The king of chefs and the chef of kings

careme-06Just down the road from where I live is the village of Martinborough, centre of a wine and olive growing industry that has become a major tourist destination for foodies. And one of the attractions is named after the man who was arguably one of the founders of France’s grand cuisine, whose life story I borrowed from for the hero of my novellette A Suitable Husband, written for the box set Holly and Hopeful Hearts.

cuisiniers2Carême is a cooking programme at the Palliser Estate, and it is named after Marie-Antoine (Antonin) Carême, cook to statesmen and kings in early 19th century France and England.

He had a rough start: born in Paris and abandoned by his parents at the age of 10 at the height of the French Revolution. A job as a kitchen boy, in return for food and board, led to him being apprenticed at a pâtisserie in a high-profile, fashionable neighbourhood. He soon became known for his centrepieces, which his employer displayed in the shop window. Sometimes several feet high and moulded from sugar, marzipan and other foodstuffs, they were architectural shapes such as temples and ruins.

Carême freelanced in private kitchens, and learned to create whole meals, and when the diplomat Talleyrand was given a chateau at which to entertain and impress those Napoleon wanted to influence, Carême convinced Talleyrand to take him, too. The test Talleyrand set was a year of menus, with no repetitions using only seasonal produce. Carême passed. He had just turned 20.

He went (after the Napoleonic wars) to London, where he was chef to the Prince Regent for a time, then back in Paris he worked for the banker Rothschild. He laid the foundations for the system that became French cuisine, and was a prolific writer. He is credited with being the first cook-book writer to say: ‘You can try this for yourself at home.’

a-suitable-husband-fbMy character Marcel Fournier is also a talented and ambitious chef, a few years younger than Carême. In this short excerpt, he is indignant that he is not to be in charge of both kitchens at Hollystone Hall.

caremeMarcel could do good English cooking! Had he not grown up here in England after his family escaped from the Terror?

In Spitalfields, until he was apprenticed to a cook in an inn on Tottenham Court Road, then in Soho where he took charge in an earl’s kitchen, and finally, after having himself smuggled into France and attracting the man’s attention by the bold trick of sneaking into his office with a box of his own pâtisseries and menus for a year’s worth of banquets, in the kitchen and under the direct supervision of the great Marie Antoine Carême, chef to Tallyrand and through him to the diplomats of Europe.

For the past two years, Marcel had been one of the most sought-after chefs in the whole South of England. Good English cooking, indeed.

diplomacy-through-cuisine

For more information, see:

Marie-Antoine Carême, First Celebrity Chef

Eater: A name you should know

Regency Era “Hell’s Kitchen”: Marie-Antoine Carême, the First Celebrity Chef and One Time Head Chef for the Prince Regent

Cooking for kings

 

 

 

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What’s up?

leonid_pasternak_-_the_passion_of_creationI’ve been neglecting you, and I am about to start doing better.

I’m blaming winter, a touch of ill-health, a busy time at the paying job, and the decision to first refocus Revealed in Mist, then to rewrite large chunks of it, and then—when I got it back from the developmental editor—to rewrite it again. (Revealed in Mist is the book that was Prudence in Love, and before that Encouraging Prudence, and before that Embracing Prudence).

At the current pace, I’ll finish the last rewrite this week, so expect to see the book at long last before the end of the year. But the long drought in book publishing has given me time to think about my future plans, and one thing I wish to do is be more deliberate about how I post on this blog.

I’m planning four regular posts a week.

I’ll be starting each week with a new feature post: Mondays for Tea with Her Grace the Duchess of Haverford. So on Mondays, I’ll be inviting other authors to bring a character to tea with my duchess, and to talk about their book or post an excerpt (or both).

On Wednesdays, I’ll be continuing Work-in-Progress Wednesdays, where I choose a theme and post an excerpt to fit that theme, and invite other authors to post their excerpts in the comments. I love reading everyone else’s snippets.

Friday will be research day. Footnotes on Friday will be the place I post little bits from my research that intrigue or delight me, and that I think you might enjoy.

And I’m saving Sunday for a post about writing. This might be a post on the craft of writing, or an update on my current projects, or an opinion piece about anything to do with writing or the romance genre or whatever else is on my mind.

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