two persons of the Prince’s party were demur, middle-aged women, one of whom cleared her throat.

And, yes”—the Regent got around to them—“may I present Miss Caroline Law and Miss Jane Octavia – friends of Ma-ma, Queen Charlotte.”

Miss Law could stand on no more ceremony and gushed, “What a thrill to meet you, Monsewer Carême. I so look forward to this afternoon’s dinner!”

“Me as well,” enthused Miss Octavia.

“It’s my pleasure to present it to you, Madames.”

Carême suddenly noticed – to his discomfort – the Regent had one of his menu cards in his hands. All of the Prince’s guests did too.

The Prince held it up. “Very impressive, Carême. Of course, We personally went over all the precise details with you previously, but to see it in black and white

“And gold,” Miss Law interjected.

“—Is gratifying.” The Prince quickly scanned for an item about which he could seem knowledgeable. “Especially looking forward to the . . . the . . . . ” He stumbled over the French. “Fill-its doo leparow n lorge-netts.”

No one, including Carême, knew how to respond.

However, functionaries are never at a loss for words, even when silence is to their benefit. “That’s the rabbit, Your Highness.”

The Royal turned to the shadow behind him. “I know. But, as you are such a culinary expert, perhaps you’d care to read a few more items to us – with explanations.”

He passed the carte back, and after an audible swallow, the Secretary began.

“Let’s see – there’s the . . . the côtelettes de mouton glacés, with purée de navets – that’s . . . um . . . um—”

The young rake provided the answer. “Glazed mutton chops with smashed turnips.”

The bravado was such, Carême could not help smiling; it also helped that Charles Steward was completely correct.

“Yes,” muttered the weakened functionary. “But there’s also the salade de homards aux laitues—”

“The American lobster salad on curly-leaf lettuce,” the Ambassador supplied immediately. “But tell me, Carême”—he focused his beautifully cold eyes on the chef—“why all this fuss with sitting down to a table already loaded down with vittles? I mean, over here we eat as God intended – in courses, served to us by servants, come to spoon-feed us one by one.”

Carême derided like a true diplomat – with dead-pan face and overly sincere tone. “Ah, oui. Le Yorkshire pouding, n'est-ce pas?”

Ambassador Steward smiled in spite of himself. What the chef could not have known is to what extent the British aristocrat took a shine to Carême from that moment on.

“I guess what my son is asking”—Lady Frances tried playing peacemaker—“is what is the rationale behind the way you serve; how does it work the way you do it?”

“Yes,” agreed Miss Law. “To the untrained eye, it just looks like a sea of food.”

“Well,” Carême said, calmly resisting the urge to look at the clock on the wall. “It is simple: it follows the Classical model given to us by the ancient Greeks and Romans. The First Table is the appetizer course – soup, fish, entrées. Then there is a break to stretch legs while the Second Table is set with the main course of roasts, vegetables and sweet dishes. It’s all about sharing the experience with others, exploring the flavours, and”—his glance shot to Steward—“serving one another as equals.”

Carême was relieved to see François had arrived.

“Chef Carême, you are required in the Cold Kitchen.”

The chef bowed slightly to the VIPs. “Nice to have met you all, but, Highness, duty calls.”

“Yes, Carême,” replied the Regent. “Be off with you and work your foody, comestible witchery!”

 

 

  10 A.M. —

 

Thomas worked at the range in the Great Kitchen. He had two pots on the go for dressing the centrepiece roasts of the First Table: readying the sauce allemande pure white and the sauce chaud-froid with its amber glow of aspic. The chaud-froid needed to cool to a syrupy thickness and allow the natural gelatine of the chicken stock to set before being able to spoon it over the cooked and room-temperature quarter of veal.

He had to take what range space he could, for Sous-chef Bauda was busy on another battlefront; the eight soups were beginning to come together.

Thomas took the allemande sauce off the heat, putting on its lid with an already-designated paper label of identification.

The second pot he also lidded, but picked it up to walk to the Cold Kitchen to rest.

Meanwhile, in the Household Kitchen next door, the preparation of the staff lunch their “dinner” was well underway, but so too were the scaling,  gutting and be-boning of the eight fish relevées. Some were already gently simmering in specially-shaped fish kettles. The delicate smell of citrus, champagne vinegar and lemon juice to keep the prepared fish white deliciously pervaded this usually meat and potatoes cooking space.

