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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 - 19. Chapter 18: Dinner in the Kitchen & Farewell to Thee

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Chapter 18: Dinner in the Kitchen & Farewell to Thee

 

Tragedy ever seems to hound the tracks of dishonest men; more so, the more personal they are in their deceptions, the nearer his heels he brings the torments of Hell for others.

So too appears the fate of individuals against the backdrop of Nations and their radicals. For if any noble soul could be trusted to execute the dire plans of those who would terrorize, not one of us is safe from being made radical. World History had been irrevocably altered by François Distré’s actions, and though perhaps unknown to the world at large, had deeply affected the life of the man who loved him. For Carême, how many course-corrections in the night would transform his daytime reality in the years to come without his belovèd. How to tell the chef’s time, then – properly – if one can never truly make out the hands moving against the Clock face?

Thus in Britain, and the world along with it, the black skies appeared to recede a bit as summer 1817 crept on apace, but in actuality dark times had just moved out of sight to reappear on the upcoming generation’s horizon in ways unimagined.

And yet, none of these cruel broodings mattered on this, a bright day in the history of the Pavilion. Bittersweet are farewells, and bracing are the chances to bid them.

The Regent asked a chamber maid several places to his left, “Miss Beatrice, will you partake of the quail dumpling soup?”

The young lady with the apple cheeks reddened even more. “Yes, thank you, Your Highness.” She passed her bowl.

The leader of the British Empire dutifully ladled a portion of the piping-hot consommé and passed it down with a smile. He then asked Miss Beatrice’s neighbour if she’d like the same.

A remarkable afternoon in annals of Brighton’s Royal household was unfolding. Four weeks after the discovery of François’ plot, this sunny mid-July day saw the knock-down and removal of the steam and preparation worktops from the Great Kitchen; then a red carpet had been rolled out atop its flagstones and sections of the Banqueting Room table had been re-assembled down the kitchen’s central bay. Clothed in Irish linen and set for thirty-five guests with all the precision John Lightfoot lavished on the Crowned Heads of Europe, it now played host to Carême’s final dinner for the Pavilion. A full menu, consisting of four soups and thirty-two entrees, were set out in Carême’s meticulous fashion prior to the diners being allowed in – the Household work force who had attended to George’s wants so well for so long.

As the meal commenced, high-spirited footmen and sweep-up boys, plus maids and scullery girls along with all the members of the kitchen and serving staff sat to eat with their Prince. George himself anchored the western compass-point of the table, the Housekeeper and Royal Butler took the respective middles of the long sides, and Carême presided from the eastern, narrow end.

“Senior” staff bit their envious tongues, and who, including the Kitchen Comptroller, the Chief Footman, the Regent’s Private Secretary and others, stalked the outside of the table to remove dirty dishes, re-fill wine glasses and perform other ‘menial’ tasks for their underlings. Meanwhile, poor Sous-chef Bauda was needed to man the roasting spits in the Household Kitchen for the main course, but he would take his rightful place next to the chef’s side after the Second Table was laid.

For now, the good Doctor was seated to his right, and Carême served the same role as the Regent, filling the bowls of those who fancied trying the fava bean potage resident in his tureen. As he did so, his gaze fell upon George with deep-seated gratification. As ears also picked up the Regent’s queries to his staff, and their delighted replies. It all produced a contented feeling in the chef, for here was true democracy in action, and after all, mankind’s fate was destined to resolve that each person’s bowl is as worthy as another’s for rich filling and true enjoyment. The chef’s heart was pleased knowing François would have deeply appreciated this moment as well. Europe’s greatest chef had toiled at the Pavilion for a year, and when he tendered his resignation, the Regent suggested this dinner would be a fitting send-off, encouraging the chef and giving Carême hope his time here had changed things for the better.

Carême’s thoughts were interrupted by Kitchiner directing some low-toned confidences his way. His blue-tinted spectacles glinted in the light from the clerestory windows as he said, “Old boy, I know I’ve said this before, but – please don’t feel you have to leave Brighton because of . . . well, of . . . his treachery. A thorough investigation exonerated you, and what’s more, the Prince and I know you had no hand in his plots. There’ll be no repercussions if you stay on – and none of the staff know what happened at the Pavilion. No one will ever know either, I’ve seen to that.”

The Prince’s security man had crafted a cover-story: the maitre-d’ slipped and fell one night when he went up the Water Tower to star-gaze. It was a tragic accident; not one in fifty knew otherwise in the Royal Household.

