Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 15.djvu/536
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
cheese completes the repast. Such a meal contains within its limits all that can be desired for daily enjoyment and use. If well and lib- erally served, it is complete in every sense of the word. Dessert and its extent is a matter of individual taste; of wines, coffee, and liqueurs I shall speak hereafter.
A word about hors-d'oeuvres. It is well known that the custom exists to a very wide extent among Continental nations of commenc- ing either mid-day dejeuner or dinner by eating small portions of cold pickled fish, vegetables, of highly-flavored sausage thinly sliced, etc., to serve, it is said, as a whet to appetite. This custom reaches its highest development in the zakuska of the Russian, which, consisting of numerous delicacies of the kind mentioned, is sometimes to be found occupying a table in an anteroom to be passed between the drawing-room and dining-room; or, and more commonly, spread on the sideboard of the latter. The Russian eats a little from three or four dishes at least, and " qualifies " with a glass of strong grain-spirit [vodka) or of some liqueur before taking his place at the table. Among these savory preliminaries may often be found caviare in its fresh state, gray, pearly, succulent, and delicate, of which most of the caviare found in this country is, speaking from personal experience of both, but as the shadow to the substance.
I have no hesitation in saying, after much consideration of the practice of thus commencing a meal, that it has no raison d'etre for persons with healthy appetite and digestion. For them, both pickled food and spirit are undesirable, at any rate on an empty stomach. And the hors-d'oeuvres, although attempts to transplant them here are often made, happily do not, as far as I have observed, thrive on our soil. They have been introduced here chiefly, I think, because their presence, being demanded by foreign gastronomic taste, is supposed to be, therefore, necessarily correct. But the active exercise and athletic habits of the Englishman, his activity of body and mind in commercial pursuits, all tend to bring him to the dinner-table wanting food rather than appetite, and in no mind to ask for " whets " to in- crease it. Among idle men, whose heavy lunch, liberally accompanied with wine and not followed by exercise, has barely disappeared from the stomach at the hour of dinner, a piquant prelude as stimulus of appetite is more appreciated. Hence the original invention of hors- dceuvres; and their appearance in a very much slighter and more delicate form than that which has been described, still to be observed in connection with the chief repasts of the Latin races. The one plate which heralds dinner, indigenous to our country, is also one of its own best products the oyster. But this is scarcely a hors-d'oeuvre. In itself a single service of exquisite quality, served with attendant graces of delicate French vinegar, brown bread and butter, and a glass of light chablis for those who take it, the half-dozen natives occupying the hollow shells, and bathed in their own liquor, hold rank of a very