In addition, croustades were crisping in the ovens to kick off Carême’s assiettes volantes – “flying plates” – or, his version of hot finger-food to come after the fish dishes were removed from the dining table. Far from an afterthought, the five different kinds, spread over fifteen platters, required meticulous planning and execution.

Returned to the Great Kitchen, Thomas gave his attention to the centrepiece roasts’ decorations. He cut a carrot into even slices, and then shaped each round into a triangle. He had to be precise, as each three-sided ‘tile’ would be matched to a neighbour in a border design.

Unbeknownst to the concentrating young man, François was approaching from the Silver Vault in a sour mood. The velvet-lined tray he held contained long, decorative skewers in sets of differing shaped finials. The maitre-d’ was being forced to hand over to Thomas four dozen incredibly valuable attelets made by Maison Odiot, the silver- and goldsmiths to the French Crown since it the house’s founding in 1690. François groused internally that the teen boy had been put in charge of the highly prestigious garniture of the eight grosses pièces. Carême planned to prepare one skewer for each roast for Thomas to replicate, and François could envision how the chef would allow the young man the honour of sticking each completed attelet into the roast right before the maître d’hôtel took them out to place for the First Table.

François set the tray down with a rattle. He told Thomas, “Be careful with these. Even one is worth more than your entire life.”

Young Master Daniels attempted a chuckle, but soon saw François was far from joking.

You have to be aware,” continued the maitre-d’, “the skewers are of First Grade silver, which is a far purer than your ‘sterling,’ and easier to bend.”

“Thank you for the useful information.” Thomas’ smile fell flat.

François made to go, but instead leaned over the table and lowered his voice. “I know, because Carême used to let me have the privilege of preparing his attelets.”

The Frenchman left, and Thomas glanced down on the glinting implements on the tray, feeling intimidated.

And just as he lifted his chin, Donald Bland was there.

“What a waste of money.” The Comptroller sneered. “Who will eat the things Carême sticks on these? No one, that’s who!”

Thomas slowly shook his head. “I’m afraid you do not understand.”

“Understand what, boy?”

“Art. Carême’s art, my art, is a feast for all the senses, including sight.”

Bland’s appearance became ominous, revealing the bottom whites of his eyes. “Well, your artist may not make it to see another waste-of-money dinner like this one.”

Thomas’ resolve grew flinty. “You should stop saying such things, Donald, or very important people could hear them very soon.”

The threat only made Bland more punch-drunk with notions of revenge. “Mark my words, boy – I’ll get him—”

The undercook curtly cut him off, stress cracking the normally even-keel boy’s voice. “Kitchen Comptroller, sir, I’m shure busy here, even if you are not!”

 

 

  11 A.M. —

 

Great progress had been made on Carême’s eight pièces montées. The chef worked alone in the Cold Kitchen, attaching miniature fruit to a spectacular tree he’d crafted from molten sugar candy, when a beaming man entered from the hallway.

“Ah,” Doctor Kitchiner announced, “there’s the man of the hour!” He chuckled. “Or, of the day, I should say.”

Carême set down his tools, carefully rising from his stool to not upset his work. He greeted his friend with a smile. “What brings you to the Pavilion, Doctor?”

“You.” He laid a flat palm over the chef’s heart. “How has your breathing been? Any light-headedness or muscle weakness?”

“I’m feeling fine today, Doctor. It helps I have been so much in the Confectionary this day. Even for a short while it helps to be away from the coal fumes.”

“I am glad to hear you are feeling strong today. Today of all days—” The Doctor was suddenly distracted by what Carême had been working on. He approached the chef’s table in awe. A sugar model of a two-story house stood on the grassy banks of a river. It was a country cottage with hipped roof and modest stone-work details around the windows and at the corners of the rectangular structure. “Is it a real place?”

“Yes,” the chef replied. “Peter the Great’s rustic summer house on the Neva, in Saint Petersburg.”

The Doctor then noticed the pièce montée’s most astounding feature, for a towering tree anchored one end of the abode and rose above the ridgeline. “My goodness. I’m amazed at the, pardon the expression, ‘artistic conceit’ of causing a fruit-laden date palm to thrive along the shores of a mostly frozen waterway.”

