Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Recipe for a Salad

Recipes expressed in verse are rarely any good. Here’s one by Sydney Smith (1771-1845), clergyman, writer, lecturer and society figure. He was also, on the evidence of the following, a rotten poet and not much of a gastronome:

To make this condiment, your poet begs
The pounded yellow of two hard-boiled eggs;
Two boiled potatoes, passed through kitchen sieve,
Smoothness and softness to the salad give;
Let onion atoms lurk within the bowl,
And, half-suspected, animate the whole.
Of mordant mustard add a single spoon,
Distrust a condiment that bites so soon;
But deem it not, thou man of herbs, a fault,
To add a double quantity of salt.
And lastly, o’er the flavoured compound toss
A magic soup-spoon of anchovy sauce.
Oh, green and glorious! Oh, herbaceous treat!
‘T would tempt the dying anchorite to eat;
Back to the world he’d turn his fleeting soul,
And plunge his fingers in the salad bowl!
Serenely full, the epicure would say,
Fate can not harm me, I have dined today.

It is said that because of this recipe Smith’s memory was to live on among homemakers in the United States (and presumably among dying anchorites) long after his death. It is hard to see why; anchovy sauce and double salt, anyone?

He rather fancied himself as a fast man with an epigram, and his sayings infest the quotation dictionaries. Most of them are pretty unremarkable:
“A comfortable house is a great source of happiness. It ranks immediately after health and a good conscience.”
“A great deal of talent is lost to the world for want of a little courage. Every day sends to their graves obscure men whose timidity prevented them from making a first effort.”
“Among the smaller duties of life I hardly know any one more important than that of not praising where praise is not due.”
“As the French say, there are three sexes - men, women, and clergymen.”

But this one I like:
“Correspondences are like small clothes before the invention of suspenders; it is impossible to keep them up.”


outeast said...

I believe 'twas he who thanked one parishoner for a gift of brandied cherries, 'not so much for themselves, as for the spirit in which they were sent.' Rather neat, I thought.

Tony said...

Yes, indeed. Perhaps I was doing him an injustice by suggesting he was a silly old bore.

Anonymous said...

"Fate can not harm me, I have dined today."

-perhaps he knew the outcome all too well: if the salad doesn't kill him, nothing else can!

Tony said...

...and I have just been reminded that it was he who said that his idea of heaven was 'eating pâtés de foie gras to the tune of trumpets', which is probably the only amusing comment on the hereafter ever made by a clergyman.