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block against the wall, and bears the general name of fourneau, which is also applied, with a more limited signification, to each separate fire-hole. With the single exception of roasting, it is on this formless, insignificant block that all the ten thousand dishes, whose confection is described in the Cuisinière Royale, are created.
The means seem at first sight to be utterly unworthy of so great an end, but when they are studied in detail they reveal an intelligence and economy of arrangement which impress the beholder with a very different idea of their merit.
When the cook wants a fire she puts a piece of lighted paper into one of the square holes (she generally has a peculiar preference for one of them, and inflames it habitually with a steadiness of preference which must be wounding to the others), she throws upon this paper a small handful of “ braise," or broken charred wood from the bakeries, and on the braise she lays five or six little pieces of charcoal, each two or three inches long, and about one inch thick. She blows up the whole with the bellows; in one minute the braise is red, and in five minutes the charcoal follows its example. The draught is regulated by the door below, and as the air can only reach the fire by the bottom, the sides of the hole shutting it off laterally, the combustion is equally and vigorously stimulated. On this little fire, which costs about three halfpence to set going, and which will burn on indefinitely, with successive additions of charcoal, for a cost of about a penny an hour (these are Paris prices), the cook boils, fries, stews, and grills. She lights as many of the holes as she has dishes to put on at once, and, in cases of pressure, she sometimes puts two saucepans together in amicable partnership on the same hole. A flat funnel-mouthed chimney runs over the whole, at a considerable height above the fourneau, and carries away the vapour of the charcoal.
The fire is rarely more than two inches thick, when, therefore, it is remembered that it is only four inches square, its total cube will appear impossibly small to people accustomed to employ the blazing masses of coal which constitute an English kitchen fire ; but it is amply sufficient for all ordinary purposes. The quantity of fuel is reduced to the lowest possible point in proportion to the heat required, but the economy of the system does not end there; it is not limited to the feeble amount of combustible employed; the moment the cooking is over the unconsumed charcoal is taken out of the hole (or rather ought to be, for all cooks are Dot careful to that degree), and put into a closed iron bucket called an * étouffoir,” where it is at once extinguished by the want of air; it serves again the next day. It is difficult to realise the economy of fuel which is rendered possible by the use of these fourneaux: in ordinary cases the expense stands at about eightpence a day for a family of seven or eight persons, but if the cook contracts for the kitchen fire, as she sometimes does, she contrives to limit her average to fivepence, or in small families to threepence, including in both cases a small mixture of broken patent fuel (charbon de Paris), which is almost as heating as charcoal, and much cheaper.
The fourneau, however, from its horizontal form, cannot roast, and even its toasting is far from perfect: indeed, toast is a purely English product, which no other country can successfully imitate, from want of the right bread and vertical fires. At the end of the fourneau is another lower shelf, in stone, about two feet square, above which is another chimney; it is called the “âtre.” It is on this detached shelf that roasting is performed, at a special fire of coal or wood, which is lighted in a little portable basket grate placed momentarily for the purpose against the wall. In front of it is stationed a half-cylindrical tin box, called a cuisinière, open only towards the fire ; in this box is placed the spit and the meat it carries, which are turned by hand every five minutes : jacks are utterly unknown, and would be inapplicable under such conditions.
The furniture of the kitchen consists in a wooden dresser full of shelves and closed with doors, which serves as a table, on which the food is prepared for cooking, the servants dine, and everything in general is done ; a high, square, stone filter, which looks like a wooden box, and is filled every day by the water-carrier, water being laid on scarcely anywhere; a little stone washing-table fixed up in a corner, with a plug and wastepipe; a chair, if there is room for one, if not the cook never sits down, and the servants dine on their legs; a box of charcoal under the fourneau; and rows of saucepans, coffee-pots, and other tools, which hang against the wall above the dresser. The foor is paved with red tiles.
All the utensils are necessarily small in proportion to the limited size of the fire-holes in the fourneau and of the dishes served in France, which, habitually, are only sufficient for the wants of each single meal. But of course they rise in dimensions and quantity with the importance of the establishment, and in the houses of rich people the supply of copper utensils, of every form, is sometimes alarming to look at, especially when one thinks of the amount of poisoning which might be done with them by a dirty or homicidal cook. In the smaller houses, on the contrary, copper is almost entirely suppressed; it costs too much to buy, and is too troublesome to keep clean ; it is replaced either by iron or by varnished brown earthenware saucepans, called poêlons. In many middle-class families the entire cooking is performed in these awkward poêlons, which cost from threepence to tenpence each, according to their size : indeed, they are, in spite of their lumbering ugliness, especially good for all dishes which require slow stewing; no vessel is so admirable for simmering. The pot in which bouillon is made is also in earthenware, but the importance of its functions has created for it the special designation of marmite. It is worth observing, while on the subject of the small kitchen utensils used by the French, that their dinner-services, glasses, and knives are all smaller and lighter than the corresponding English articles.
