The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

A menu during the Siege of Paris

A menu during the Siege of Paris

A carte-de-visite purporting to show the bill of fare at a dinner attended by the American minister to France, Elihu Benjamin Washburne, the only diplomat from a major power to remain in the beleaguered city during the Siege of Paris. The photograph on the front of the carte shows the original menu in French, ‘kindly lent by Mr Washbourne [sic] of the US embassy’, while printed on the reverse is an English translation. The menu included such delicacies as horse soup, dog cutlets and terrine of rats and mice.

Although the idea of eating cats and dogs initially provoked revulsion, by December the Parisian public had become reconciled to the idea. Next it was the turn of the rats, although the rich sauces needed to make them palatable meant they were more a novelty item on menus at the Jockey Club than a staple of the man in the street. Similarly, the prices demanded by Parisian butchers for meat from the exotic animals in the Jardin d’Acclimatation ensured that elephant, reindeer and ostrich only appeared on menus in the city’s more expensive restaurants. Nevertheless the English journalist Tommy Bowles recorded in January: ‘I have now dined off camel, antelope, dog, donkey, mule and elephant, which I approve in the order I have written’.

Photographed by the London Stereoscopic Company.


Code: 126165
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© Paul Frecker 2018