Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Ritz & Escoffier: The Hotelier, the Chef & the Rise of the Leisure Class, by Luke Barr. Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2018




Cesar Ritz started his career as a waiter in Parisian restaurants. He worked his way up to better and better eateries, and finally made the step to being a hotel manager. He had an eye for improving things and a memory for what guests liked and didn’t like.

Auguste Escoffier was a brilliant chef, with equal skills in creating food and managing kitchens. When he started, kitchens were mad houses filled with yelling, drunkenness, food that arrived with some bits already cold and some hot, and very slow service. He and Ritz would find they worked together like a fine machine. When they took over the Savoy in London, the world of hotels and restaurants changed. They brought the running of hotels and restaurant kitchens to the level of fine art.

Before Ritz took over the Savoy, even expensive hotels had one communal bathroom per floor; he instituted en suite bathrooms. He insisted on modern plumbing and electric lighting (a new thing, just coming into use) and adopted the telephone for business use immediately. He filled the rooms and common areas with plants and flowers. He allowed anyone into the restaurant to dine, not just the aristocracy- unescorted women, actors, Jews, the nouveau riche, even ladies of dubious morals; basically, anyone who could afford evening dress. He and Escoffier worked together to produce over the top parties for people like the Prince of Wales, Escoffier producing new dishes for the guests of honor. Escoffier kept meticulous records of every menu and every recipe, eventually producing a massive cookbook that was the gold standard of French cooking for decades.

Eventually, however, the fact that they worked without close supervision caught up with them. They were accused by the hotel stockholders and owners of charging personal goods to the hotel, taking kickbacks from suppliers, and other monetary malfeasance. They were both fired promptly. It didn’t hurt for long, however- they went on to open the original Ritz hotel, the first hotel under his name.

It’s a fascinating look at social history at the turn of the 20th century, a time of huge changes in both technology and social ways. Americans were marrying into the British aristocracy, new millionaires were appearing all over, people in the theater were becoming acceptable, and the British aristocracy was at the peak of their popularity. There are several menus from special events reproduced, but I would have liked to have seen some photos included in the book, and maybe a couple of recipes. There is very little given about the personal lives of the two men. Four and a half stars. 


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Monday, January 15, 2018

All My Patients are Under the Bed, by Dr. Louis Camuti. Fireside, 1980





In the same vein as “All Creatures Great and Small”, this is a vet’s memoir. Instead of the English countryside, though, Camuti works in New York City, doing house calls. He found that a routine of starting his rounds in late afternoon and finishing around midnight worked best for his clients. His wife drove him around, and stayed in the car while he treated his patients. Some of his clients were show business folks; some were even famous. But fame doesn’t mean anything to Camuti; he judges his clients on how much they love their cats.

The book intersperses the doctor’s biography (he was born in 1893, so we get a lot of stories from the early parts of the century) with stories about this clients, both human and fuzzy. While some of his advice is out of date (book was written in 1980), the book is primarily enjoyable for the cat anecdotes. Five stars. 



The above is an affiliate link. If you click through and buy something- anything- from Amazon, they will give me a few cents. 

This did not influence my review.  

Color for Adventurous Gardeners, by Christopher Lloyd. Firefly Books, 2001




Christopher Lloyd is my favorite garden writer. He is very down to earth- no pronouncements from the gardening gods- and humorous. So of course I really like this book, but even if he wasn’t my favorite, I’d think this was a really good book.

First, he gives us the basics- mainly, that color is one of the last things you worry about when creating a garden. Structure, good soil, and the rest come first. Color is easy to change (except for trees), but it’s a lot harder to change up hardscape. He points out that color harmonies are wonderful, and that he uses them a lot himself.. but.. he likes some excitement in the garden. So he pairs something like an intense orange dahlia with a purple verbena. Sometimes shocking color is fun. He says that you need to know the rules before you can break them, but that one should go for wild combos.

Then he give a chapter to each color, running through the spectrum and including black and brown. He gives a lot of plants that fit the chapter, including what growing conditions they like. The book is filled with gorgeous photos, as well. It’s not a coffee table book of all pictures and little info; it’s got a lot of information, provided in an informal voice, as if you were talking to him out in the garden or discussing the garden over tea. Five stars. 



The above is an affiliate link. If you click through and buy something- anything- from Amazon, they will give me a few cents. 

This did not influence my review.