Carême smiled with a well-studied shrug. “Vive l’art!” He gestured to the second ‘rustic.’ “Did you see the English companion to this Russian cottage? You recognize . . . ?”

The Doctor glanced to the second worktable and was astounded afresh. “My goodness! It’s a perfect model of the Rottingdean windmill, complete – or, perhaps I should say, more than complete – with a giant coconut palm!”

The chef felt gratified. “Oui.”

It was at this point Kitchiner looked around and caught the other pièces montées complete and mounted on silver salvers: the two Classical trophies; the two patriotic animals; the two palatial pavilions. Now, at last, the concept of Carême’s art struck him viscerally. What an accomplishment.

All at once, the Doctor remembered his own noteworthy achievement. Now he was as giddy as a schoolgirl.

“Say, old boy, I nearly forgot. I have good news to tell you. Great news, really.”

“What is it, Doctor?”

“I’ve found a publisher for my book!”

“Congratulations. That is indeed wonderful information.”

“And I’ve decided to call it Apicius Redivivus, or The Cook’s Oracle in honour of all our long, intimate discussions about food, my dear friend.”

“An inspired title, to be sure. When does the book appear?”

“The printers say they’ll have it ready by the start of summer.”

“Bon. I will buy the first copy, dear Doctor.”

The Doctor’s warm smile said how much he appreciated Carême’s kind encouragement, but the two did not have much time to enjoy the sentiment of the moment.

François rushed in, clipping his speech as he said, “That Bosche is now giving tours like he owns—” Distré saw Kitchiner, stopped and bowed slightly. “Pardon. I thought the chef was alone.”

Kitchiner asked Carême, “That Bosche? Who is—”

“Well, it’s a joking nickname François has for a certain German Prince.”

“Ye Gads!” The Doctor glanced around playfully. “Has he sneaked his way back-of-house?”

“Oui, Monsieur. Leopold is in the Great Kitchen and now cornering Sous-chef Bauda. The Prince Consort is giving a tour to Grand Duke Nicholas, and Charlotte is looking bored and agitated—”

The Doctor interjected: “Ah, yes. Those fellows are old comrades; brothers in arms.”

“Oh, dear,” Carême said, shaking his head. “I feel bad for the Princess, knowing how taxing these long days of State business are on her restless mind.”

“The worst part,” François confirmed, “is that now Leopold is summoning you.”

The chef explained to Kitchiner, via a tiny grousing sound, “The Family have all day been giving kitchen tours, and I need time to work!”

Suddenly they heard Leopold’s voice.

It was coming from beyond the open dutch-door to the Water Tower Court.

First exchanging covert eye-movements, the three repositioned themselves there, staying out of sight. A quick glance confirmed Charlotte, Leopold and Nicholas stood at the other end of the sun-drenched court, squinting up the heights of the water tower.

Leopold was saying, “ . . . And so the Prince has the finest spring water pumped up to a reservoir tank that the Pavilion might have optimal water pressure.”

“Water pressure; water pressure,” the Princess mocked in an odd, annoyed tone.

“Yes, darling,” Leopold said, apparently tone-deaf. “But, Grand Duke, as I was saying—”

“When do we get to ride the horses!” the Princess exclaimed, apropos of nothing evident.

“After Tea, Männchen – I mean, München – no, I mean, my darling.” Leopold’s flight of fancy took a tour through a failed term of endearment.

“Are you quite all right, Leopold?” The Grand Duke asked. “I think we should retire out of the sun and rest in the Salon. Yes, Princess?”

“Well”—she genuinely did not know—“what do you think, Leopold?”

“Ja.” He gathered himself together. “Some tea in the Salon. That would be best; aber ja.”

With that, the three Royals exited the courtyard for the Service Corridor and their proper side of the marine villa.

Carême, Kitchiner and François were left silenced, wondering at the peculiar display they’d just witnessed. For Carême’s part, he’d noticed François’ baleful expression the moment the Russian began to speak. It was as if the maitre-d’ could have stalked over to the Grand Duke and spit in his face. However, to the chef’s relief, it seemed Kitchiner was too giddily caught up in the ‘naughty’ act of eavesdropping to note François at all. At least, it appeared that way.

