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While there, he also hobnobbed with British and French high commanders, and with the war's other humanitarian celebrities, Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole. His efforts attracted attention in the press, and provided fodder for contemporary satirists, as in the comic sketch "Camp Cookery"—attributed to "Alicksus Sawder" and published in the humorous collection Our Miscellany —which poked fun at the preparations Soyer designed for the troops [ fig.

His work did, nonetheless, improve the plight of British soldiers, making a real contribution to the war effort. When Soyer returned to London, he published an account of his adventures in the Crimea, entitled Soyer's Culinary Campaign Such and such proportions of pepper and salt went to make such a breach or to repulse such a night attack. But, if nothing else, the book brought Soyer renewed attention—and perhaps there is no such thing as bad publicity, as P. Barnum is supposed to have said. In his previous published works, Soyer's efforts at self-presentation were limited largely to the paratext, i.

His Culinary Campaign however offered Soyer an unprecedented forum for self-fashioning and promotion, turning himself into a sort of bold, humanitarian Mirobolant—the multifaceted if deluded hero of his own narrative. As the Times review remarks, "Soyer the Great, like the heroes and demigods of ancient mythology,.

Conversely then, the paratext here is remarkably understated, giving little hint of the fanciful memoir that follows. While the engraving of his likeness "From a Photograph" does, at this early point in the history of photography, confer upon the sitter a certain stylish and modern air, it also suggests a kind of documentary seriousness, which Soyer's grave facial expression seems to confirm. So too does the title page present the work in earnest tones, as.

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The preface also alludes to the book's "literary portion [which] the Author has dished up to the best of his ability," yet downplays it, allowing that readers may not "relish" this, and hoping that the work's "literary deficiencies" would be compensated for by the "succulence" of "the many new and valuable receipts, applicable to the Army, Navy, Military and Civilian Institutions, and the public in general" Soyer , xiii; all references to this edition, unless noted otherwise.

His use of culinary vocabulary "portion," "dish up," "relish," "succulent" , like the title page's qualification of him as "Author of 'The Modern Housewife,' 'Shilling Cookery for the People,' Etc. Should all this make one expect a dull treatise on mess-hall dining, the book's opening plate and opening line promise far more spectacular fare instead, in line with Soyer's well-known histrionic proclivities. So too the opening plate [ fig.


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Hine, on the preceding page, offers a kind of alternate frontispiece, far more theatrical, and suggestive of what is to come, than the official one, with its subdued portrait. Here Soyer stands center stage within a scene that, in concert with the work's title, juxtaposes kitchen and battlefield. He stands in the foreground, next to one of his field stoves, from whence rise smoke and steam that mix with the surrounding battlefield haze, the literal fog of war, to form a cloud in which appear the work's title and author's name, the latter on a characteristic, sharp diagonal.

These include a large cabbage beside a large cannonball, and smaller soup vegetables onions, turnips that resemble the smaller cannonballs nearby. The similar size and shape of foodstuffs and munitions, and their proximity, suggest their affinity—their parallel role in a "culinary campaign. In the middleground two soldiers carry a stockpot, suspended on a pole, toward the line of battle. A few steps away, a kneeling artilleryman lifts one cannonball from a pile, presumably to bring it to the cannoneers for loading. He faces us, his back to the hostilities, but when he has lifted the cannonball, he will no doubt turn and head the same way as his stockpot-toting comrades.

In the other direction, in the space separating him from Soyer, providing a visual link between the two men and the spaces they occupy, sits an unidentified case, fitted with wooden supports to facilitate carrying, suggesting its use transporting supplies to and fro, yet the nature of these contents—culinary, or military?

Along similar lines the Times reviewer asks, about the "spherical objects" in this print, "Are they cannon-balls to be stewed into cannon broth, or Dutch cheeses about to be fired from a mortar?

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Despite the scene's apparent seriousness and sense of purpose, there also lurks, just beneath the surface, the carnivalesque spectacle of a Rabelaisian food-fight, with cabbages as cannonballs, and stockpots as war engines. This plate reverses conventional battlefield imagery, highlighting not some bold cavalry officer's charge into hostile territory, but rather the chief culinary campaigner's efforts behind the lines.

The focal point of the composition, Soyer stands next to both his signature invention and byline writ large, his name and hat both on a characteristic diagonal, the latter less emphatically so, however, than in other portraits. Indeed, his garb is less dandified than elsewhere, and generally martial, but still with original twists—in addition to the cocked hat, his extra-wide trouser stripe, or broad, flaring lapels. The small cannonballs on the ground around him, whether stray British munitions or vestiges of enemy volleys, signal the nearness of hostilities, and thus danger to the would-be warrior-chef, who strikes an appropriately resolute pose.

