by Fred McMillin
for June 8, 1999
Happy Birthday to the King of Cooks
Carême (ku-rehm), Born in Paris, June 8, 1784
The foremost chef of the nineteenth century was a brilliant star, an unparalleled comet. He was the cook of kings and the king of cooks.
...Culture & Cuisine, Revel
The Rest of the Story
That comet was fueled by pure culinary genius, not by culinary connections. One of TWENTY FIVE children from a very poor family, at age 12 he was taken to a bistro on the outskirts of Paris by his father. As dad paid the bill,
he announced that Carême was now on his own. Abandoned and illiterate, he would ultimately be able to retire from the income of his magnificent cookery books. Examples of his accomplishments...
- Ultimately execute 196 different French soups and 103 foreign ones.
- Invent "cold cuisine"...at a royal wedding serve new dishes such as cold jellied truffles, rooster crests in aspic, etc.
- Tsar Alexandre I of Russia, King George IV of England, and many others tried
to hire him. King George did lure him to Great Britain. My wife and I have visited his spectacular kitchen in Brighton. A menu for Jan. 15, 1817 shows why the king-to-be was impressed. It started with four soups, then four fish dishes, then four main dishes (ham, veal, etc.) with THIRTY SIX side dishes.
Now, hold onto your hat. THIS WAS ONLY THE FIRST COURSE!
But Carême felt the English palate was not yet ready for his creative dishes. Hence, after eight months, he returned to France. However, the experience was not wasted. For example, in England he learned and took back to Paris, the technique for skinning sole. So, today's birthday wine
for Carême will be particulary suitable for sole. It's made from FRENCH varieties of course...in fact, from FOUR of them, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc,
Viognier and Chardonnay.
Wine of the Day
1996 Alluvium Blanc, Knights Valley, White Wine
Beringer Vineyards, St. Helena
Tasting Notes—All kinds of flavors to add pizzaz to the sole, and the soul.
Contact—Allison Simpson—(707) 963-7115, FAX (707) 963-1735
Postscript—The Name Game
Carême's first name was Marie-Antoine. So he made
up his own nickname, Antonin. Regarding the last
name, "Carême!" in French means "lent." Legend
says one of the great chef's ancestors set a pretty
good table himself. He was cook for Pope Leo X.
A soup prepared for Lent so pleased the Pope
that he dubbed his chef Jean de Carême,
which became the family name.
About the Writer
Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history
for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine
courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College.
In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred
with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded
to American wine writers.
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