As the men relaxed and stood upright in front of the door, a beaming Thomas Daniels entered the court from the same door the Royals had just vacated. He strode over drying his clean hands on his apron.

The young man came straight up to the dutch-door, leaned his elbows on its shelf. “Gentlemen, the guest of honour has arrived.”

Within another minute, the men followed Thomas across the court, through the corridor and the Household Kitchen to the Kitchen Courtyard. There he gestured to a low-sided, but enormous crate.

Kitchiner, Carême and François glanced down through the lidless top and saw a massive sea turtle, a hundred pounds or more in weight. It was alive and glanced back at them.

Kitchiner was the first to speak again. “I must convey once more how proud I am you’re using my turtle soup recipe for today’s banquet.”

Carême replied, “It is a privilege to use it, and François is in charge of preparing it today.”

The Doctor smiled. “Then I know it will be delicious.”

“Chef Carême,” Friederich Bauda called from the door to the staff kitchen. “Are du free?”

“I am.” Then Carême apologized. “If you gentlemen will excuse me.”

After his departure, Kitchiner, François and Thomas continued to look down on the creature.

“Someone will have to kill it,” Thomas said.

“Oh, by the way.” Kitchiner was suddenly all smiles for François. “I hear Princess Charlotte is comfortably ensconced back in her chambers, and so is Brigitte . . . quite comfortably.”

The suggestive tone was all the rebuke the physician needed to reprove François, who shed a nervous squint at young Master Daniels.

In the silent moment that followed, François felt revolted that Carême had shared such ‘private information’ with the eccentric Englishman. The maître d’hôtel of course did not know Kitchiner had connections in the Pavilion who could have told him, and not Carême.

The Doctor clapped his hands. “Well, young men – I know you are busy boys, and so I will take my leave, and leave you to it.” He winked at Thomas Daniels, before strolling out of the court towards the street and Castle Square.

François told Thomas in ice-coldness, “Time’s ticking. Kill it; butcher it. I need to start the soup tout suite.”

“But – but, that’s below me. I—”

François lowered his chin as he came up to the young man with the whites of his eyes showing. “Nothing is below your type, boy.”

 

 

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AC Benus

Posted (edited)

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French attelets of the type Thomas

was entrusted with

Edited by AC Benus
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84Mags

Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, AC Benus said:

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Charles Stewart, notorious, entitled, rake, and someone

the real-life Carême nearly gushed over in his books.

Well, to be fair, he is a hottie. 

Edited by 84Mags
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The interpersonal tensions interwoven with the expected excitement and stress over the preparations made for a very thrilling chapter. Extremely well done! 

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55 minutes ago, Parker Owens said:

My goodness, Careme gushed? I can’t imagine that. On the other hand, your panoramic behind-the-scenes chapter was better than any tour given by the Regent or Prince Consort. My mouth is watering. Then again, what intrigue might there be between Thomas and Francois? 

Thanks, Parker. I always knew I wanted this type of day-in-the-life chapter for our chef and crew at the Pavilion, but I reckoned it would be better closer to the end of the book than near the start. At this point, we readers know so much more about the operations and expectations, and can better apprentice all the hard work involved in pulling off this sort of State function. 

Thanks again!

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55 minutes ago, 84Mags said:

Well, to be fair, he is a hottie. 

I feel pretty safe asserting that Carême didn't gush over others, but Stewart was to be someone important in the chef's life. I can say this because Antonin went from Prince, to Emperor, to Prince Regent, to Czar -- to Charles. Carême eschewed all higher ups to go and work for the diplomat in Vienna and London; but I'm getting ahead of myself as that's all in the future.

I did think, however, it would be nice to show the moment the two men first "engaged" their wits ;)   

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50 minutes ago, 84Mags said:

The interpersonal tensions interwoven with the expected excitement and stress over the preparations made for a very thrilling chapter. Extremely well done! 

Thank you, 84Mags! This is a wonderful breakdown of the chapter, and highly gratifying to me. Sometimes -- by which I mean, all the time -- we authors are the last ones able to tell if our hard work is paying off for the reader. I thank you for the positive feedback ❤️   

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1 hour ago, 84Mags said:

Well, to be fair, he is a hottie. 

(I guess Carême is like a lot of us -- attracted to the bad boys ;) )

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The preparation in detail for the banquet is amazing. The food sounds delicious.

