You may have noticed that I can’t resist descriptions of feasts, be it fine breakfasts, picnics, or other spreads.  Here are two of the most outrageous I’ve come across, mildly sickening for their carnage of birds and beasts. 

They refer to upper class banquets, including a buffet at a ball hosted by Tsar Nicholas I, as recounted in a Hungarian novel by Lajos Zilahy, covering the fate of an Austro-Hungarian aristocratic family from the Congress of Vienna in 1815 to the advent of the first world war in 1914. 

If this carnivorgy is anything to go by, it’s amazing we have any biodiversity left. 

The golden-brown crispy akins of whole roasted calves, goats, ewes, lambs and sucklings glittered in the candlelight on a thirty-foot-long table, together with turkeys, geese, ducks, chickens and pigeons. The second table exhibited game of the steppes: young colts, gazelles, aristocrats of birds: peacocks and pheasants, preserving the feathery pomp of their tails.


From the dwarf turtles to the pear-shaped eggs of the peewits, to the lights of swine, to the scarlet combs of turkey-cocks, to the slaty eyes of lambs, to the roes of 200-pound Danube sturgeons, to the soft fingers of cow udders, to the paws of bears awaiting the boiling peppered red wine, to the spiced dark-red bull’s blood sauce, to the brains of hamsters – every kind of epicurean specialty was succulently prepared for gourmets. 


Source: Lajos Zilahy, Century in Scarlet (London: Prion, 2001), p. 18 and p. 101

Image credit: The Royal Collection Trust, painting of a Victorian banquet at Buckingham Palace


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