Literary Menus

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; and don't forget Flaubert's Carthaginian feast

English translations on this page are copyright. You may quote single recipes if you add 'translation by Andrew Dalby' and the site URL ''.
What do the dates mean? I simply give the date of publication -- but when quoting letters, diaries and memoirs, if it is clear that a real meal is being described which took place at an earlier date, I use that date instead.
Please send me more literary menus! I need an accurate text and a reference giving (at least) author, title, date of publication, date of the meal if known. Not much to ask ... If you wish me to acknowledge the contribution I'll do that too.

about AD 10, Rome

On my way home from the Senate House in my litter I ate a bit of bread and a few duracina grapes.

Augustus, Letters, quoted by Suetonius, Life of Augustus 76. Click here for the original text with dictionary links

c. 65, Rome

curavi diligentius noxiosissimum corpus, balneoque praeterito modica unctione usus, mox cibis validioribus pastus, id est bulbis cochlearumque sine iure cervicibus, hausi parcius merum.

c. 66 Petronius, Satyrica 130. English translation: I took rather special care with my (very tiresome) body, skipping the hot bath and applying just a little oil; then I took some relatively strengthening foods, I mean grape-hyacinth bulbs and snails' necks served without sauce, and I swallowed some neat wine, but not too much.

96, Rome

Pliny to Septicius Clarus: You promise, but you don't turn up to dinner, I'm afraid! There will be a penalty: you will reimburse me to the as, and it's no small sum. All ready were a lettuce each, three snails, two eggs, porridge, with mulsum and snow (and yes, you must count in the snow, right in the first line, because it melted away on the plate), olives, beetroot, gourds, bulbi and a thousand other things no less appreciated. You would have heard comic actors or a poetry reader or a lyrist, or, such is my generosity, all three. But you chose to go to someone else's for oysters, sows' wombs, sea urchins, and dancing girls from Cadiz.

Pliny the Younger, Letters 1.15. Click here for the original text with dictionary links.

c. 103, Rome

Capparin et putri cepas hallece natantis
et pulpam dubio de petasone voras,
teque iuvant gerres et pelle melandrya cana,
resinata bibis vina, Falerna fugis.

c. 103 Martial, Epigrams 3.77

c. 1120, Orange

Guiburc meïsme servi Girard de l'aigue,
E en apres le servit de tuaille.
Puis l'ad assis a une halte table,
Si li aporte d'un senglier une espalle ...
El li aporte un grant pain a tamis
E en apres grant mazelin de vin.
Girarz mangat le grant braün porcin
E a dous traiz voidat le mazelin.

c. 1120 Chanson de Guillaume

c. 1125, Nîmes

Communement s'assieent au souper;
assez i orent venoison de sengler,
grues et gentes et poons emprevez.

c. 1125 Le charroi de Nîmes 811-813

c. 1228, France

Li veneor n'orent pas honte
s'il orent boef au premier mes
as bons aus, destrempé d'aigrés,
et puis oisons et mortereux.

c. 1228 Jean Renart, Le roman de la rose ou de Guillaume de Dole 479

1532, Paris

Deux jours après, Panurge le maria avecques une vieille lanternière, et luy mesmes fit les nopces à belles testes de mouton, bonnes hastilles à la moustarde, et beaux tribars aux ailz ... et à boire belle piscantine et beau cormé.

1532 François Rabelais, Pantagruel ch. 31

1553, Lemnos

Le premier metz fut de cocombres cruds sans vinaigre ne huille, qu'ils mangent ainsi sans nulle autre sause, sinon auec du sel. Et apres nous eusmes des oignons cruds, & de mouronne crue, & au demeurant de la souppe de fourment boullu, du miel & du pain. Et pourautant qu'en la compagnie y auoit des Grecs Chrestiens, nous beusmes du vin, que les Caloieres, qui se tiennent aupres de lá, auoyent apporté. De telle maniere se traictent les Turcs en leurs banquets, & n'est pas question d'auoir vne seruiette, ne nappe blanche.

