A French Celebration: ‘surmounted by the largest truffle’.

It is a moment of celebration in France.  To mark this I have quoted The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book (first published 1954).  The book includes descriptions of Gertrude Stein’s and Alice B. Toklas’ experiences as a couple in wartime France: food shortages and feasts, maids, artists, soldiers and recipes.   This particular extravaganza dates from the autumn of 1943 at which time they lived in the rural Le Bugey region in eastern France,  This was a period of inadequate supplies and a patient anticipation of liberation – and a better future. Translated from an manuscript she was shown, authored by a local judge and gourmet ‘the recipes are exciting to read but are not useful even today’.

Approach this recipe as you would a work of fiction; follow it with one’s taste buds, imagination and maybe some bemusement.  I hope you enjoy it.


Pour into a salad bowl the best olive oil, white-wine vinegar, 4 tablespoons juice of roasted turkey,  teaspoon tarragon mustard, the interior of a lobster, salt and pepper. Turn until perfectly smooth. Put into this the sliced lobster meat, sliced breast of a steamed skinned capon, sliced breast of a roast turkey, also skinned, and of three young partridges (keep the finest slices for decorating), thin slices of truffles previously cooked in excellent dry white wine, the same of mushrooms and a quantity of shelled crawfish. Cover with a layer of the white leaves of escarole or endive. Arrange one more layer and on the second layer of escarole tastefully arrange the reserved slices of breast, a few narrow strips of ham from which the fat has been removed, some large slices of truffles and of mushrooms, a border of shelled crawfish, 1 tablespoon capers washed in white wine, and 1 cup stoned green olives. In the centre arrange a tower of very stiff mayonnaise surmounted by the largest truffle.

Alice B. Toklas (1877-1967) and Gertrude Stein (1874-1946)

Alice B. Toklas (1877-1967) and Gertrude Stein (1874-1946)


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