Guardian Names Waugh Meal as One of Most Memorable

The Guardian has today (Waugh’s birthday) included a meal from one of his short stories as one of the 10 most memorable meals in literature. This is the feast ordered in Paris by the White Russian veteran of Kolchak’s legions who had just arrived there after fleeing from the Bolsheviks via the United States and England. He blows all his scanty cash on a sumptuous meal. Leaving the restaurant, after tipping the staff, Waugh sums up the Russian’s situation:

Half a minute later he stood on the kerb with exactly three francs in the world. But it had been a magnificent lunch, and he did not regret it.

The meal, however, leads to wholly unexpected consequences, as is spun out in the story’s last few lines. The story is entitled “The Manager of The Kremlin” and first appeared in John Bull magazine (15 February 1930). It is included in Waugh’s Complete Short Stories.

An equally memorable meal appears in Brideshead Revisited and is described in greater detail. This was also eaten in Paris where Charles Ryder connives to have Rex Mottram host him at Ryder’s favorite restaurant (Paillard’s). Charles places the order while awaiting Rex’s arrival:

I remember the meal well–soup of  ‘oseille’, a sole quite simply cooked in a white-wine sauce, a ‘caneton a la press’, a lemon soufflĂ©. At the last minute, fearing that the whole thing was too simple for Rex, I added ‘caviar aux blinis.’

Rex recalled it as “a funny little restaurant–sort of place you’d pass without looking at–where there was some of the best food I ever ate.” (Penguin, 1976, p. 166)

The Guardian selection was made by Diana Secker Tesdell, anthologist whose Stories from the Kitchen was recently released. (Whether Waugh’s story is included cannot be determined from the publisher’s press release, but it seems likely.) Other memorable literary meals include Marcel Proust’s family dinner of asparagus, peas and an unexpected chicken in Swann’s Way, Virginia Woolf’s boeuf en daube in To the Lighthouse, and a complete dinner in Isak Dinesen’s Babette’s Feast.

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