1553 Pierre Belon du Mans, Observations livre 1 ch. 27.

The first dish was of raw cucumbers without vinegar or oil, and that is how they eat it, with no other seasoning but salt. After that we had raw onions and raw mouronne, and beside this there was a soup of trachanas, and honey and bread. Also, since there were Christian Greeks among the company, we drank wine, brought by some monks of the neighbourhood. This is how the Turks dine -- and there is no fuss over napkins and white tablecloth. They make no difficulty about mixing with Christians.

English translation from Siren Feasts: a history of food and gastronomy in Greece (1996)

1660, London

Home from my office to my Lord's lodgings, where my wife had got ready a very fine dinner: viz. a dish of marrow-bones. A leg of mutton. A loin of veal. A dish of fowl, three pullets, and two dozen of larks, all in a dish. A great tart. A neat's tongue. A dish of anchoves. A dish of prawns, and cheese. My company was my father, my uncle Fenner, his two sons, Mr Pierce, and all their wifes, and my brother Tom.

Samuel Pepys, Diary 26 January 1660

c. 1760, Venice

Je me rendis donc chez ces dames le premier jour de fête, ayant dans mes poches deux bouteilles de vin de Chypre et une langue fumée ... Elles mirent vite trois couverts, apportèrent du pain, du fromage de Parme et de l'eau ... et puis nous nous mîmes au besogne. Le chypre, auquel elles n'étaient point accoutumées, leur monta à la tête, et leur gaieté devint délicieuse.

1826 Casanova, Mémoires livre 1 ch. 5

c. 1765, Corfu

Il nous donna des truffes blanches, des coquillages de plusieurs espèces, les meilleurs poissons de l'Adriatique, du champagne non mousseux, du peralta, du xérès et du pedroximénès. Après ce souper de Lucullus ...

1826 Casanova, Mémoires livre 2 ch. 1

1781, England

Mr. and Mrs. Custance and Mr. du Quesne dined and spent the afternoon with us and stayed till 8 o’clock in the evening. Mr. and Mrs. Custance were dressed very neat. We put their Coach in my Barn. I gave them for dinner, a Couple of Chicken boiled and a Tongue, a Leg of Mutton boiled and Capers and Batter Pudding for the first Course, Second, a couple of Ducks rosted and green Peas, some Artichokes, Tarts and Blancmange. After dinner, Almonds and Raisins, Oranges and Strawberries. Mountain and Port Wines. Peas and Strawberries the first gathered this year by me. We spent a very agreeable day, and all well pleased and merry.

1781 James Woodforde, Diary, 8 June [The Diary of a Country Parson, 1758–1802, Oxford 1978, p. 171]

1800, Paris

Un consommé, une perdrix froide et d'excellent vin de Pommard, voilà ce qui composait mon modeste déjeuner; je le mangeai en homme qui l'avait bien gagné.

1800 Pigault-Lebrun, L'enfant du bordel

1819, a Greek island

The dinner made about a hundred dishes;
Lamb and pistachio nuts -- in short, all meats,
And saffron soups, and sweetbreads; and the fishes
Were of the finest that e'er flounced in nets,
Drest to a Sybarite's most pampered wishes;
The beverage was various sherbets
Of raisin, orange, and pomegranate juice,
Squeez'd through the rind, which makes it best for use.

These were ranged round, each in its crystal ewer,
And fruits, and date-bread loaves closed the repast.
And Mocha's berry, from Arabia pure,
In small fine China cups, came in at last;
Gold cups of filigree made to secure
The hand from burning underneath them placed;
Cloves, cinnamon, and saffron too were boil'd
Up with the coffee, which (I think) they spoil'd.

Byron, Don Juan canto 3 62-63

1855, England: an archidiaconal breakfast

[At Plumstead Episcopi] the tea consumed was the very best, the coffee the very blackest, the cream the very thickest; there was dry toast and buttered toast, muffins and crumpets, hot bread and cold bread, white bread and brown bread, home-made bread and bakers' bread, wheaten bread and oaten bread, and if there be other breads than these, they were there; there were eggs in napkins, and crispy bits of bacon under silver covers; and there were little fishes in a little box, and devilled kidneys frizzling on a hot-water dish; which, by the bye, were placed closely contiguous to the plate of the worthy archdeacon himself.