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6 minutes ago, chris191070 said:

The preparation in detail for the banquet is amazing. The food sounds delicious.

Thank you, Chris! Oh, to be a fly on the wall, huh? But not a fly in the soup!

Thanks again

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AC Benus

Posted (edited)

On 7/13/2022 at 3:54 PM, drsawzall said:

So glad I waited till after supper to read this chapter...

Donald Bland is cruising for a comeuppance again!!

Francois needs to get a grip, he can't keep going off half cocked!

Love the descriptions of the food prep and timing along with all the personality conflicts...where will it all lead to!!

Is there anywhere images of the sugar creations Careme made???

Here is a re-print (from the 1840s) of Carême's Le pâtissier pittoresque from 1815. Beginning page 57, you can see the type of sugarwork architecture the chef brought to the Pavilion. 

https://archive.org/details/b21533842/page/n74/mode/2up

There was a museum in Paris specifically dedicated to preserving the master's showstoppers, but they were hacked to pieces and melted down for the sugar in 1870. The same blockade of Paris seeing an end to Carême's artwork is also the precise moment a brand new treat was born. One industrious confectioner couldn't get his hands on any granulated sugar, but found a few barrels of the medicinal-grade syrup of Malva sinensis root, liked the taste, boiled it up -- and the rest is history. He even retained the plant's name in his new confection -- the marshmallow.

Thanks for reading and commenting, drsawzall! I won't be giving the shop away by mentioning the next chapter is titled "Dinner is Served" -- please stay tuned 

 

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The caption reads hermitage russe, or, 

Russian Retreat (with a date palm ;) )

 

 

Edited by AC Benus
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By the way, this is Peter the Great's Summer Palace. It never got renovated and expanded like its Saint Petersburg counterpart, the Winter Palace.

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On 7/15/2022 at 1:44 AM, ObicanDecko said:

In all seriousness, this was another fun chapter, a bit more lighthearted than some of the previous ones, but very interesting to read. Love the drama among the staff and the officials. Charles Stewart's brief appearance was striking, it was obvious he had left an impression on Careme. 

Doctor Kitchiner is very suspicious to me, he knows what he's doing - giving subtle hints and trying to sow discord between Careme and Francois by using Thomas Daniels and Brigitte. At least that's what it looks like to me. 

Thank you, ObicanDecko, for your thoughts and comments. There's a lot going on under the surface as these people interact. I'm not sure what the doctor had in mind when he said what he did to François at the end of the chapter, but it seems Thomas wound up getting the worst because of it. 

Well, tomorrow, the new chapter comes out and we can -- hopefully -- sit down and enjoy dinner with the rest of the bigwigs. Up first is soup, as our master chef never varies in serving it off the top of the meal :) 

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Doha

Posted (edited)

Thank you for another great chapter. I am sorry to see the nasty side of Francois. Jealousy can drice the best of us mad. He needs to get a grip or he will lose Careme. 

Bland is sailing to close to fhe wind and he is going to be in trouble soon. Loose lips sink ships and his ship will sink soon. 

I'm not sure what to make of the conversation between Leopold, Charlotte and Nicholas. Something js not right. 

I wonder if Careme and the hottie will hit it off. 🤔 

Edited by Doha
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3 hours ago, Doha said:

Thank you for another great chapter. I am sorry to see the nasty side of Francois. Jealousy can drive the best of us mad. He needs to get a grip or he will lose Careme. 

Bland is sailing too close to the wind and he is going to be in trouble soon. Loose lips sink ships and his ship will sink soon. 

I'm not sure what to make of the conversation between Leopold, Charlotte and Nicholas. Something is not right. 

I wonder if Careme and the hottie will hit it off. 🤔 

Thank you, Doha! I was a little "bad" in this chapter and introduced the hottie just so we could get a leg up on the interesting relationship Carême and Stewart obviously enjoyed in real life. To be fair, the chef said he was quite fond of Lady Stewart as well, but he does not gush over her in his books (like he does with the Lord ;) ).

I agree with you that Charlotte and Leopold's behavior deserves closer scrutiny. I hope they're all right . . . .

Thank you again for sharing your thoughts and observations. I appreciate it!  

