Friday, September 08, 2006

New Beginning 106

It was a truth almost universally acknowledged that Madame Durant’s cooking killed Bertie Somerset.

The proponents of this conjecture intended it to be a moral lesson—Mr. Somerset, having paid for his gluttony with an early demise, would dine for the remainder of eternity where steaks were perpetually charred and souffl├ęs everlastingly flat.

But the fortunate few who had actually been invited to Bertie Somerset’s fabled twenty-course spreads pondered that same theory with awed envy. Lucky sod, to have feasted upon Madame Durant’s immaculate food for more than a decade, and then to have departed this earth with his face buried in a bowl of the silkiest, densest mousse au chocolat known to man. Lucky sod indeed.

While England’s dozen or so gastronomes reminisced fondly over tarte au citron and escargot en croute, the rest of Society, master and servant alike, regurgitated old rumors concerning the special relationship between Mr. Somerset and Mme. Durant—namely, whether she slept with him and how often, though more intrepid souls went so far as to speculate on depravities involving pastry cream and rolling pins.

When Madame opened a select gentlemen's dining club, where dishes never before set on an English table would be served to the discerning, all England salivated and opened its wallet.

Soon the talk was of tender cuts of meat in delicious pan-drippings, of finely spiced foie, of sausages with a flavour and texture heretofore unknown to British gastronomes.

Madame's popularity waxed with every meal . . . until the night a hapless graverobber discovered that Bertie's immense coffin was filled, not with Bertie, but with a vast quantity of gently rotting cabbages.

Continuation: J.E. Barnard


Gerb said...

A truth heretofore unknown was Madame Durant's true identity; one Mrs. Lovett, hailing from Fleet Street.

2readornot said...

Great! I liked both the original, and the continuation...the best part of the continuation, is it showed me that the interesting food conversation was going somewhere...but it reminds me of a gourmet 'Eat Drink, Man Woman' -- or 'Babette's Feast'.

Anonymous said...

The continuation.... BRILLIANT. If that were the real ending I would surely read this. (Although I kind of liked the original style anyway and might read it if the back blurb were interesting).

Dave said...

Food again, you guys are obsessed.

I like this, the style is a little thick and heavy but it is historic period stuff. I really like it.

The big laugh is in the continuation that implies the Brit's have cuisine - (bangers and mash, bubble and squeak, toads in a blanket?) That's a great joke that brought a smile to my face.

And to be picky, picky, picky: No oe would say the phrase "of finely spiced foie,". they'd say finely spiced Pate' or foie gras.

HawkOwl said...

Faux Victorian. Didn't I just read that? Oh yeah, The Crimson Petal and the White. It's in the fire starter bin now; I can't wait for winter.

pjd said...

I think the author has plagiarized nicely in the first sentence and has told us an awful lot of what we should expect, namely:

This book may deal with universally acknowledged truths that are perhaps not as true as the universe supposes.

That perhaps some underhanded trickery or foul play did in Bertie Somerset.

That we can be treated to a literary feast along the lines of the eminent Jane Austen's novels.

The next few paragraphs make me believe that the expectations have a good chance of being met.

If this book came to me recommended by a respected friend, I would definitely be engaged by the first paragraphs. If I picked it up while browsing in the bookstore, I might think it amusing but probably dull. A little too much like high school summer reading list.

In short: I liked it and think it's likely to be a rare treat. Well done.

verification word: vuofpj
what is text-messaged by a teenage boy to his friends when he sees the girl next door in her nightie

McKoala said...

'lucky sod' seems out of place to me. Otherwise, great tone, love it.

xiqay said...

I liked the first 2 paragraphs of this opening. Reminiscent of Jane Austen's opening (in Pride and Prejudice?).

I didn't like "immaculate food"--clean food? Seemed like the wrong adjective.

I didn't like the 3rd paragraph. I thought the story should move to a specific person or character, not more general society stuff.

That said, I'd keep reading. I'm curious how Bertie died, the real story.

Jeb said...

Ah, but Dave... the literal translation of 'foie' is 'liver', while 'foie gras' is made specifically from GOOSE liver. Bertie may have been somewhat of a hog in life, but there was nothing fowl about him. :D

word: jesupulg... I think that's a recruiter from one of the 254,000 probable faiths in that previous New Beginning.

Stargazer said...

"Toads in blankets?" Bertie dropped his fork. "Utter bunkum, Jeeves. Surely, the blighter can't mean 'Toad-in-the-hole', the Nation's finest cuisine?"

"I am not acquainted with the phrase, Sir, but a badly made dish may be referred to as a 'Frog-in-the-bog'."

Bertie paled. Those of a less sensitive nature would have continued eating their deep fried Mars bar with relish, but the Woosters were reknown for their refined palate.

BuffySquirrel said...

If you're going to paraphrase one of the most famous novel openings in English literature, you could at least try to reach the standard of writing of the author you're imitating.

The tone here jars. Sometimes it seems to be going for a Victorian-style formality--"early demise", other times it drops into C20th-type casualness--"lucky sod". I suppose that makes it timeless. In a way.

Virginia Miss said...

Good beginning, I'd keep reading (and kudos to the continuation author, too!). I love a good comedy of manners and this style is reminiscent. (I'm also a foodie and an anglophile.)

I particularly liked the bit "went so far as to speculate on depravities involving pastry cream and rolling pins."

Good luck, author.

Cathy said...

I do not know how I feel about this opening. The continuation is funny, and should be a part of the beginning.

I'm with Buffysquirrel in that I wince when someone tries to play off Jane Austen. I see the fun in what you've written, but Jane's the ONE.

writtenwyrdd said...

Ew, ew, ew! What is it with cannibalism? It gets me worse than anything. Well, maggots would get me more, but...ew!

I can't really find anything to pick at about this opening. It has a flowing style that I liked. Not my type of read, though. I wouldn't have been interested in it unless the back cover piqued my interest. Mention the cannibalism and hint at humor and I probably would buy it. Cark Hiassen stuff works for me.

Kathleen said...

this is a great opening! I love the tone, which is maintained well throughout, and the language. Good work author.

HawkOwl said...

Jeb - That's not it. Foie gras can be either goose or duck (though goose is tastier), but what's special about it is that the geese or ducks are forcefed until they're obese and their livers are very fatty. Hence the term "foie gras", fat liver.