1855 Anthony Trollope, The Warden chapter 8

1856, Haileybury

When we regained our rooms we found our breakfast consisting of tea or coffee, excellent bread-and-butter, and on the tongs, artfully stuck in between the bars of the grate to keep it hot, a mutton-chop or a curried sole or something of the kind. Breakfast parties were a favourite thing, and at these there were all sorts of luxuries provided by the students, and generally tankards of beer or claret.

John Beames, Memoirs of a Bengal Civilian (1896) chapter 4

1884, Fontenay-aux-Roses

Dans la salle à manger tendue de noir, ouverte sur le jardin de sa maison subitement transformé, montrant ses allées poudrées de charbon, son petit bassin maintenant bordé d' une margelle de basalte et rempli d' encre et ses massifs tout disposés de cyprès et de pins, le dîner avait été apporté sur une nappe noire, garnie de corbeilles de violettes et de scabieuses, éclairée par des candélabres où brûlaient des flammes vertes et, par des chandeliers où flambaient des cierges. Tandis qu' un orchestre dissimulé jouait des marches funèbres, les convives avaient été servis par des négresses nues, avec des mules et des bas en toile d' argent, semée de larmes. On avait mangé dans des assiettes bordées de noir, des soupes à la tortue, des pains de seigle russe, des olives mûres de Turquie, du caviar, des poutargues de mulets, des boudins fumés de Francfort, des gibiers aux sauces couleur de jus de réglisse et de cirage, des coulis de truffes, des crèmes ambrées au chocolat, des poudings, des brugnons, des raisinés, des mûres et des guignes ; bu, dans des verres sombres, les vins de la Limagne et du Roussillon, des Tenedos, des Val De Penas et des Porto ; savouré, après le café et le brou de noix, des kwas, des porter et des stout.
Le dîner de faire-part d' une virilité momentanément morte, était-il écrit sur les lettres d' invitations semblables à celles des enterrements.

1884 J.-K. Huysmans, A rebours. Texte électronique du site Gallica du BNF

1902, Amsterdam

A onze heures, un nouveau déjeuner se prépare: du café au lait, des tartines beurrées et piquées de grains d'anis, du fromage de Hollande, du chapsigre râpé en une poudre verte.

1902 J.-K. Huysmans, Paris -- En Hollande

1908, Paris

Il y avait un bouillon au tapioca, un veau braisé, un chou-fleur à la sauce blanche.

1908 J.-K. Huysmans, A vau-l'eau

1919, Morwenstow

Such a lunch at the Bush Inn, Morwenstow, for 1/3: cream, saffron buns and black-a-berrie jam.

1919 Carrington, letter to Lytton Strachey, 14 July [from Carrington: letters and extracts from her diaries (1970)]. See now my IFAQ about saffron buns!

1920, New York

Standing at one end of the room was a marvellous buffet of cold dishes that included a big salmon encased in ice. There was a platter of Chicken Jeannette and another of some small birds that looked like quail in aspic ...
'What kind of champagne is it?'
'I'm afraid to look.'
'Suffering Pete: Bollinger 1911 ... I think the stuff in those crocks the waiters are passing is caviar.'
It was caviar -- the big grey kind that nowadays never gets farther than the tables of particular friends of the boys in the back-room at the Kremlin ...
Mrs Jefferson Perry was having a good time. 'I adore caviar,' she said. 'I've never had enough, but I'm making the most of my opportunity tonight. And this champagne is the last word.'
'I love the peeled hot-house peaches in the glasses,' chimed in her mother ...
Mrs Jefferson Perry downed a final glass of Bollinger and said if Eva was going she would go too.
'Oh, don't go yet,' protested Marion, 'I ordered Nesselrode pudding especially for you -- I know how fond you are of it.'

P. G. Wodehouse, Bring on the Girls (1954) chapter 5

1927, Paris

We ate dinner at Madame Lecomte's restaurant on the far side of the [Ile Saint Louis]. It was crowded with Americans ... We had a good meal, a roast chicken, new green beans, mashed potatoes, a salad, and some apple-pie and cheese.

