The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Whistler 2003 - Centenary Journal

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15th June 2003 - Plat du Jour

In April 1867 Whistler wrote a letter to Lucas Ionides suggesting that if they meet up in Paris they may "dine at the Baron Brisse" (LCMS PWC 11/1032-33).

Whistler was referring to the restaurant of the popular food-writer Baron Léon Brisse. Brisse was born in 1813 and began a career in the Water and Forestry sector until a scandal forced him out. He then began a career in journalism, writing for the newspaper La Liberté, where he published a different menu everyday. Apparently Brisse himself was unable to cook, and was therefore taken to task for some of his 'ridiculous' recipes. He also has been remembered for some of his aphorisms on food, for instance: "The disappearance of hot hors-d'oeuvre was the result of the excessive development of women's skirts", and, "There is as much difference between a mackerel and a red mullet as there is between a miller and a bishop."

In 1868 Brisse's daily menus were collected in an edition Les Trois Cent Soixante Six Menus du baron Brisse (The 366 Menus of Baron Brisse). The menu for today's date includes a charming recipe for Calf's ears à l'italienne, reproduced below:

"Scald, scrape and drain the ears, place them in a saucepan lined with bacon, cover with slices of bacon, moisten with equal quantities of stock and white wine, add some peeled slices of lemon - be careful there are no pips - a bouquet of mixed herbs, carrots, turnips, onions, salt and pepper; cook over a slow fire. Make a stuffing with bread-crumbs, milk, and either grated Parmesan or Gruyère cheese; warm until sufficiently thick, stir in four yolks of egg and a lump of butter, fill the calf's ears with this, dip into melted butter, sprinkle with bread-crumbs and grated Parmesan cheese, brown in the over, and serve."

(The Classic Cookery of Baron Brisse, London, Eng. trans. 1905, p. 167)