On some level, this may be a wishful reworking of Soyer's far less heroic stance under fire during the July Revolution. But, more than just unflappable here, Soyer appears virtually immobile. His hands are absent, lost in his pockets. His tiny feet, while signifying elegance and refinement to the nineteenth-century viewer, also seem inadequate for his well-nourished frame, offering dubious support for a man of action. These apparent handicaps only make sense within the context of his broader efforts to fashion himself an author and inventor.

A man not so much of action, but of ideas—less a warrior, than a wizard—he accomplishes extraordinary things less through physical agency than through sheer force of will, as if by magic. There are indeed, in this plate, intimations of something greater, grander, beyond the seemingly mundane, repetitive tasks being performed. These include the eerily bright light bathing Soyer, the high seriousness of his facial expression, or various literary and cultural resonances—from the Rabelaisian undertones, to the message emerging from a puff of smoke, shades of Aladdin's lamp, the sorcerer's cauldron, and even the Angel of God in the burning bush.

So too, in Soyer's narrative, what seems ordinary never is: thus, a ragged young stowaway, "in spite of his attire, looked as brisk and independent as a modern Diogenes" ; or, Lord Raglan's headquarters which, while "by no means grand nor imposing," brings to mind illustrious comparisons, "Shakespeare's house at Stratford, or the humble cot of the poet Burns in Ayrshire" Likewise, a visit to the hospital and barracks at Kululee, to take stock of kitchen utensils and provisions including "some very nice calfs'-foot jelly" , and to evaluate the inefficiency of the stoves which used "about per cent.

In Soyer's Romantic turn of mind, the sublime always looms on the horizon. Much like his contemporary Victor Hugo who, in exile during the Second Empire, turned increasingly to distinguished precursors e. Moses, St. John the Baptist, Dante, or Voltaire to defend and illustrate his reputation Garval a , Soyer conjures up notable ghosts. At an unexpected luncheon encounter with "the scion of a celebrated epicure," his apostrophe to the departed gourmand recalls Hugo's dabbling in spiritism at the time: "Oh! Sefton, Sefton! The glory of your name has not faded: your grandson, the youthful Lord Sefton, is an epicure!

The other gastronomic and culinary figures he invokes include the ancients Apicius and Lucullus ; his "countryman" Brillat-Savarin ; and especially Vatel, the patron saint and holy martyr of French cuisine—actually an officier de bouche or steward, whom Soyer, like many others, mistakes for a chef de cuisine , an inaccuracy that exaggerates chefs' social status at the time: "O Vatel!

Fortunately you lived in an era of gastronomic grandeur, when a chef de cuisine bore a high rank, and had your own aristocratic weapon wherewith to do the noble deed which gilds your name" ; cf. With no such weapon at hand, but likewise facing a grand dinner "in jeopardy," the incurably cheerful Soyer does not imitate his paragon's suicide; instead, he opens a bottle of champagne and, he notes, "At the second glass. I felt that success was certain" Soyer relishes basking in the reflected light, not just of such past "gastronomic grandeur" but, revealingly, of grandeur tout court.

Napoleon, Romantic paradigm of glory, is of course an unavoidable reference. En route from Marseille to Constantinople, Soyer stops at the emperor's birthplace in Corsica, and provides an account of the visit, reproduced in his Culinary Campaign. Relating to Napoleon by examining the "ruins" of his kitchen, chef Soyer stakes out an idiosyncratic, personal connection with the now-defunct great man.

He thus pens his narrative of the visit "upon the stove in this celebrated kitchen—which first alimented the brain of that great hero," and which, we infer, now inspires these lines. He lays claim to culinary souvenirs "from that epoch"—"a piece of tile from the charcoal stove, and a rough wooden meat-hook.

In questionable taste, but likewise revealing of this keen desire to establish an intimate link with Bonaparte, he boasts to his travel companions of his "amorous adventure with the nurse of the first Napoleon" In the accompanying illustration [ fig.

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In much the same way, Soyer takes pains to place himself in the footsteps of that other great Romantic hero, Lord Byron, epitome of passion and flair, and celebrated champion of the underdog, who wrote famously of his travels in Greece and Turkey, and perished on a mission to free the Greeks from Turkish rule. Byron, like Napoleon, was an exemplar for nineteenth-century glory-seekers, and particularly for creative figures like Soyer, but the latter's affinity for the Romantic poet and ill-starred revolutionary was especially wide-ranging and long-standing. Soyer dressed with the exuberance of the s well into the sober s, a dashing, Byronic character amid dour, black-suited Gladstones.