Tea-kettles not existing in France, water is boiled in a covered tin jug, called a bouillotte, the handle of which is coated with osier to protect the hands. This bouillotte heats water very rapidly, but it has one unpardonable defect, it never sings. That charming faculty of the kettle is unknown to and unappreciated by the French, who simply regard their bouillotte as a necessary tool, and have no idea that the addition of a spout would convert it into a melodious companion, whose friendly murmurings are sweet to lazily listen to on a winter night.
But this is only a detail. The French cooking system, as a whole, is singularly perfect. Its economy of fuel could scarcely be carried further ; its cleanliness is complete ; and as it permits the cheap cooking of the smallest quantities of food, it is the first cause of the infinite variety of nourishment which is one of the privileges of French life. It suppresses
cold meat, that nightmare of the British husband, because, as it costs no more to prepare small dishes than large ones, no one ever loads himself with more than enough for the day. It gives out no heat even in summer the warmth of the fourneau is scarcely perceptible a yard away, the volume of fire is so small. There is no smoke, excepting from the special roasting-grate, and that is too small to give much of it.
As in Paris and the other towns the houses have no dust-holes, the kitchen waste, the ashes, and the sweepings of the rooms are collected each day into a bucket known by the attractive name of sceau aux
ordures, which is carried down stairs and emptied into the street before • the house between nine at night and seven in the morning, when the scavengers arrive and cart away the collected contributions of the night. It is on the promiscuous heaps of pastiness so piled up before each house that the chiffonniers exercise their investigating eye; indeed, the very existence of their trade is a consequence of this system of turning the streets at night into a receptacle for the accumulated waste of the day. If ever a stray spoon should accidentally find its way into the rubbish, it becomes their natural property, though cases have been known in which they have had the Spartan virtue to ring the bell, and restore it to its
The only important exception to the universal application of these arrangements, on a larger or smaller scale, is that in certain provinces, especially in the south, charcoal is replaced by brushwood, which burns much faster, and gives a peculiar taste to the meat roasted before it, just as coal does to English joints. The English are so accustomed to this latter flavour that they don't perceive it, but an arriving foreigner detects it instantly.
In the large houses there is a pantry or a scullery, or a little offshoot from the kitchen which serves for both, but in the great mass of ordinary apartments space is too valuable to be so employed. The four walls of the kitchen itself limit the field of action of the cook, and there she cooks, Fashes the plates, cleans the knives (on a sort of strop eighteen inches long and three inches wide), polishes the spoons and forks, cleans her master's boots, mends her own clothes, and irons her caps and cuffs; and all this is done, cleverly and handily, in a space which is sometimes only six feet by four !
In addition to these various merits, the French kitchen offers peculiar facilities for spying the servants, and for the exercise of the mistress's own skill in the preparation of crafty dishes. There is no going down stairs to it, for it is only half a dozen yards from the drawing-room door; it is almost always clean, and scarcely ever hot; it is, consequently, most easy to survey the labours of the cook, or to indulge the vanity which ladies sometimes feel in the personal perpetration of a successful plat.
MARE'S-NESTING malice lost no time in discovering, and made no scruple of asserting, that Mr. Dickens designedly drew from the life when he described Harold Skimpole, and that his original was Leigh. Hunt. Whereas, in point of fact, those who daily saw Leigh Hunt nearest, and ought to have known him best, assure us that in his personal habits he was a sheer contrast to his absurdly alleged type-that he was simple even to severity in his ways of life--and very far less of the Epicurean than the Stoic. At any rate Mr. Dickens, when the mischiefmaking rumour reached his ears, at once and unconditionally gave it the lie.
