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by Fred McMillin
Son of a Gun, It's Napoleon!
They had secretly crossed the Alps, and by the close of the day won control of the area, including the great red wine district of Piedmont.
The Rest of the Story
Readers of the June 15,1998 WineDay will recall that to celebrate the victory, his Chef Dunand created a dish from ingredients his aides could scavange in the area. Key ingredients included a chicken, Cognac from Napoleon's canteen, and an unlikely topping of crayfish. Thereafter, the Little Corporal felt Chicken Marengo brought him good luck, and it was frequently prepared by his chefs.
Since food seemed to be important, he must have treated his chefs with great care. NO! "Napoleon paid his chefs poorly. None ever stayed long in his service. He had eleven, one after the other, up to 1814." Not only was the pay poor, but there was another problem. "He ate distractedly, always in great haste, bolting his food. He preferred fingers to forks. and once he settled himself to work, no one knew when he would [want his dinner served]. Therefore, chickens were placed on the spit for him at half hourly intervals, and sometimes over a dozen of them were so roasted before one was finally presented to him."
Gourmet or not, Napoleon DID have red wine with his meals. So on the 199th anniversary of the Battle of Marengo in Piedmont, I'm having a red from the most widely-planted red wine varietal in Piedmont, BARBERA. Here it is.
The Wine of the Day
We want a fairly light-bodied red for the Marengo dish. Try this $9 model.
1997 Barbera from MEXICO
"From the kitchen, it was not unusual to hear explosions, followed by bits of glass and food particles flying out the windows." It seems that though he didn't pay his chefs well, Napoleon had offered a huge sum to anyone who invented a way to preserve food for his armies to take on the march. The "explosive" kitchen belonged to Albert Appert an obscure cook, who labored 15 years, and then won the prize. He had invented the process we call "canning" (in glass jars).
...Betty Wasson from Cook, Gluttons
Other Credits: Quotes from Cohn Clair's Kitchen and Table.
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