Fouquet’s Last Party

Fouquet’s Last Party

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Under Louis XIV, the menus were sumptuous. The
receptions and feasts were governed by a complicated ceremonial and
strict protocol. The dishes which figured in the five obligatory
courses may not have been as refined and sophisticated as they would
become a century later, but they certainly were copious and varied.

“A dinner given by Mme De le Chancelière to Louis XIV in 1656 offered the following:

  • First course: 8 potted meat and vegetables, and 16 hot hors d’oeuvre.
  • Second course: 8 important intermediate dishes called broths. 16 entrées of fine meat.
  • Third course: 8 roast dishes and 16 vegetable dishes cooked in meat stock.
  • Fourth course: 8 pâtés or cold meat and fish dishes 16 raw salads with oil, cream, or butter.
    Fifth course:
  • 24 different kinds of pastries; 24 jars of raw fruits; 24 dishes of sweetmeat, preserves and jams….
      168 garnished dishes in all.” ( Montagné,1965, P. 618)

      Here is a small sample of what Fouquet would have served his guests at his fateful reception:

      • Roasted
        meat on a spit, served with oranges and lemons (mutton, quails, capons,
        pheasants, rabbits, roebuck, veal, pigeons, swans, chickens, beef,
        smoked tongue)
      • Pâtés : venison, ham, turkey and other meat, freshwater fish. Fricassée of turtle.
      • Various vegetables, salads, cheeses.
      • Desserts:
        Mousse tart, apple tart, cream flan, morbeque cream, green walnuts,
        pâté of pears, fennel in sugar, sugared almonds, and much more.
      • Louis
        XIV imposed the use of forks at his court. Previously, only knives and
        spoons were used. Napkins were changed every two courses.

        Samples
        of this kind of menu, called the bill of fare or escriteau, can be
        found in the archives of major cities. Most of them are no more than
        accounts of the money spent on food. One wonders if all the Royals
        suffered from chronic indigestion, or if they knew of some magic
        potions to help them endure such abuse.

        After
        dinner, Fouquet’s guests strolled through the park to enjoy the cool
        evening. The air was filled with fragrance from lemon and bay trees and
        the many flowers which adorned the gardens. They must have lingered
        near the graceful fountains and cascades where water gushed out of
        shells, fishes and masks. Fouquet and the events of the day were
        without doubt the topic of conversations.

        What
        a feast for the eyes it must have been–not only the harmonious and
        soothing beauty of the magnificent park, but also the flamboyant
        elegance of the guests.

        At the
        time, France was the fashion center of Europe. Louis XIV liked brightly
        colored clothes and did not permit anyone to wear black, or dark
        colors. Women’s dresses were made of heavy velvet, silk or satin. They
        opened in the front to reveal richly decorated panels. Rows of lace
        edged the sleeves and collars. Men’s costumes were lavishly embellished
        with an exaggerated display of bows, tassels and lace. Petitcoat
        breeches, fashionable in mid-century, were worn tied under the knee
        with ribbons. The short jacket was open to display a white silk shirt
        whose cuffs were edged with layers of lace and ruffles. Silk stockings
        of all colors and high-heeled shoes decorated with a large bow
        completed this rather effeminate costume. Pearls, jewels and bows
        graced the hair of the ladies and the men wore long curly wigs,
        cascading over their shoulders.


       

      Everything
      that night seems to have been produced by a magic wand. Walking into
      the park centuries later, one can’t help but evoke the echoes of the
      sumptuous affair which was to be
      Fouquet’s farewell party.

      References:
      Montagné,P.(1965).
      The Encyclopedia of Food, Wine & Cookery.(p.94).USA: Crown
      publishers,Inc. Yardwood, D.(1982).European Costume 4000 Years of
      Fashion.New York: Crown Publishers.

      Josette
      Del Vecchio is a French citizen residing in the United States, and is a
      registered nurse in both countries, specializing in psychiatry. As a
      daughter and wife of career military men, she has lived extensively
      throughout Europe, Africa, and the USA. Now retired, Ms. Del Vecchio
      enjoys history, writing children’s stories, watercolor and oil
      painting, and travelling. She keeps close ties with her native France.

      Copyright (c) Paris New Media, L.L.C.

      Bonjour Paris is pleased to have Josette Del Vecchio as a contributor.

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