Sunday, May 21, 2006

General Grant's Chinese Banquet

I found this remarkable culinary laundry list about 12 years ago, while I was compiling an annotated bibliography of published accounts of Americans’ visits to China before 1900. The author, John Russell Young of the New York Herald, accompanied General Grant on a two-year trip around the world in the late 1870s, publishing dispatches in the Herald and later collecting them in a book (an edited version of which was reprinted in 2002). Constantly busy with social obligations, Grant actually saw very little of China during his visit, but it appears that he ate well.

The dinner began with sweatmeats [sic] of mountain-cake and fruit rolls. Apricot kernels and melon-seeds were served in small dishes. Then came eight courses, each served separately as follows: Ham with bamboo sprouts, smoked duck with cucumbers, pickled chicken and beans, red shrimps with leeks, spiced sausage with celery, fried fish with flour sauce, chops with vegetables, and fish with fir-tree cones and sweet pickle. This course of meat was followed by one of peaches preserved in honey, after which there were fresh fruits, pears, pomegranates, coolie oranges, and mandarin oranges. Then came fruits dried in honey, chestnuts, oranges and crab-apples, with honey gold-cake. There were side dishes of water chestnuts and thorn-apples, when the dinner took a serious turn, and we had bird's-nest soup and roast duck. This was followed by mushrooms and pigeons' eggs, after which we had sharks' fins and sea-crabs. Then, in order as I write them, the following dishes were served: Steamed cakes, ham pie, vermicelli, stewed sharks' fins, baked white pigeons, stewed chicken, lotus seeds, pea soup, ham in honey, radish-cakes, date-cakes, a sucking pig served whole, a fat duck, ham, perch, meat pies, confectionery, the bellies of fat fish, roast mutton, pears in honey, soles of pigeons' feet, wild ducks, thorn-apple jelly, egg-balls, steamed white rolls, lotus seed soup, fruit with vegetables, roast chicken, Mongolian mushrooms, sliced flag bulbs, fried egg-plant, salted shrimps, orange tarts, crystal-cakes, prune juice, biche de mer [sea cucumber], fresh ham with white sauce, ham with squash, and almonds with bean curd. In all there were seventy courses.

Young, John Russell. Around the World With General Grant. New York: The American News Company, 1879, v. 2, 338-9.


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