Food and drink

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The Feast at the Jerusalem coffee-house:

The gentleman with the thistle-down hair quite unexpectedly takes Stephen to the Jerusalem coffee-house[42], and there presents him with the exact copy of an earlier meal the Gentleman himself had enjoyed there at the time of the Crusades. It is a very magnificent affair, but the menu is one to which Stephen is not used, and it embarrasses him a little for he must choose among many dishes which might daunt the most desperate glutton. Those mentioned are:

  • Haunch of roasted wyvern
  • A pie of honeyed hummingbirds
  • Roasted salamander with a relish of pomegranates (from the orchard of Persephone.)
  • Fricasee of the combs of cockatrices spiced with powdered saffron and rainbows and ornamented with golden stars
  • Pork steaks, fried in fat made from the exorcised ghosts of black Welsh pigs, and served with a sauce made from cherries grown by a centaur. (This is the dish Stephen chooses, and the Gentleman assures him it is the finest one of all.)

The wine too, the Gentleman tells Stephen, is of an unearthly vintage. It is pressed from the grapes grown in Hell especially to torment Tantalus. The Gentleman says that this ensures the flavour and aroma of the wine - though why a dessert grape should be excellent for wine-making he does not tell us. It is possible that the qualities of the grapes grown in Hell are not to be judged by earthly standards. Certainly however Stephen pronounces the wine excellent, which is a great argument that it is, for Stephen is a good butler and butlers know their wines.

Dainties with which Mrs Brandy vainly hopes to cheer the spirits of the enchanted Stephen:

Wigg bun: a kind of little, soft, sweetened cake made with fine flour and yeast. Often served toasted and buttered, and sometimes accompanied by ale, into which it is dipped. There is much debate as to whether it should contain caraway seeds, or raisins, or spices, or none of these at all; and whether it should be made long, or oval, or three-cornered. Every woman has her own opinion. What Mrs Brandy meant by an "old-fashioned" wigg bun therefore is open to discussion[26].

Constantia-wine: a very famous, sweet wine, much admired by European royalty. Even the Corsican tyrant preferred it to all others. It is made in Africa at the Cape, which is perhaps why Mrs. Brandy thought Stephen might like it[26].

Marmelade: a preserve of citrus fruit, done by boiling it in sugar. That made with Sevil oranges is generally the most popular[26].

Gruel: a light, thin pottage made by gently boiling fine oatmeal in water and milk until it becomes smooth enough to eat easily with a spoon. Invalids are often given this, sometimes flavoured a little with spices; but in a plainer form it is also the diet of the poor. In some cases ( and Laurence Strange appears to be one) it is the food of those who are not poor, but choose to live as if they are - in short, of misers[14].