Robinson Crusoe Quote

"He preferred, however, "gourmandization," was an idolater of a certain decent, commodious fish, called a turtle, and worshipped the culinary image wherever he nozed it put up."
---The Contradiction (1796)

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

For Love and Hunger

It is an unfortunate truth, good readers, that all good meals must inevitably come to an end.  In the last few days, having been compelled to leave the comforts of Clerkenwell, I have been navigating far less amiable gastronomic waters.  So instead of lamenting the lack of good coffee and efficient, reasonably priced lunch around Guildhall, I will today acquaint my readers with a recent expedition to Kentish Town, where I was able to Tom-Sawyer some unwitting friends into accompanying me to a theatre production of Henry Fielding's 1749 novel Tom Jones. 
Henry Fielding, from an engraving by
a portrait by Joshua Reynolds

Volumes upon volumes have been published about T.J., which the humble Lady of Quality has neither the space nor the sufficient literary expertise to fully explicate for her worthily time-constrained readers.  However, Tom Jones addresses, at length, two of her favorite subjects –– food and sex –– upon which she might deign to say a word or two.  

The Author –– a character in of himself –– introduces himself as the maitre’d, likening his story to a ‘Bill of Fare to the Feast.”  Yet this is hardly your Lord Mayors Banquet of the previous post, where select invitees pretty much have to eat what's put on the table in front of them.  Nope, this is more like a public tavern, or "ordinary," where anyone is welcome to stay and eat (or walk out, if it's not to your taste) ... as long as you're willing to pay the bill.  

Appetites –– both sexual and gustatory –– are major themes in the novel.  While well-meaning Tom never wavers in his affection for his childhood sweetheart, he is constantly finding himself in the beds of other women.

In that vein, feel free to watch a cinematic testament to the arts of seduction from the 1963 movie version. 

But what about Tom's first love interest, the lovely Sophia Western?  Surely she, at least, must have been a paragon of feminine fastidiousness.  After all, melodramatically losing your appetite (and wasting away) over matters of the heart was all the rage in the 18th century.  Think Clarissa Harlowe: the quintessential Lifetime heroine of the 1740s.  

But Sophia?  Not so much.  Throughout the novel, we are constantly reminded of her fondness for "dainties."  At one point she's locked up in her room and refuses to eat, but when her servant mentions that there are eggs stuffed inside of it, she promptly gives up on the hunger strike and "began to dissect the fowl."  Indeed, the Author reports: "The eggs of pullets, partridges, pheasants, etc, were.... the favorite dainties of Sophia."  She doesn't have the will-power to resist.   

And that's just it, dear readers.  Sometimes we're just too hungry to care about our lofty ideals.  Check out some of these mediocre Guildhall lunches.  A pullet stuffed with eggs is suddenly sounding pretty good.... 

This mystery dish claims to be a jacket potato (2.50)

 "Classic Pork" Bahn-mi with insufficient pork  (3.95)