Apicultura Wiki
Advertisement

No one told a story better than old Major Gasden - in fact he could detail very commonplace incidents so dramatically, that he would give them a real interest. He had met with a little insider on his first visit to New Orleans, that was to him a source of either constant humor or annoyance. Whichever view he took of the adventure, gave character to his illustration of it.

The "major," on a certain occasion, formed one of a happy party, and growing communicative under the influence of genial society and old port, was imprudent enough to call on several persons near and around him for songs and sentiments - which calls being promptly honored, - the Major very unexpectedly found himself under the immense obligation of doing something for his friends himself; and as he could not sing, and hated salt water, he compromised, by relating the following personal adventure. Page 272

We give it as nearly verbatim as possible, but must premise, that from an occasional twinkle that we noticed in the Major's eyes, we have never been perfectly satisfied that he did not, to use the language of an Irish friend of ours, "make an intentional mistake."

"There ought to be nothing about a dinner, generally speaking," commenced the Major, "to make it an era in one's history in any way.

"The power merely to gratify the appetite just sufficient to sustain life, is eating in poverty; a life spent merely in gratifying the appetite, is brutal. We like a good dinner and we sit down to one with that complacency of feeling that denotes a thankfulness, that may properly be called, a silent blessing; yet we feel more pity for a man who recollects his bad dinners, than we do for one who distinctly remembers his good ones. In everyday life, things commemorative often start from the table. 'Do you remember,' says Gustibus 'that so and so happened the day we ate the fresh salmon?' 'I remember the event,' replies Dulce, 'from that exquisite bon-mot uttered on the occasion.'

"I remember my first dinner in New Orleans as distinctly as I remember my first love. I trust it was impressed upon my mind through the excitement of the intellect, as well as through the gratification of the senses. As I journeyed on to New Orleans for the first time, I naturally suggested to my travelling companion, my desire to be most pleasantly provided for while in the city, and contrary to his usual custom he launched forth in declamation upon the table of his host, drew pictures of luxuries that threw my most sanguine anticipations of good living into the shade, and caused me to look forward with an interest to the gratification of my palate that I had never before indulged in.

"I landed on the 'levee' of New Orleans in the middle of the morning; although it was early spring, a glorious sun, such as Pomona loves, was making every thing look gay; the swollen Mississippi dashed a few waves over the artificial barrier that confined it to its channel, and as they crowded along in little rivulets, they sparkled like molten silver and gold, indicative, as we thought, of the wealth which was borne upon its waters, and paid tribute to the city.

"I need not say where I ate my first dinner in New Orleans. The dining hall was a long one and the diners numerous. I made my entrance after the soup dishes had done their office, and was, of course, a little late.

'It might have been the exercise, or excitement, or a hastily-eaten breakfast, that made me feel in the spirit of enjoying a good dinner, for I was unusually disposed that way; and looked down the long tables, crowded to excess, with great concern, for fear there would be no room for me, until that melancholy time, when gravies cool into water and globules of fat, and meats are just as warm as when alive; the cruets half filled, and the cloth awry. I trembled at the prospect when, to my inexpressible relief, on my left, near the door, at the top of the two long dining tables, was a small round one, at which sat some six or eight gentlemen. A single chair was unoccupied, and without ceremony, I appropriated it to myself.

"I never saw a man come in late to dinner who did not endeavor to look around on the company present, with that sort of expression which signifies 'Who cares if I did come in late?' I looked that way, and happened to feel so too; and as I cast my eyes on the gentlemen at my right and left, and before me, I paid no attention whatever to the cold stare I met with, as if intending to make me feel that I was intruding.

"In this excellent humor with all the world and myself, I asked the waiter with a loud voice for soup, hot if possible, and I found myself accommodated in the twinkling of a ladle. I went to work lustily to lay the foundation of what my friend in the morning had promised, an extra splendid dinner.

"Oysters and fish, as a first course, seem to be founded in nature, reason, and taste, - accordingly made the reflection to the gentleman on my right - he very formally assented to the proposition, and ate sparingly. I pressed him with great solicitude to follow my example, - and do justice to the viands before him. He suggested that he was troubled with a dyspepsia. This little conversation was received by the whole table with what I remember now, and then for a moment, thought was an unnecessary quantity of laughter, particularly by a gentleman at the foot of the table, presuming I sat at the head. This person, however, had a sparkling eye and a rubicund nose, and I concluded that. he was easily pleased, and thought nothing more of the matter; at the same time feeling great sympathy for my friend on my right, whom I set down as a very bashful man.

