18th Century French Salad-maker: Marquis of Albignac

Among the émigrés scattered all over Europe during the Reign of Terror was a man by the name of Marquis of Albignac. The Marquis had lost everything, both fortune and family. He survived living “in London on a trifling pension allowed him by the English government.”[1] However, the Marquis possessed one thing, determination. He wanted to be more than a fashionable beggar surviving in England.

Arms of the d'Albignac Family, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Coat of Arms of the d’Albignac family. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

One night as the Marquis of Albignac sat dining on his scanty daily meal, he noticed a nearby table occupied by five or six young English gentlemen. They noticed him too. At length one of the young men addressed the Marquis impertinently:

“Sir … we have always heard that your countrymen are famous for making both philosophical systems and salads. We should be happy to try at least one of these much-boasted accomplishments, and therefore politely request you to have the goodness to prepare a salad for us.”[2]

The Marquis was taken aback at the young man’s insolence, but his good humor prevailed. He decided to save his country’s honor by making the men the best salad they had ever eaten. He therefore asked “for vinegar, oil, salt, pepper, and mustard, and prepared the favorite dish of the French gastronomes in such a way that even the young Englishmen declared themselves highly satisfied.”[3] In fact, the Englishmen were so impressed, they indulged in a long conversation with the Marquis of Albignac and requested his address.

Salad-maker

Example of a salad. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The young men belonged to London’s upper crust, and after they left the Marquis, they talked to people in their circles. They told their friends about the superior salad the Marquis had created for them. Thus, a few weeks later, the Marquis of Albignac received a note from one of the men asking him to come to a fancy Grosvenor Square address and make a salad. At first, he was incensed, but he did not like receiving alms from the English government, so he thought it over and resolved to turn this bit of good luck into something better.

The Marquis of Albignac went and made the salad, and his good fortune proved to be more than he could have hoped. His salad making activity at the young gentleman’s house resulted in receipt of a five-pound note. Moreover, afterwards his reputation for salad making spread far and wide among the young man’s friends. In fact, the Marquis began traveling from house to house to make salads and soon received the nickname “Fashionable Salad-maker” because of his skill.

The Marquis’s salad making business also began to boom. In order to fulfill the constant demands of his elegant customers, he bought a fancy carriage. He also hired a servant, “who followed him with a mahogany box, containing all the requisites for a good salad.”[4] The Marquis’s business grew so fast that he opened a shop for the epicures who lived beyond his boundary or for those who could not afford his fees for a personal visit. He also developed a “lucrative trade in sauces, spices, and other culinary dainties.”[5]

At length, the émigrés returned to France, and among them was the Marquis, the Fashionable Salad-maker. Those who learned how the Marquis survived while in England thought of him as a sensible man. “He had lived in an economical way, and, although he had assisted many friends who were not so industrious or so fortunate, he had saved £5000 when he crossed the Channel.”[6] In addition, he owed nobody, which was more than most of his fellow Frenchmen could say. Thus, summed up one nineteenth century writer:

“And now, if a man, besides his professional calling, knows how to cook a frugal dinner, to mend shoes or clothes, or to use the tools of the carpenter or other mechanic, he may one day find it, although not in the same way, of as much use as salad-making was to our friend d’Albignac.”[7]

References:

  • [1] The Eclectic Magazine of Foreign Literature, Science, and Art, Volume 39, 1856, p. 114.
  • [2] Ibid., p. 115.
  • [3] Ibid.
  • [4] Ibid.
  • [5] A Book About the Table, Volume 2, 1875, p. 183.
  • [6] The Eclectic Magazine of Foreign Literature, Science, and Art, p. 115.
  • [7] Ibid.

Google+ Comments

Loading Facebook Comments ...

Leave a Comment