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We will follow up the course of those ideas, the succession of which must bave led to the foundation of those establislıments, now so general and so convenient.
About 1770, after the gay days of Louis XIV., the dissipation under the regency, and the long peace while Cardinal Fleury was minister, strangers had had as yet but very little opportunity in Paris of indulging in the pleasures of the table.
They were obliged to have recourse to the inn-keeper, whose cooking was generally very bad. There were a few hotels with an ordinary, which, with some exceptions, never afforded inore than was absolutely necessary, and which had besides the inconvenience of being at a fixed hour
To be sure, the stranger could accommodate himself in the cook-shop, but here he could only procure a whole joint, and if he wished to invite a few friends to dinner, he should give directions beforehand, so that those who were not fortunate enough to have been invited by some wealthy family, left Paris without knowing anything of the resources or delicacies of its cookery.
This state of things, so injurious to Parisian interests and daily wants, could not continue, and already some improve. ments were suggested.
At last there was found a man of judgment, who foresaw that such a cause could not but produce its effect, that the same wants being felt every day, at the same hour, the customers would be sure to come to that place in crowds, where they would depend upon having those wants agreeably satisfied. That if the wing were cut off a fowl, in favour of the first comer, another would present himself who would be satisfied with the leg; that a cut of beef, taken off in the kitchen would not lessen the value of the joint, or render it unfit for further use ; that people would pot object to a slight increase in the charge, when they were promptly, neatly, and abundantly served ; that there would be no end to a detail, in itself necessarily considerable, if the guests were to dispute about the price and quality of whatever dishes they might order; that besides, the variety of dishes, combined with fixed prices, would have the advantage of being adapted to men of all circumstances.
This man thought of many other things easily guessed at. He was the first restaurateur, and he created a profession by which a fortune can always be realized, through honesty, neatness, order and skill.
The introduction of restaurants, which after originating in France, have gone the rounds of all Europe, is of the greatest benefit to all classes of citizens, and is even of great importance to science.
By this means every man can dine at whatever hour suits his convenience, according to the circumstances in which he is placed by his business or his pleasure.
He is sure not to go beyond the sum which he intended to expend on his dinner, because he knows beforehand the price of each dish which he calls for.
Having once settled matters with his purse, he may, as he pleases, treat himself to a substantial, or a light and delicate repast, sprinkle it with the best of French and foreign wines, aromatize it with moka, and perfume it with the liqueurs of the two worlds, as long as his appetite or the capacity of his stomach will permit.
The dining-room of the restaurant is the paradise of the Gourmand.
The restaurant is also very convenient for travellers, for strangers, and those whose families have a temporary residence in the country, in a word for those who may happen to have no kitchen at home, or are deprived of it for a time.
Before this time, (1770,) the wealthy and powerful enjoyed almost exclusively two great advantages ; they could travel with rapidity, and always fared sumptuously,
The present facilities of travelling have done away with the first privilege; the establishment of restaurants has destroyed the second; by their means the best fare has become popular
. Every man who can spend fifteen or twenty francs in a first class restaurant, is as well and better entertained than if he were at the table of a prince; for the dinner which is laid before him is as good, and having besides every dish at his command, he is not inconvenienced by any personal consideration.
The dining-room of a restaurant examined in detail presents to the searching eye of a philosopher, a picture well worthy his attention, by the variety of situations it develops.
The lower end is occupied by a crowd of solitary diners, giving their orders with a loud voice, waiting with impatience, eating in a hurry, and after having paid their bill departing.
You may see there families who are travelling for their amusement, who content with a frugal repast, to which, how
ever, they add a few dishes that were before unknown to them, seem to look on with pleasure at a spectacle altogether strange.
Near them you may observe a married couple, who from their hat and shawl appear to be Parisians; it is evident that for some time they had nothing to say to each other : they have agreed to go to some small theatre, and you might lay a wager that one of them will fall asleep there.
Farther off are two lovers ; they are recognized by the assiduous attention of the one; the affected airs of the other, and the gourmandise of both. Their eyes are sparkling with delight, and from the nature and style of their repast, you may judge the past by the present, and foresee the future.
In the centre is a table surrounded by old and regular customers, who most frequently get their dinner at a reduced and fixed price. They know each waiter by his name, the waiter will always privately point out to them what is best and most in season ; they seem to be part of the establishment, as a common centre round which groups assemble, or rather like those tame birds that are used for the purpose of alluring wild pucks.
