Monday, June 14, 2010

Aristocratic Banquet

From Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's only novel Il Gattopardo:
Beneath the candelabra, beneath the five tiers bearing towards the distant ceiling pyramids of home-made cakes that were never touched, spread the monotonous opulence of buffets at big balls: coraline lobsters boiled alive, waxy chaud-froids of veal, steely-lined fish immersed in sauce, turkeys gilded by the oven's heat, rosy foie-gras under gelatine armour, boned woodcocks reclining on amber toast decorated with their own chopped guts, dawn-tinted galantine, and a dozen other cruel, coloured delights. At the end of the table two monumental silver tureens held limpid soup, the tint of burnt amber. To prepare this supper the cooks must have sweated away in the vast kitchens from the night before.

'Dear me, what an amount! Donna Margherita knows how to do things well. But it's not for me!'

Scorning the table of drinks, glittering with crystal and silver on the right, he moved left towards that of the sweetmeats. Huge sorrel babas, Mont Blancs snowy with whipped cream, cakes speckled with white almonds and green pistachio nuts, hillocks of chocolate-covered pastry, brown and rich as the top soil of the Catanian plain from which, in fact, through many a twist and turn they had come, pink ices, champagne ices, coffee ices, all parfaits and falling apart with the squelch of a knife cleft; a melody in major of crystallised cherries, acid notes of yellow pineapple, and green pistachio paste of those cakes called 'Triumphs of Gluttony', shameless 'Virgins' cakes' shaped like breasts. Don Fabrizio asked for some of these, and as he held them on his plate looked like a profane caricature of Saint Agatha claiming her own sliced-off breasts. 'Why didn't ever the Holy Office forbid these puddings when it had the chance? 'Triumphs of Gluttony' indeed! (Gluttony, mortal sin!) Saint Agatha's sliced-off teats sold by convents, devoured at dances! Well! Well!'

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