25 November 2009

The Gardner and the Cook

This is a wonderful relic of the Victorian past. Lucy Yates tells us the story of her gardener and cook. "The Gardener" is one Charles Mann nicknamed by Yates "Charlemagne.” “The Cook” is a French woman named Charlotte. Yates gives us a tour of her life in the rarefied England at the turn of the last century. Recently Persephone Books reprinted another of Yates’ books, The Country Housewife's Book, but even they have little information on Yates.

Her words must speak for themselves. Here is her introduction to the tomato.
"The Latin name of the tomato is Solarium lycopersicum, the edible wolf's peach, or, popularly speaking, love apple. Another solanum, of which we also eat the fruit, is the aubergine, called in India the hrinjal.

It took some time for us English people to learn to like the tomato and to appreciate it thoroughly, but now we know that no garden can be considered properly productive unless it rears a few plants, and any one who has a greenhouse or frame at once settles to grow tomatoes therein."

And what to do with those tomatoes?
Tomato Rolls. — The skins and cores are removed from six to eight tomatoes, and these are pulped down. With them are put a few spoonfuls of minced ham, onion, a little seasoning, the crumb of a stale roll dipped in milk, a few drops of tarragon vinegar, and the yolk of an egg to bind the
mixture together. It is then shaped into rolls, dipped in egg, rolled in crumbs and cheese mixed, and fried in fat until crisp and brown. The dish is garnished with fried parsley.
This book was written in 1912. Two years later, the first World War would begin. It is rather sad to read this lovely little book knowing what is ahead for Charlemagne, Charlotte and Lucy.

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