Gastronomic Show

Only there isn't a show without protocol. Only the uneducated imagine that to lay the table and, especially, to have someone for dinner are trifles. "When you invite someone to dinner you don't do him a favour. That's why you have to give him the impression that you feel honored he accepted to spend an hour or two under your roof," Păstorel warns us. I have showed elsewhere what happened in Antiquity; we have dealt more rarely with the customs of this land. Cantemir, Petru Cercel, Al. Lăpuşneanu, Vasile Lupu, Ştefan cel Mare, Petru Şchiopul, Vlad Ţepeş remain, through the writings of the first one, in the memory of the diplomat, of the chronicler but of the gastronome as well. We find, with national pride, for example, that while Louis XIV put his hands in the plate, Vasile Lupu currently used the fork, knife and teaspoon. And Lăpuşneanu brought master gastronomes asking them to prepare spiced beer. There wasn't only a hierarchy of the servants but also one of the dishes for washing the hands, of the goblets and of the glasses, of the cutlery and the dishware! A protocol of the places occupied at the table in the order of the ranks, of waiting (idem), of the order of the table music! Since we are talking about the Show, it is needless to say that, during the meal, at a sign from the person in charge with the protocol, there appeared in front of the voivode rope walkers, fools, jugglers, dancers stimulating the digestion of the honored noblemen… We find complementary details from the volume which appeared in 1718 in Venice (signed by Anton Maria del Chiaro Fiorentino) entitled The History of the Modern Revolutions of Walachia. Wondering about some, liking the others, discontented with the fact (for example) that the meals "are served rather cold – because in Walachia the kitchens are at the end of the yards, therefore far from the house," the guest concludes that our ancestors were "fond of foreigners, hospitable and worth of praise". Closer to us, N. Iorga (The History of the Romanians in Faces and Icons) describes about the same customs, with the same props, "directed" in much the same way. Just like the brush of a Flemish painter, the Moldavian Ion Ghica makes a painting which, through beauty and power of stimulating the papillae and juices of the bulimics, is worthy of presentation at the end: "…As you entered the door, there was a row of plates with pork, veal, and chicken leg jelly. With garlic and without garlic: each of these had at its back a pork or piglet snout, with pricked up ears and swollen nostrils, cleaned and made mosaic salami. In the middle of the storeroom there rises a big pyramid of goose breasts, destined to be smoked, to be made into pastrami: then from all sides fringes of big and small sausages, lined one after the other and hung from the ceiling, which looked like the ropes of a boat ready to leave; at the bottom, a pile of hams proudly defied York and Westphalia"… You bet, such a landscape scared in its opulence not only York and Westphalia, but the entire globe, suddenly fallen, nobody knows why, in impossible fasting days…" Ascesis isn't a Romanian word!

by Bogdan Ulmu