1927 Ernest Hemingway, Fiesta chapter 11

1934, Nice

The Divers went to Nice and dined on a bouillabaisse, which is a stew of rock fish and small lobsters, highly seasoned with saffron, and a bottle of cold Chablis.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the night (Penguin classics, 2000, p. 287)

1951 (or a generation earlier), London

[The Trouville restaurant, where Uncle Giles used to dine:]
At the door hung a
table d'hôte menu, slipped into a brass frame that advertised Schweppes' mineral waters[:] -- Blanchailles -- Potage Solferino -- Sole Bercy -- Côtelettes d'Agneau Reform -- Glace Néapolitaine -- Café.

1951 Anthony Powell, A Question of Upbringing [p. 222 Fontana edition]

1953, Deauville

'A very small tournedos, underdone, with sauce Béarnaise and a coeur d'artichaut. While Mademoiselle is enjoying the strawberries, I will have half an avocado pear with a little French dressing. Do you approve?' The maître d'hôtel bowed.

Ian Fleming, Casino Royale [p. 60 Triad edition]

1958, transatlantic flight

'What's that odd flower you're wearing?'
Hawthorne had quite forgotten it. He put his hand up to his lapel.
'It looks as though it had once been an orchid,' the Chief said with disapproval.
'Pan American gave it us with our dinner ... I only put it in my button-hole so as to clear the dinner-tray. There was so little room, what with the
hot-cakes and champagne and the sweet salad and the tomato soup and the chicken Maryland and ice-cream --'
'What a terrible mixture. You should travel B.O.A.C.'

Graham Greene, Our Man in Havana [p. 77 Penguin edition]

1958, Malaya

The Pantagruelian breakfast was Ah Wing's regular notion of what an expatriate officer should eat ... Crabbe had consumed grapefruit, iced papaya, porridge, kippers, eggs and bacon with sausages and a mutton chop, and toast and honey.

Anthony Burgess, The Enemy in the Blanket chapter 6

1974, France

La charcutaille, les tomates en salade, le sarassou qui fait les hommes forts, le chevreton et la fourme formaient la matière solide du déjeuner de huit heures, en attendant le dîner de midi un quart.

1974 Robert Sabatier, Les noisettes sauvages p. 140

1992, Edinburgh

'Well, finish your whisky and sit at the table ... dinner is about to be served.'
It was a good dinner, too. Rebus insisted on making three toasts: one to the couple's happiness, one to their new home, and one to Holmes' promotion. By then, they were on to their second bottle of
wine and the evening's main course -- roast beef. After that there was cheese, and after the cheese, crannachan. And after all that there was coffee and Laphroaig and drowsiness ...

Ian Rankin, Strip Jack chapter 2

1995, France

Il tira de sa musette du pain, un pot de beurre, un morceau de lard maigre, un chèvreton.

1995 J. Anglade, Un lit d'aubépine p. 277

1995, New York

'We do not have full menu tonight,' Eugenio apologized. 'I can bring you costoletta di vitello alla griglia or pollo al limone with maybe a little cappellini primavera or rigatoni con broccolo.' We said yes to all and added a bottle of Dolcetto D'Alba, which was a favorite of mine and difficult to find ... He peeled off foil and twisted in the corkscrew as he talked. 'See, 1979, very light. More like a Beaujolais.'

Patricia Cornwell, From Potter's Field p. 83 [Warner edition]

1997, somewhere near Conques

After a few glasses of Fel, a bit of dried sausage, a piece of goat's milk cheese and a pause for reflection on the bank of the Dourdou, all became clear again.

1997 Fr. Graveline, L'invention du Massif Central p. 104 [a citation from Dictionnaire des régionalismes de France ed. Pierre Rézeau. Click here for the original text with dictionary links]

1998, Meaux

Elle préparait pour Bruno des repas somptueux. Des poivrons à l'huile, des anchois, de la salade de pommes de terre: il y avait parfois cinq entrées différentes avant le plat principal -- des courgettes farcies, un lapin aux olives, parfois un couscous. Les jours où elle touchait sa pension elle ramenait des boîtes de nougat, de la crème de marrons, des calissons d'Aix.

1998 Michel Houellebecq, Les particules élémentaires ch. 7