Saturday, June 23, 2018

BALZAC'S OMELETTE: French Food & Writing

We put Balzac's Omelette in our Amazon Wishlist years ago, but we didn't purchase the petit livre until we found it for $2.00 while recently browsing Strand's used book stalls. 

We find descriptions of food in novels to be highly entertaining. For example, Nabokov's outdoor cafe scene in Transparent Things is especially engaging. 

In the introduction, Muhlstein shared that Balzac opined that "[a]n appetising young peasant girl is a ham [...]. And that a "[...] girl's innocence "is like milk [...]"

Balzac was a financially poor boarding school student. His parent didn't send him "[...] parcels of jam, chocolate, or biscuits [...]" Consequently, "[...] he devoured books of every kind [...]"

As an adult, Balzac "[...] remained convinced that sobriety was necessary to an artist [...]" And he "[...] ate only one piece of fruit as his evening meal at five o'clock and went to bed as early as possible [to rise after midnight to write]." He would "[...] set himself to work for eighteen-hour days"

"He barely ate anything for weeks on end during periods of intensive writing [...]" However, "[o]ccasionally he took a boiled egg at about nine o'clock in the morning or sardines mashed with butter if he was hungry; then a chicken wing or a slice of roast leg of lamb in the evening, and he ended his meal with a cup or two of black coffee without sugar.

But "[o]nce the proofs were passed for press, he sped to a restaurant, downed a hundred oysters as a starter [...] then ordered the rest of the meal: twelve salt meadow lamb cutlets with no sauce, a duckling with turnips, a brace of roast partridge, a Normandy sole [...] [and for dessert] special fruit such as Comice pears, which he ate by the dozen. Once sated, he usually sent the bill to his publishers."

How do you celebrate finishing a book? We recommend a prayer of gratitude.

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