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often is a dark, burnt, dry, hot "devil" sent up, the taste of which would suffice for the first lesson in fire-eating, and which so completely burns your organ of speech, that your taste is gone, and thirst so increased, that no reasonable quantity of liquid can allay it. Soda water, sugar, lemon, nutmeg, &c. <fcc, should be ready for making any cup beverages that may be fancied, from sherry cobbler to gin swizzle.
A supper table ought to be so made that the centre turns round, enabling every person to help himself. Servants ought never to be permitted to remain in the room; a dumb waiter, with the needful supply of glasses, spoons, and a kettle of hot water, is all that is required to be handy. There is only one modern drawback to suppers, and that is the unwholesome habit of smoking; the denseness of the atmosphere which it causes is not only injurious to health, but diametrically opposed to the hilarity of the evening; a soporific feeling is produced, which, like opium eating, may be agreeable to the recipients, but does not extend its influence on the non-partakers. Take the majority of those who are addicted to the noxious weod, and it will be found they seldom open their mouths, except like steam engines, to emit the smoke, or take in fuel and water, the latter mixed in this instance with sufficient alchohol to destroy the animalcule. All brilliant wits make a practice of never smoking in public; a mild Havannah, alfresco,
s in riding to cover, or on a water excursion, is all well enough, but a cigar is not the indispensable companion of visiting hours. This smoke nuisance should be referred to Mr. Mackinnon and a select committee of ladies only.
To render one of the above suppers perfect, the party should be so up to the pleasure of the evening that no one person ever engrosses the whole conversation. It is not a smart anecdote or witty saying, a pungent remark, a well-pointed epigram or repartee, all following one another in a chaos of confusion, and repeated by a wit, however talented, that conduces to an agreeable reunion ; it is the interchange of brilliant fancy, the sharp, yet short encounter of antagonistic genius, the playful rejoinder, the good-humoured retort, the leading up to favourite topics, and the absence of all selfishness, that creates the charm; a punster or anecdote-monger who retails his worn-out wares, without giving his audience time to laugh or even to get a word in edgeways, ought especially to be shunned; it will be better to hire a man to recite the first chapter of the modern jest book, or spout forth some pages from the Percy Collection. Wit, to be effective, must flow spontaneously. The late Lord Alvanley, Sheridan, George Colman, and Theodore Hook, (when not invited only on the principle of " Jack be funny,") were most agreeable and delightful companions. In the present day men exist, of the highest acquirements in conversational powers, who make their wit subservient to their higher order of intellect. The professional punster is a bore, and the retailer of conundrums a still greater one. The punsters, like the Thugs of India, go on a system; they lead their victims up to a certain number of ready cut and dried plants—for instance, an old snuffbox will be produced, which affords the opportunity of introducing an impromptu made at leisure. It has been ninety-eight years in the family, and in two more I shall call it a "sentry (century) box ;" again, a newspaper may be reverted to, announcing the marriage of Miss Annie Bread, and, upon a remark being made on the name, the trained buffo will deliver himself of what he would call an extempore epigram supposed to be written by the bridegroom :—
K While belles around the Graces spread,
And won't have any but her (butter)."
The conundrum vendor, surpassing the hacknied punster, will commit to memory a dozen old charades, and dress them up in modern attire, suiting them to the persons and topics of the day; whenever such a one asks you, " Do you give it up ?" the only way to stop him is, " Yes; and I wish you would, for I bought two hundred yesterday for a penny, and the hawker's voice and acting was worth more than his wares; for in that gin-broken barrow tone, he asked, 'Vy is curds like your h'opposite neighbour? Becoz it's over the whey! Vy is a donkey's tail like a new-born baby? Becoz it never vas seen before. Vy was Burford, when his h'exibition was burnt down, like a h'orphan? Becoz he 'd no longer a pa—nor a—ma.'" This is a quiet way to stop nonsense, and give a chance of something more agreeable in the way of conversational amusement.
This supper dissertation has occupied a considerable space, but, before concluding, one word on carving.
No dinner can be thoroughly appreciated unless the carving be good, or when that remnant of English barbarism is kept up, of having everything placed on the table, and the person of the highest rank is called upon to assist the lady of the house, as if helping nicely were an hereditary accomplishment, it is absolutely essential that the soup, fish, and entrees, after being handed to the ladies, should be next offered to the distinguished martyr who is called upon to undergo the fatiguing duty of dividing wings of chickens, <fec, (fee, <fcc. A late royal duke, whose talents and knowledge were much greater than the world gave his royal highness credit for, was once heard to exclaim aloud, at a large party at a nobleman's house in Worcestershire, " Take this away, it's a very bad help." This was a characteristic, and, no doubt, a very true remark; for there be carvers who destroy everything that falls under their careless, clumsy hands; who never think of diving for green fat, sounding for cod sound, dividing the fin and liver in equal portions, and who will send meat and venison without fat and gravy, woodcock and snipe without trail, turkey without stuffing, and golden plover without toast.
Sauces for teal and wild duck, that require great heat, ought to have spirit-lamps under the sauce-boat, but it is a mistake to have them for entrees, as the cooking process should cease in the kitchen, and scalding water, if applied the last thing to the hot well, is quite sufficient to keep them at a proper temperature.