“Thank you, Doctor.” Carême’s words were measured but sincere. “Your reassurances are politic, but my time with the Prince Regent is at its end. The hour has come for me to move on and look for new horizons.” But in his soul, the chef dare not say how desolate he felt to be departing England without his François.

“As you like, dear Carême. I thought I’d try one last time.” At this point, everyone at the table had a soup of their choice, and at a signal from the Prince – his picking up of a spoon – all settled down to eat it.

The Regent’s valet approached over Kitchiner’s shoulder and re-filled the Doctor’s wine glass.

“Oh, I love perfectly fresh broad beans,” young Master Daniels, seated to Carême’s left, mumbled between spoonfuls of his potage.

The remark made the chef de cuisine smile; it was the perfect invocation for a meal like this.

“I say,” asked Kitchiner, dabbing his chin with his napkin, “what’s next for you, Carême?”

“I’m not sure. Paris first for at least a few months to reconnect to my grounding—”

“And catch up on the latest trends,” interjected Thomas.

“Yes, that too. And then, I will investigate my options.”

“What might they be?” insisted the Doctor in a polite manner.

“Well – believe it or not – that young Lord Stewart asked me to cook for him in Vienna. And he offered me very generous terms.”

“And the Czar,” Thomas slurped a second interjection.

“The Czar too?” asked Kitchiner.

“Yes. Funny enough, the day after the Grand Duke’s banquet, not only did Charles Stewart invite me to work for him, but Nicholas conveyed an invitation to Saint Petersburg to be personal chef to his brother, the Emperor.”

The Doctor chuckled, having done away with his soup in record time. “You have options! And what grand choices as well.” Kitchiner’s tone turned sly. “And you won’t be alone as you begin your new adventures. As for Paris, this certain someone will love it there; I hear it’s the food capital of the world.”

Carême smiled, never moving his eyes from Doctor’s. “It is, and they will love it.”

Just at that moment, the Kitchen Comptroller was passing behind the Doctor – replete with a surly scowl on his face and white wine decanter in his gloved hand. No doubt the expense of this “staff meal” rancorously rattled in his head.

“Oh, garçon,” Carême addressed the money-man, “Master Daniels’ glass is empty. Go and fill it.”

After a pause, and impotent glare, the lackey bean-counter lurched to Thomas’ side and filled the glass.

Impertinently, the teen boy replied, “Thanks, Donald. That will be all.”

After the functionary huffed himself out of sight, the three laughed and laughed.

Meanwhile, the Regent had begun to repeat his playing host with the fish course. The four soup tureens had been removed and replaced by an equal number of piscine delectables.

Thomas had taken over serving duties for the chef and filled dishes as they came his way.

“You know,” said Carême to the Doctor, “I think my Brighton innovation of only serving fish after the soup will be a durable one. It only makes sense to follow the lightness of the soup with the lightness of a fish course, unlike the ‘traditional’ way of serving pâtés, or meat, or any old thing.”

“Yes, as I’ve mentioned before,” agreed Kitchiner, “soup; fish; meat, it’s a natural progression and I imagine people two hundred years from now will still be eating it that way.”

Changing topics, the chef mused, “It’s too bad the Princess Charlotte could not be here to wish us a bon voyage.”

“Indeed,” answered Kitchiner, “but it is best she and Leopold remain at Claremont House, at least for the time being, where they feel the most comfortable.”

Placing a slice of turbot on Carême’s plate, Thomas asked the Doctor, “And what became of Charlotte’s maid, Brigitte?” He was amongst the very few in-the-know.

The Doctor removed and polished his glasses. “Mamzelle Saint-Exupéry was rigorously investigated. No radical ties could be established to her, so the Princess had her way and Brigitte is still in her employ. Charlotte believes her when the maid says she had no idea what François’ intentions were. So, there we are.”

What the good Doctor failed to say is that George secretly agreed to Brigitte’s retention for only six months. After that, the young French woman was to be bundled away in the middle of the night to a Loyalist Judge who’d condemn her to an insane asylum for the rest of her – short – life. Charlotte was never to be the wiser on the girl’s fate. To the Regent’s way of thinking, the lady’s maid’s trespasses could not go unpunished. Justice delayed is still justice served.

