contra mundum



Brideshead Revisited

‘I remember the dinner well - soup of oseille, a sole quite simply cooked in a white wine sauce, a caneton a la presse, a lemon souffle. At the last minute, fearing that the whole thing was too simple for Rex, I added caviar aux blinis. And for the wine I let him give me a bottle of 1906 Montrachet, then at its prime, and with the duck, a clos de beze of 1904…

The cream and hot butter mingled and overflowed, separating each glaucous bead of caviar from its fellows, capping it in white and gold… The soup was delicious after the rich blinis, hot, thin, bitter, frothy.


We ate to the music of the press - the crunch of the bones, the drip of the blood and marrow, the tap of the spoon basting the thin slices of breast.


‘I rejoiced in the Burgundy. It seemed a reminder that the world was an older and better place than Rex knew, that mankind in its long passion had learned another wisdom than his. By chance I met this same wine again, lunching with my wine merchant in St James’s Street in the first Autumn of the war; it had softened and faded in the intervening years, but it still spoke in the pure, authentic accent of its prime, the same words of hope.’

From Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. The book was written during the Second World War, at a time of rationing and great shortage, and Waugh later observed, with a little distaste, that as a consequence that it is laced with a ‘kind of gluttony’

Personally I wouldn’t have it any other way! The book’s excesses are a big part of its charm and this section has always stuck in my mind. Along with the book, the film and TV adaptations, I also have the unabridged audiobook read by Jeremy Irons and often listen to it falling asleep. No matter if I go to bed full, hearing this passage while half asleep is guaranteed to make me hungry again!

George Orwell said that Evelyn Waugh was about as good a novelist as one could be while holding untenable opinions and that last paragraph about the wine pretty much epitomises this for me; it’s a perfect example of the sort of romanticised conservatism that pervades the book, the contempt for the ‘modern world’ that all too often translates into hideous snobbery, but it’s just so perfectly written, every time I find myself drinking in every word, a literary glutton in every sense of the term…

(The image of the duck dish is ‘borrowed’ from a blog called Jet City Gastrophysics, in an excellent post about recreating the recipe.)

@темы: brideshead revisited, brideshead, Evelyn Waugh