Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Saturday, January 28, 2012


I've been reading a lot of Arthur Machen lately, four books in the past few weeks with two more reaching near the top of Mount TBR.  I find this curious because there have been times when I couldn't stand to read a word of his.  My inner reading muse has lots of quirks, fits, and starts.  Most likely, after the next two books, I won't touch Machen for another year or two.  But, who knows?  Whatever devious part of me that reaches for one book and spurns another cannot be predicted to any degree of certitude.  (Looking back on these few sentences I can see Machen affecting me.)

     Whatever.  Here, from his 1924 collection of essays Dog and Duck, is a splash of Machen as he begins to discuss roast goose:

     "The war, I believe, is over.  At all events, I will assume this to be the case, in order that I may speak of Michaelmas goose, and confess that in common with most Englishmen O have certain Teutonic tastes.  In 1918 it was dangerous to admit a liking for Bach or Beethovan; now, I think, things are a little calmer, and I might venture to say that I like apple sauce with roast goose.  As a matter of fact, I do not think that the goose, a very favourite dish on Germany, is served with apple sauce in that country; but the combination is purely Teutonic.  In France, where dwells the true church of cookery, they would shudder at lamb and mint sauce and red current jelly with saddle of mutton and jugged hare.  I know that these things are wrong; but I like them all the same; and they are all German in feeling.  In Germany, as I have read, they serve raspberry jam with roast veal, and English Travellers have been known to denounce the absurdity of the combination, not seeing that it is on all fours with their own saddle of mutton and current jelly.  I say again that these things are wickedness, but I like them very well, and all peoples who have any Teutonic blood in them love such mixtures.  There is the 'Mostarda Soffrafina' of northern Italy; it is fruit -- small pears, if I remember -- pickled in hot sweet sauce.  This they eat in Lombardy with their boiled beef; and from this circumstance, if all the history books in the world had perished, we might infer that the Lombaris were of Teutonic stock.  So, I say, I am for apple sauce with the Michaelmas goose; and, let it be added, for the stuffing of sage and onions, which, so far as I know, is a purely English and a most happy thought.  Here again, we must differ from our masters in cookery, the French.  Walking once in Touraine with a French friend, I sage a bush of sage growing by the roadside.  I told the Frenchman the use to which it was put in England, in relation to the goose, the duck, and the pig.  He nibbled a leaf, and then looked at me with a glance which I had met before in French company."

     I suppose everyone has their own combinations of food that leave others scratching their respective heads.  I know that my wife and children give me that Frenchman glance whenever I make a cheese and jelly sandwich.

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