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The amazing organization to create the food and decorations for the banquet was fascinating to read.  I can't believe the idiotic interruptions of guests touring the kitchens during the preparations.  Poor Carême managed a great deal of self control in a very stressful situation.  I do wonder if he understands how slighted Françios is by putting Thomas in charge of the roast and seeing them to completion. It certainly was very unfair of Dr. Kitchiner to interfere and cause even more trouble for Thomas and Françios.  Good boys falling for bad boys may be true for some of us, but Carême is not exactly a good boy.  Charles Steward and Carême are more like two bad boys sparing for dominance.  Future bouts will be interesting when they occur.  I assume it will be in a sequel to Brighton.😄

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2 hours ago, raven1 said:

Carême is not exactly a good boy.  Charles Steward and Carême are more like two bad boys sparing for dominance. 

😈 😈 love it 😈 😈 

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AC Benus

Posted (edited)

On 7/13/2022 at 8:31 AM, AC Benus said:

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French attelets of the type Thomas

was entrusted with

Their history is quite interesting (I think 😛 ). It seems that because of war and changing climate conditions, flour became quite scarce and expensive in 1790s Europe. Victims included meat pies, as crusts were out. This is the moment pâtés en terrine were born. Great, but now they all look alike, so how can you tell your pike pie from your game pie from your hare pie . . . Answer, attelet! The shape of the finial on the skewer stuck in the pâté en terrine told you what kind it was.

By Carême's salad days, they had evolved to be part of the pageantry of presentation and came in a staggering number of designs 

Edited by AC Benus
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10 hours ago, raven1 said:

The amazing organization to create the food and decorations for the banquet was fascinating to read.  I can't believe the idiotic interruptions of guests touring the kitchens during the preparations.  Poor Carême managed a great deal of self control in a very stressful situation.  I do wonder if he understands how slighted Françios is by putting Thomas in charge of the roast and seeing them to completion. It certainly was very unfair of Dr. Kitchiner to interfere and cause even more trouble for Thomas and Françios.  Good boys falling for bad boys may be true for some of us, but Carême is not exactly a good boy.  Charles Steward and Carême are more like two bad boys sparing for dominance.  Future bouts will be interesting when they occur.  I assume it will be in a sequel to Brighton.😄

Thank you, raven1! Word has come down in history that George was very proud of the Great Kitchen and regularly included it in tours for Pavilion VIP visitors, included on banquet days! Well, one can see why the Regent would be proud of this state of the art facility; it was the best taxpayer-money could buy! Six thousand pounds alone for the regiment of copper pots and pans, plus the copper range hoods. I think that's enough to buy a small battleship for the Royal Navy in 1816 . . . Shocking. 

If there is a sequel, and you are kind to inquire about it, it would be called Carême in Vienna and involve all sorts of tussles (it it just me, or is it getting hot in here . . . ) twix good-looking, arrogant Lord Charles Stewart and his "servant," whom he feels should be under him . . . but is intrigued by how the Frenchman never lets anybody top him . . . so, who will cry 'uncle' first . . . ?         

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AC Benus

Posted (edited)

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This is a great image to show the spiked mirrored sunbursts atop each of the lighting 

fixtures in the Banqueting Room. As you walk under them, the reflected light "pings"

off of the glass and dazzles your eye. This is an experience I have never forgotten

since visiting the room when I was 17 years old :)

Edited by AC Benus
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Some kind soul on the internet has beautifully colored

one of Carême's original illustrations of his food. This is a Centerpiece Roast of the

type Thomas was working on. There were eight roasts like this, of varying designs,

for the Grand Duke Nicholas'

State Dinner at Brighton in 1817.  

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AC Benus

Posted (edited)

On 7/29/2022 at 4:11 PM, AC Benus said:

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Some kind soul on the internet has beautifully colored

one of Carême's original illustrations of his food. This is a Centerpiece Roast of the

type Thomas was working on. There were eight roasts like this, of varying designs,

for the Grand Duke Nicholas'

State Dinner at Brighton in 1817.  

One thing few people realize -- even collectors like me -- is that complete "sets" of attelet always originally came in odd numbers, usually 5 (like in the illustration) or 7; but sometimes 9, 11, or even 13. The reason is there was always to be a central skewer with an even number of matching ones surrounding it.

Edited by AC Benus
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