Those gathered around to share a meal settled down to enjoy the fish selections. Contented sounds filled the room – for many seated at the table, this was their first chance to see what “all the fuss was about” concerning Carême’s food. Many a palate finally got it and understood what the chef meant when we spoke about his Art.

“Oh, by the way,” Thomas said between forkfuls, “did the Doctor tell you about his good news, Chef Carême?”

“Good news? What good news?”

“My book, old boy. It’s out, at last, and already selling well. The impetus to finally settle down and write my magnum opus is due to you, dear friend.”

“Well, that is wonderful news. Congratulations!”

“Yes, Doctor,” added Thomas warmly, “congratulations!”

“And Chef, I have seen to it that three copies be placed in your room, atop your trunk, for you to take with you.”

Carême considered it for a moment. “You know, I think I know straight off who one copy will go to.”

“Oh, yes. Who?”

“An eccentric acquaintance of mine, an old Royal Bourbon Judge named Brillat-Savarin. I believe he will be most interested in the way you have treated your subject; in its way of physiology, that is.”

True as the chef’s statements were, he failed to remark that Carême’s primary reference to the funny old gentleman was as the ‘one’ who dared to take naps during Carême’s banquets. And how more eccentric could anyone be!

At that precise moment, the Regent’s Private Secretary was scurrying behind Thomas with the last of the white Bordeaux. “I say”—the Doctor’s tone to him had a wicked sparkle—“the chef’s glass is low. Be a good chappie and top it off.”

Thus, Carême’s sincerest adversary in the Pavilion was forced to play servile lackey to the great chef’s wine glass, which he did, although with some hostile glares.

After he beat a surly retreat, the three friends laughed again and again.

Finally, Carême’s mind resolved around the one shared friend missing from this jovial assembly. “What a pity Lady Morgan could not be here today.”

Thomas nodded in agreement. “I very much like her.”

“I do as well,” agreed the Doctor. “But she’s needed in Ireland, where there is ‘trouble’ again.” The man suddenly chuckled, making a shrewd glance in the Regent’s direction. “There’s trouble again in London, for that matter. But in any event, Lady Morgan has gone home to help be the voice of reason, national figure that she is. Reason is needed too if there’s ever to be a smooth acclimation to the new void of power-sharing, with their Parliament being shut down by us as an act of revenge. But still, a smooth transition, if that can ever happen.”

Carême showed his Republican stripes. “With your feet on their soil? Where matters of Empire are concerned, good Doctor, it is too late. And your countrymen will soon learn around the globe there must be blood for blood in every act of independence.”

Kitchiner replied sincerely, “Well, although we English may hope docility to the yoke becomes ingrained, I suppose I cannot argue against your point. ‘Blood for Blood’; I will remember that.”

The Regent groaned himself to a standing position. First he addressed the mid-level servers. “Fill up every glass – a bumper is called for.”

The men scrambled to top off drinking vessels of spit-jack boy and house maid alike.

The Prince picked up his own full glass and held it chest-height. “I thank you all for attending this dinner with Us – me – in the Great Kitchen. The reason for this decorum-shattering meal is a celebration and a thank-you to all of the Pavilion’s staff. The Household Service”—he gestured with his glass to the Butler and Housekeeper mid-table— “have seen that every visitor to this home is treated like royalty. And the Kitchen Staff and Footmen have worked tirelessly to ensure our humble Banqueting Room is the most admired and sorely envied dining room in all of Europe. Bravo! I drink to you!”

After the Prince drained his wine, he remained standing, holding out his glass to be re-filled with a snap-to grimace.

Guests’ glasses were also topped off as the Regent continued.

“And a second reason for our family gathering today is to wish abounding good fortune to Charlotte and Leopold. Their baby Our grandchild is due in November. So I raise a glass to them and the bright times yet to come!”

Having downed his second ‘bumper,’ senior staff thought it must have been all there is. But they were wrong. This time the Prince acted downright testy that should be so poor in reading his mind. The lackeys re-filled glasses once more.

The Regent’s cordiality returned as he proceeded with a warm glance directed towards the table-end opposite his. “And I wish to raise my glass to an artist who has graced both my kitchen and board. A man who just today told me this great room would be improved if only palm leaves were added to the column tops”—he gestured to the four round supports holding up the clerestory—“because it would lend the space the feeling of an oasis in some oriental desert. And I agreed, and they are being made. In one way, it will be a tangible display of how this man changed and enlivened this Kitchen forever.”

He lifted his glass.

