Cleaning Out the Basement — The Chamberlain Calendar of French Menus, 1965

The Chamberlain Calendar of French Menus, 1965, Hastings House

The Chamberlain Calendar of French Menus, 1965, Hastings House

This (unused) date book is the work of an elegant expat couple and their daughter, who made careers out of elegant food.

Narcissa and Samuel, and their daughter Narcisse (amazingly, there is no wikipedia page on any of them–someone get on that) lived in Paris in the 1920s, printmaking, touring, and socializing with more famous ex-pats. After war broke out again, they returned to the U.S. continued their art, worked for Gourmet magazine, and wrote  the charming book, Clementine in the Kitchen—the adventures of the red-cheeked Burgundian cook relocated to the Massachusetts North Shore where she is confused by American cheese but still turns out delectable cuisine de bonne femme meals.

During that post-War period of  prosperity that encouraged travel and entertainment, hostessing became a common art—chafing dishes and caftans–outlined in ladies magazines and for those with a more rarified palate and fatter wallet, in Gourmet magazine.

The purchasers of this calendar were reassured that “It is not difficult to adapt an authentically French menu to the American way of entertaining.” The primary adaptations seem to be simplify and add cocktails, though they include a Thanksgiving menu that leads off with cherrystone clams and finishes with Caramel Baked Pears.)

No chex mix here! Though what goes better with a cocktail.

No chex mix here! Though what goes better with a cocktail.

And so, with adapting authenticity, we’re off to the races. The Chamberlains sort their recipes and menus by typical French locations—chateaux, cafes, cathedrals, Paris and Provence. Like all their work, this calendar has the Chamberlain’s signature style—photos or sketches by artist Samuel and compactly-written recipes by Narcisse: French title, English translation, ingredients in parentheses, and narrative directions.

If you choose your recipes wisely, it works remarkably well. The photos are evocative, and after all, the reader thinks, how difficult can it be to make a Pissaladiere if it starts with hot roll dough and takes only a paragraph to instruct?

 

It's why we get on airplanes.

It’s why we get on airplanes.

 

The book includes some lovely culinary anachronisms like “Potato Chips, Hot from the Oven.” There’s a fair amount of aspic—Ouefs Gelee, Jambon Persille—and there are canapés. The authors feel compelled to define a crouton—“a cube of bread sautéed in butter.”

It’s almost enough the make you long for a drip-dry dress and some American Express traveler’s checks.

 

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About Appetite for Books

read, cook, eat, repeat
This entry was posted in cleaning out the basement, cultural, entertaining, full menu, international, recipe, travel and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Cleaning Out the Basement — The Chamberlain Calendar of French Menus, 1965

  1. Becky Ellis says:

    Fascinating! What a wonderful discovery!

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