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The 19th Century Dining Revolution

By Eva Eliscu

After the French Revolution, a new privileged class was born. Paris was flush with money from Napoleon’s conquests and established itself as the gourmet capital of Europe.

The 19th Century Dining Revolution
By Eva Eliscu
Wed, Feb 14, 3pm
Sala Quetzal
La Biblioteca
Reloj 50A

Napoleon introduced a significant cultural change in the style of dining from service à la française to service à la russe.
Service à la française is when all of the meal is presented on the table for diners to help themselves, what we now call a buffet or family-style.

Service à la russe is when a server presents the food on the diner’s left and serves beverages on the diner’s right. The plate is also removed from the diner’s right.

During the lecture, you will visit and dine with Empress Josephine and Napoleon at their official residence at the Tuileries Palace, where they hosted glamorous dinners in the state dining room, the Gallery of Diana, known for its five enormous crystal chandeliers.

After the battle of Marengo, Napoleon’s chef, Durand, created a dish named Chicken Marengo. It became Napoleon’s favorite dish, and we will find it in many restaurants when visiting Paris at this time in history.

We will also meet and dine with Napoleon’s foreign minister, Charles Maurice Talleyrand, the most powerful diplomat in history. Talleyrand’s interests were food, politics, and women. He never married. He represented France at the Congress of Vienna in 1814–1815, where his comment was, “You cannot conduct good politics without good food.”

It is also time to visit Thomas Jefferson, the American foodie. Jefferson served as a diplomat in France and lived on the Champs-Élysées, where he entertained with help of his chef, James Hemings. During the lecture we are invited to his beloved Monticello. With several guests we congregate in the room next to the Monticello dining room and, precisely at three o’clock, Jefferson’s French butler will open the door to the dining room. With Jefferson as a host, the dining room becomes a stage for engaged discussions, “a feast of reason.” We will also have the opportunity to visit Jefferson’s modern kitchen.

Monticello’s cosmopolitan French and Virginia fusion cooking established Jefferson and the United States as members of an international community of educated and worldly people.

As we reach the Victorian era and the Gilded Age, we see that the 1850s upper-class English stopped shifting their forks back and forth. The Continental European style of eating became fashionable. When we join Charles and Catherine Dickens at their home, we need to know the rules of the table; it is easy to be overwhelmed by all the silver flatware placed next to our dinner plate.

Our journey ends with a dinner in Stockholm, the Nobel Banquet, where you are one of the 1,300 dinner guests. Please join me, Eva Eliscu, in a fun and interesting food and history adventure at the Sala Quetzal at La Biblioteca on February 14 at 3pm.


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