Eating like P. G. Wodehouse – the ultimate Anatole menu from The Code of the Woosters

by Victoria Madden

After an amusing discussion at Baker’s Daughter blog on food in books and eating the Enid Blyton way, and a prompt from that witty Wodehouse fan the Old Reliable Ashokbhatia, I have polished up my A level French and scoured the internet to bring you this Wodehousian feast. Aficianados will recall it is the menu put together by Bertie in The Code of the Woosters after he anticipates being jugged in lieu of Aunt Dahlia:

‘Bertie! Do you mean this?’

‘I should say so. What’s a mere thirty days in the second division? A bagatelle. I can do it on my head. Let Bassett do his worst. And, ‘ I added in a softer voice, ‘ when my time is up and I come out into the world once more a free man, let Anatole do his best. A month of bread and water or skilly or whatever they feed you on in these establishments will give me a rare appetite. On the night when I emerge, I shall expect a dinner that will live in legend and song.’

‘You shall have it.’

‘We might be sketching out the details now.’

The Code of the Woosters (1938)

What they ‘sketch out’ is a series of dishes of the most luxurious kind, several of which are swiped from a 1903 Christmas menu by the great French chef Escoffier which I found in a Google Books excerpt from Feast and Folly: Cuisine, Intoxication and the Poetics of the Sublime by Allen S. Weiss (2002). (The link is five lines long so I gave up the attempt to include it after line three. But I recommend doing a search yourself. I also found a fascinating article on Escoffier and his influence on modern professional cooking.)

It’s been surprisingly difficult to track down what all these dishes actually consist of: I found several plaintive queries from other readers of The Code of the Woosters and several attempts to guess from others again. I did find a scan of Escoffier’s classic 1903 Guide to Modern Cookery, which kept me absorbed for quite a while, but if some other Wodehouse fan has already worked out Bertie’s menu in full, then Google isn’t finding it.

It’s been made all the more difficult as Escoffier had a habit of giving his dishes names that gives little clue as to their constituent parts – a dish of Nymphes was an attempt to get the English to eat frogs’ legs – so any further suggestions, corrections or additions will be gratefully received.

But enough of this; your dining companions – and your dinner – await:

Le Diner

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Hors d’oeuvres

Caviar Frais
Fresh Caviar*

Cantaloup
Orange fleshed sweet melon

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Soup

Consomme aux Pommes d’Amour
A rich clear tomato soup

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Fish

Sylphides a la Creme d’ecrivesses
Lobster with a sauce of crayfish (small fresh-water lobsters), crab and mussels, baked in an open puff pastry case with brandy and cream**

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Entrees

Mignonette de poulet Petit Duc
Chicken breasts cooked in Madeira with asparagus tips, morels and truffles**

Pointes d’asperges a la Mistinguette
Asparagus tips with a particular sauce

Supreme de foie gras au champagne
Breast sized pieces of goose liver pate (cooked?) with champagne

Neige aux Perles des Alpes
An egg dish? scattered with small sweets made from Chartreuse liqueur

Timbale de ris de veau Toulousaine
Veal sweetbreads in a noodle pastry case served with an Allemande sauce (a thickened mushroom veloute) and garnished with truffles***

Salade d’endive et de celeri
A salad of endive leaves and celery

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Entremets

Le Plum Pudding
A rich spiced pudding full of dried fruits

L’Etoile au Berger
Layered sponge with frangipane (almond flavoured) cream

Benedictins Blancs
??

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Ices

Bombe Nero
A sphere made from layers of vanilla ice-cream with caramel, and vanilla mousse with chocolate truffles, on a punch biscuit base, covered with lightly browned meringue and served flaming with rum****

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Petit Fours

Friandises
Tiny delicate sweet confections

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Savoury

Diablotins
Very small poached Gnochi (Italian potato dumplings), sprinkled with grated cheese and a very little cayenne pepper, grilled and served hot****

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Dessert

Fruits
A selection of fresh fruit from the Brinkley Court hot-houses

* I found a cross-reference for this in a Georgette Heyer detective novel. Caviar was also available in the thirties, salted in tins, to last longer, but fresh caviar was considered to have a far superior taste.

** The Russian Wodehouse Society

*** The International Wine and Food Society

**** The Foods of England Project – Escoffier’s Guide to Modern Cookery 1903

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