You might see there also certain individuals whose appearance every body knows, but no one can tell their names; they are as much at their ease as if at home, and they often endeavour to engage their neighbours in conversation. It is remarkable that several of this class, who are never met with but in Paris, having neither property, capital nor profession, yet are known nevertheless to go to great expense.
Again, here and there, strangers, and particularly English, are seen ; these latter are regaling themselves with double portions of meat, calling for everything that is dearest, drink the strongest wines, and very often require to be helped out.
The correctness of this picture may be verified any day, and if it be intended to excite curiosity, it is also calculated to wound our feelings of decency and propriety.
No doubt the occasion, and the influence of objects around us, may seduce many persons into expenses far beyond their means. Perhaps this may account for so many with delicate stomachs suffering from indigestion.
But what is still more fatal to social order is that we know for certain that solitary dining begets egotism, accustoms the
individual to consider but himself, to isolate himself from everything around him, to dispense with the common rules and observances of society : and by his manner before, during and after dinner, in ordinary society, it is easy to recognise amongst the guests, those who live at the restaurants.*
We have said that the introduction of restaurants has contributed much to the advancement of science.
For, as soon as it was known by experience that one savoury dish, well prepared, would make a fortune for the inventor, self-interest, this powerful stimulus, kindled every imagination, and set to work all those engaged in the cooking and preparation of food.
It has been discovered by analysis that some substances were good for food, which were before considered to be of no use ; new dishes were then invented, old ones were improved, and both the old and the new were mixed up in a thousand different ways. Foreign inventions were imported, the whole universe was put under contribution; and French repasts are now so composed as to afford a complete course of alimentary geography.
While the culinary art was thus advancing both with regard to discoveries and expense (for novelties must be always paid for), the same motive, that is, the hope of gain, gave it a contrary turn, at least with regard to the expense.
It occurred to some restaurateurs that they could combine good fare with moderate charges, and that by adapting their prices to small incomes, which are always the most numerous, they would be sure of securing the greatest number of customers.
They selected from amongst those objects of low price such as, when well prepared, would be sure to please.
They found in butchers' meat, which is always good in Paris, and in fish, of which there is always an abundance, an inexhaustible resource, together with vegetables and fruit which, from the improvements in agriculture, could be had at a very low rate. They calculated what ought to satisfy an ordinary appetite, and appease the thirst of one who is not a cynic.
* When the dish is sent round with the meat cut up into small pieces, they serve themselves, then place the dish on the table before them without passing it to the person next them, not being accustomed to occupy themselves with their neighbour.
They observed that there were many objects that were only valued for their vovelty, or the season, which could be procured somewhat later at a low price; in a word they arrived at such precision, by little and little, that in gaining 25 or 30 per cent., they have been able to give their customers, for two francs, and even less, a dinner fit for any gentleman, since it would require, at least, a thousand francs per month in a private house, to keep a table so well and so variously served.
The restaurateurs, considered in this latter point of view, have rendered a signal service to that interesting portion of the population of a large city, which is composed of strangers, military men, and officials ; and they have succeeded, by studying their own interest, in solving a problem which seemed opposed to it, namely, to provide good fare at not only a moderate, but a cheap rate.
Those who have adopted this system have been as successful as their confrères ; they have not experienced so many reverses as those who were at the other end of the ladder, and their fortune, though more slowly acquired, was surer; for if they gained less at a time, they gained every day; and it is a mathematical truth, that when an equal number of unities is collected in one point, their total is the same, whether they are united by tens, or collected one by one.
Amateurs have retained the names of several artistes who have distinguished themselves in Paris, since the establishment of restaurants. We may mention Beauvilliers, Méot, Robert, Rose, Legacque, the brothers Véry, Henneveu, and Baleine.
Some of those establishments have been indebted for their success to special causes, for instance :—the Sucking Calf (Le Veau qui tette) to its trotters; Les Trois Frères Provençaux to its cod with garlic ; Véry, to its entrées of truffles ; Robert, to his bespoke dinners; Baleine, to his excellent fish; and Henneveu, to the mysterious boudoirs of his fourth story. But of all those heroes of gastronomy, none has such claims to a biographical notice as Beauvilliers, whose death was announced in the papers in 1820.
Beauvilliers, who established himself in 1782, was, for more than fifteen years, the most distinguished restaurateur of Paris.
He was the first who had an elegant saloon, well dressed waiters, a well stocked wine-cellar, and a superior kitchen, and when several of those we have named wished to compete with