"The venison, all trembling about in its dish, with its spirit lamps, and wine condiments was very beautiful indeed, but to me not so much of a rarity as it would have been, had I not lived in a country where deer were plenty. Determined to call out the bashful man, I observed to him if I had had the arrangement of the dinner, I should have ordered roast beef, as I had understood New Orleans was growing quite celebrated for that dish. The bashful man smiled, the rest of the fable were delighted, and it was agreed that it was a most valuable suggestion.

"Thus encouraged, I went on to inform all present, that, the sweetest venison I ever tasted was while 'travelling on the frontier;' that it was not cooked line the steaks in the chafing dish before us, but merely jerked off of the carcass, thrown on living coals of fire, and then while steaming hot, devoured with the simple addition of pepper and salt. Hereupon the gentleman with the rubicund nose, told the bashful man that this second suggestion of mine was invaluable, and another unnecessarily hearty laugh followed.

"Prairie hens of a most delicate flavor followed after the meats; they were really delicious; they came from Illinois, somebody said, and showed the enterprise of the landlord of the hotel - so I thought and uttered, and my feelings in this matter were entirely appreciated by the little group around me.

"The becasse, as they were announced, excited my unbounded astonishment; there they were, in a large dish, packed side by side 'like newly-married couples,' round as globes, and looking as inviting as ice in August.

"I took one in my plate, turned it over and over, and discovered to my horror that the bird had probably committed suicide by running its own bill through its body, and as I drew it out I ejaculated,

" 'Woodcock, as I live!!' "

"My bashful friend responded, 'Exactly so.'

"I helped every body; the birds flew about under my administration as if they were alive and mad, and there was a general display of the most cheering good humor at my beneficent liberality.

"In the mean time, the two long tables of the hotel were deserted, the waiters at them were walking about munching bits of bread and other odd ends, piling up plates, and 'clearing off;' but our little party grew more and more merry and happy, wine, delicious and old, flowed freely; course after course followed, and then came a thousand varieties of the confectioner's skill.

"Toasts and sentiments, really new, were engendered by the old wine, songs sentimental and patriotic; bosom friends were we all, mingling together as sweetly and harmoniously as the waters of the vale Of Avoca.

"For my own part, I was particularly happy in my feelings and remarks, whatever I said was received with a roar, in fact I never met with the same number of gentlemen so easily pleased and so congenial.

"The sun gradually sunk in the west, and the suggestion of candles by an attendant proved a signal for departure - one more glass around and a sentiment from myself was to finish. Requesting all to fill to the brim, I raised my glass on high, and thus addressed my friends:

" 'Gentlemen - I have heard much of the fine tables spread in New Orleans, particularly of this hotel, and of the enterprise of its host. I have heard nothing equal to their respective or joint merits (great applause, the rubicon-nosed man breaking his glass in enthusiasm). The whole of this affair is only surpassed in my experience, or most inflated dreams, by you, gentlemen (casting a sort of patronising look around me), by you, gentlemen, - in your social, literary, and scientific attainments' - (tremendous cheering).

"I concluded in a halo of glory, with 'A health to our host.'

"This speech or sentiment - was drank to the bottom, two gentlemen fell under the table, and four suspender buttons rattled against the windows opposite me. Shaking hands with all who could go through the ceremony, I left the table, whereon had been eaten the best dinner of my life - where I had met the cleverest party ever assembled to my knowledge; such was my first dinner in New Orleans.

"It was nearly one o'clock at night, when I met my friend with whom I had parted in the morning. I found him in his room suffering from a severe attack of the colic; I was still under the pleasurable excitement of my dinner, its effects were still radiating about my brain like heat from a cooling stove. I was very communicative about the events of the day, and among other things exceedingly grateful to my sick friend for introducing me to such a splendid hotel and to such good dinners.

" 'Good dinners,' he groaned, 'do I look as if I had eaten a good dinner? nearly dead from swallowing cabbage and pork.'

"The very mention of such gross aliment made me sick, and I asked him where he dined, with undisguised alarm.

" 'In the hotel, to be sure,' was his reply.

"I told him that he was dreaming, and to convince him, gave him a hurried description of my own dinner at the same time and place. The severe pains of the colic could not altogether destroy the mysterious meaning of my friend's eyes as he looked up, and informed me that the table I sat down at was a private table, and the dinner that had given me so much satisfaction was a "game dinner," got up at great expense, and under the immediate superintendence of celebrated bon vivants.

"The conceit of my ability to amuse a party of strangers at the social board, vanished into thin air; the cause of the wit of my jokes was revealed, - fortunate, indeed, as I was, in eating a good dinner, I was still more fortunate in meeting with a party of gentlemen, who were too delicate to hint at any explanations that would, in their presence, inform me of my amusing mistake.

Advertisement