“Carême, although you part from our side, we take comfort in knowing a little piece of England will go with you in the form of your new protégé”—he gestured openly to Thomas, who blushed—“and it gladdens our hearts. So, please rise and join me in toasting the man of the hour.”

All but Carême got to their feet.

“To Carême,” the Prince Regent said, “Chef of Kings, and King of Chefs.”

 

 

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Copyright © 2022 AC Benus; All Rights Reserved.
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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.
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Chapter Comments

On 8/10/2022 at 9:32 AM, Parker Owens said:

Allow me to add my own hearty congratulations on this magnificent sendoff. The “senior staff” got there just rewards having to serve the true master of the kitchen. How blind they were to the role they played in making culinary history by providing the wherewithal for Careme to work his art! It will remain for our favorite chef to pen his own magnum opus, perhaps supported by young master Daniels. Once again, thank you for sharing this wonderful story with all of us.

Thank you, Parker, my dear friend. You were a patient editor for this book, allowing me room to sort things out. Your feedback was always welcome and critical for me to be able to fine tune this novel. I don't have words enough to say a proper thank you, but thank you for everything you've done (and continue to do) for me

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16 hours ago, Doha said:

What a lovely tale this was. Thank you for writing it and for delighting us all. 

I hope that in time, we will read more of Careme and Thomas. 

I loved the send off. Chef of Kings and King of Chefs. 

Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts all along, Doha. They've always been most welcome. Thanks again!

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A delightful bit of historical fiction. Thank you for introducing historical figures I'd never heard of.

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This was a fitting farewell from the Regent to Careme, and a great (although bittersweet) ending to the story. Hopefully young Thomas can soothe Careme's pain a little and keep him company in the years to come. 

I'm sad it's over, this is one of the stories I've enjoyed the most. Thank you for such a wonderful work of art!

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On 8/11/2022 at 5:25 PM, frosenblum said:

A delightful bit of historical fiction. Thank you for introducing historical figures I'd never heard of.

Thank you, @frosenblum, for taking this ride with me. Your feedback has been greatly appreciated!

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4 hours ago, ObicanDecko said:

This was a fitting farewell from the Regent to Careme, and a great (although bittersweet) ending to the story. Hopefully young Thomas can soothe Careme's pain a little and keep him company in the years to come. 

I'm sad it's over, this is one of the stories I've enjoyed the most. Thank you for such a wonderful work of art!

Thank you, ObicanDecko! One thing I forget to mention in past replies to chapter comments here is that George is actually known to have thrown a sumptuous dinner for his Brighten serving staff in the Great Kitchen. It's believed to have been held in the middle part of 1817, so it would have coincided perfectly with Carême's departure. 

What's fascinating about the dinner in the kitchen is how much the elite (and the aspiring classes) hated the Regent for having done it! They thought it was about the most disgraceful 'sin' the man could have committed, and satirical cartoons appeared excoriating George for treating his servants like actual "people" instead of slaves. That reaction is very telling of the times right there, and the meal's a credit to the Prince's character that is often overlooked now.

Once again, thank you deeply for your reading and support of this work. By way of shameless plugging, I might remind you that Christmas is coming and hardback and paperback editions of Carême in Brighton are currently available on all Amazon platforms :yes: Gifts for literary friends and relatives . . . ? 

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1 hour ago, AC Benus said:

Once again, thank you deeply for your reading and support of this work. By way of shameless plugging, I might remind you that Christmas is coming and hardback and paperback editions of Carême in Brighton are currently available on all Amazon platforms :yes: Gifts for literary friends and relatives . . . ? 

I actually wanted to gift the book to myself because I've enjoyed it so much. 😄 

Sadly, the shipping cost to my country is 3 times the book price, so for now this GA edition will just have to do. 😆

(Edit: Actually, now that I've checked it again, it seems way lower than last time. Merry Christmas to me, I guess!)

Edited by ObicanDecko
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12 minutes ago, ObicanDecko said:

I actually wanted to gift the book to myself because I've enjoyed it so much. 😄 

Sadly, the shipping cost to my country is 3 times the book price, so for now this GA edition will just have to do. 😆

(Edit: Actually, now that I've checked it again, it seems way lower than last time. Merry Christmas to me, I guess!)

Be sure to look at the other Amazon sites too for the closest shipping to you: it can be printed in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Brazil and many other dot country Amazon sites. It's a great feature of using Kindle Direct Publishing

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