But if the author of " Bleak House” was, as no decent person can doubt, entirely clear of the malice prepense thus gratuitously imputed to him,-we can fancy him fresh from the reading of an essay of Leigh Hunt's friend and fellow-scribe, William Hazlitt, on Effeminacy of Character, when such a representative man as Harold Skimpole was devised, delineated, and developed. In that essay we have a lively picture of the Skimpole species—people who live in the present moment, and are the creatures of the present impulse, whatever that may be. You might as well, says the essayist, ask the gossamer not to wanton in the idle summer air, or of the moth not to play with the flame that scorches it, as to ask of these persons to put off any enjoyment for a single instant, or to gird themselves up to any enterprise of pith or moment. They lie on beds of roses, he says, and spread their gauze wings to the sun and summer gale, and cannot bear to put their tender feet to the ground, much less to encounter the thorns and briers of the world. Life for them "rolls o'er Elysian flowers its amber stream," and they have no fancy for fishing in troubled waters. " The ordinary state of existence they regard as something importunate and vain, and out of nature. What must they think of its trials and sharp vicissitudes?" Siren sounds must float around them; smiling forms must everywhere meet their sight; they must tread a soft measure on painted carpets or smooth-shaven lawns; books, arts, jests, laughter, occupy every thought and hour-what have they to do with the drudgery, the struggles, the poverty, the disease or anguish, which are the common lot of humanity ? These things are intolerable to them, even in imagination. They disturb the enchantment in which they are lapt. They cause a wrinkle in the clear and polished surface of their existence. How they shall “ discourse the freezing hours away, when wind and rain beat dark December down,” or “bide the pelting of the pitiless storm,” gives them no concern ; it never once enters their head. They close the shutters, draw the curtains, and enjoy or shut out the whistling of the approaching tempest. “They take no thought for the morrow," not they. They do not anticipate evils. Let them come when they will, they will not run to meet them. Nay more, they will not
move one step to prevent them. “ The mention of such things is shocking; the very supposition is a nuisance that must not be tolerated."* To them the only recognised conception of an endurable or allowable kind of death, is to
Die of a rose in aromatic pain. The Harold Skimpole of “Bleak House” is a little bright creature, past middle age, with a rather large head, a delicate face, and a sweet voice. New acquaintance discover a perfect charm in him. All he says
is so free from effort and spontaneous, and is said with such a captivating • gaiety, that it is fascinating to hear him talk. He has more the ap
pearance, in all respects, of a damaged young man, than of a wellpreserved elderly one; and none of the appearance of a man who has advanced in life by the usual road of years, cares, and experiences.
Nor has he. Absolutely wanting in two great ideas, the idea of time, and the idea of money, he has never kept an appointment in his life, never could transact any business, never knew the value of anything. He is very fond of reading the papers, very fond of making fancy sketches with a pencil, very fond of nature, very fond of art. All he asks of society is, to let him live. That isn't much. Give him the papers, conversation, music, mutton, coffee, landscape, fruit in the season, a few sheets of Bristol-board, and a little claret, -give him all these gratis, and he asks Do more. He is a mere child in the world, but he don't cry for the moon. He says to the world, “Go your several ways in peace! Wear red coats, blue coats, lawn-sleeves, put pens behind your ears, wear aprons; go after glory, holiness, commerce, trade, any object you prefer; only—let Harold škimpole live!"
As to paying his bills, he substitutes the will for the deed. His will being, he says, genuine and real, it appears to him that it is the same as coin, and cancels the obligation. “My good friend,” he tells the butcher, "if you knew it, you are paid. I mean it.” But suppose the butcher had meant the meat in the bill, instead of providing it? Well, a butcher he once dealt with, did occupy the very ground of that objection. “Says he, . Sir, why did you eat spring lamb at eighteenpence a pound ?' Why did I eat spring lamb at eighteenpence a pound, my good friend ?' said I, naturally amazed at the question. “I like spring lamb.' This was so far convincing. Well, sir,' says he, ‘I wish I had meant the lamb as you mean the money. “My good fellow,' said I, “pray let us reason like intellectual beings. How could that be ? You had got the lamb, and I have not got the money. You couldn't really mean the lamb without sending it in, whereas I. can, and do, really mean the money without paying it.' He had not a word. There was an end of the subject." True, this evil-disposed butcher took legal proceedings. But in that, argues his airy customer, he was influenced by passion, not by reason,
Some men want legs of beef and mutton for breakfast, he remarks, when discovered at home, over that meal; he don't. Give him his peach, his cup of coffee, and bis claret; he is content. He don't want them for themselves, but they remind him of the sun. There's nothing solar about legs of beef and mutton. Mere animal satisfaction.--He and his * See, passim, the sixth Essay in vol. ii. of Hazlitt's Table-talk.