1950s Archive

Viennese Memoir

Ein Lunch Debout

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Frau Baronin always timed her first Lunch Debout to follow the opening performance of the Spanish Riding School in the Imperial Palace. She liked her guests to come fresh and inspired from one of the few events that still reflected the glory of the monarchy. The Viennese no longer had in their midst an emperor to love and cherish, but they still had the magnificent silvery white stallions of the royal stud that had carried every Hapsburg through peace and battle from the sixteenth-century reign of Ferdinand 1 to Franz Josef. Nothing was too good for the matchless Lippizaner that originally came from Spain and were named for Lippiza, the small town near Trieste where they were bred and trained. After they had gradually changed from coal-black foals to snow-white horses, the most splendid were chosen to make their home with their king in Vienna. There, in the six-storied splendor of the white-and-gold riding school, no less beautiful than the grand ballroom, they performed the intricate jumps and pirouettes of the haute école. Although the Lippizaner went to London and New York to perform their high Spanish school of riding, it was only amid their own beautiful surroundings in Vienna, to the strains of Vienna's finest orchestra, that they rose to the Levade and the final jump of the Me/air. The luncheon guests always sat in what had been the royal box at the end of the magnificent columned sweep of the Reitschule, the famous Riding School. Their hearts thrilled to see each perfect Capriole and the flawless rhythm of the Quadrille performed in ballet precision by horses and riders. They were proud of the superb animals and the long history of the royal stud that had produced Florian, the Emperor's horse.

Frau Baronin could hardly resist the temptation to make her Lunch Debout all white and gold and chocolate brown. but she always withstood such Gesebmacklosigkeiten (manifestations of poor taste), although she served the while and brown Arenberg pears on her gold luster plates. The menu had to be planned so that everything could be eaten with the right hand while the left held the plate and the serviette. Wineglasses were passed between courses and marked a sort of intermission during which the groups shifted about, After a cup of hot soup came a wonderfully attractive fish course, served from a large flat platter over which a twisted trellis of puff pastry was laid. The trellis was baked separately and the kitchen staff held their breath until the fragile pastry was safely in place. A cold white wine made its appearance while plates were removed and the meat course was served. The arrangement of the platters had to be particularly beautiful since they passed so intimately among the guests. Frau Baronin either had to select a ragout of meat for her one-handed guests, or the meat had to be so tender that it could be cut with a fork. She did not even consider the former; Who could eat a ragout after watching the haute école? She selected noisettes of whitest veal, surrounded by filled mushrooms and garnished with almonds and lemons. A glass of Champagne was followed by the dessert, and that was followed by a cup of Turkish coffee—one guest was leaning against the wall by now.

With the coffee came a noticeable changing from foot to foot; it was not surprising that almost all (he guests left immediately. They headed for home and a comfortable chair or the nearest Kaffeebaus. Debout was all very well, but they would all have their five o'clock tea sitting down.

Spaniscbe Suppe (Spanish Soup)

Wash and cut into 1-inch lengths the bottoms of enough leeks to make 4 cups (about 4 bunches). In a kettle combine 1 cup olive oil and the juice of 1 lemon, heat the liquid over a medium flame until the oil bubbles, and add the leeks and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer the mixture slowly for ½ hour, stirring occasionally. Add 2 cups each of lettuce and spinach, both shredded. 1 cup carrots, sliced. 3 stalks of celery with tops, and 1 potato, peeled. sliced, and boiled. Stir until the vegetables are coated with oil. Add 5 cups water, and simmer the vegetables until they ate soft, about 15 minutes. Remove the celery stalks and purée the vegetables, with their broth, in a blender or a sieve. Add 1 cup cream, adjust the seasoning, and stir in 3 tablespoons each of finely chopped parsley and mint. Garnish each serving with 1 teaspoon salted whipped cream and freshly chopped mint. Serves 12.

Hummer unter Blätterteig (Lobster in Puff Paste)

Wash four 2-pound lobsters, plunge them into a large kettle of boiling water to which 2 onions, ½ cup vinegar, a few sprigs of parsley, and salt to taste have been added, and boil them for 20 minutes. Remove the lobsters from the kettle and strain the broth. Detach the lobster tails and cut the tail meat into even crosswise slices. Crack the claws and remove the claw meat without breaking it. Remove the meat from the body shells, discard the shells, and reserve any coral or tomalley. Keep the meat warm in a little of the strained broth.

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