His culinary campaign aided the British war effort in general, yet benefited most directly the undernourished rank and file, much like his crusade to feed the Irish poor during the Potato Famine, or like his increasingly popularizing cookbooks, which offered the masses appetizing but inexpensive recipes. In addition, Soyer's humanitarian mission to the Crimea took him to the same part of the world, and even to some of the same locales Byron had visited decades earlier; he too fell gravely ill while away and, though he did return to London, his health was altered, and he would survive just over a year, before his untimely death.

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While Soyer's career ended on this dramatically Byronic note, it had also begun—and, in large measure, played out—in the same "key of B. Not unlike the beret-coiffed, baguette-toting American exchange student in Paris, straining to be more French than the French, Soyer came to London and strove to out-Byron Byron.


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  6. And, throughout his career, Soyer's fervent emulation of the Byronic model largely defined the tenor of his fame, fashioning a figure at once endearing and ridiculous, avant-garde and retrograde, a champion of the common people cloaked in the most uncommon frippery, his extraordinary singularity served up in frenzied pursuit of mass-market ubiquity. He notes of his "first-class interpreter" at Scutari, Mr.

    Here, as with Napoleon's housekeeper, Soyer makes this connection through a very old woman, who spans the generations separating him from these illustrious predecessors. Soyer even finds Byron worth mentioning when this is not really relevant, quoting his dragoman who recounts a "curious tale" about the Leander Tower, but then remarks that "it has not the least relation to the legend of the two lovers celebrated by Lord Byron, who also swam from Sestos to Abydos" His choice of a cook-out site is strategic, for this is not only one of the most prestigious monuments in western civilization but, more specifically, a place haunted by the memory of Byron, whose impassioned defense of the Greek claim to the Parthenon friezes so identified him with the ancient temple that it was even suggested he be buried there.

    The accompanying illustration [ fig. As his travel companions look on, Soyer once again stands in the foreground, toward the left, facing a stove that effects his communion with the "ruins" of a distinguished past. What indeed might emerge here from his suggestively-named "Magic Stove"? A trio of hungry officers watch and gesture at the flash of light rising from the pan Soyer heats over the stove: a vision of the fork-breakfast ahead, and perhaps also the ghostly afterglow of Byron's presence.

    But summoning spirits is a tricky business. What then of Soyer, who rivaled Hugo in his verve and hunger for fame, but without a shred of the critical perspective that, alas, would fail the exiled poet? Soyer can seem ridiculous in many ways, both as protagonist and narrator of his Culinary Campaign.


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    He also interlards his narrative with copious commercial plugs, dropped names, celebrity endorsements, and testimonials. Yet, amid such manic foolishness and puffery, there remains the admirable spectacle of a man who, in a very real way, contributed more to the war effort than the military commanders of this dismally mismanaged conflict. Since then, Soyer's innovations have also been recognized for their more general usefulness, by militaries worldwide.

    Already in , for example, in U. Army Colonel H. Scott's influential Military Dictionary , the "Cooking" entry quoted 16 pages worth of Soyer's recipes, directly from his Culinary Campaign. Similarly, an online "Short History" of logistics, maintained by the Canadian armed forces, still notes Soyer's "quantum leap in the art and science of food services during the Crimean War. Soyer's Culinary Campaign is remarkable as well for the way it renegotiates his public persona and, in a larger sense, redefines prominent chefs' place in society. The book's prefatory material already resists the literary pretense so prevalent elsewhere in his oeuvre , the standard recourse of image-conscious chefs for a half-century already, and at least another half-century to come.

    Turning away from the the man of letters paradigm allowed Soyer to envision other possibilities. It is a paradoxical, almost Christ-like ploy, embracing the most humble of incarnations, in order to propel himself to the loftiest of heights. He takes the obscure realm of the chef or logistician—behind the scenes, behind the lines, or "back of the house," in contemporary restaurant lingo—and thrusts it into the limelight.

    He thus emerges in a novel role, as an actor not just in the Crimean theater of operations, but on the greater stage of world events, a bold Napoleonic-Byronic man of destiny, making his mark on history. In this, as in so many other ways, Soyer was a hard act to follow, but whether or not another chef would assume such a grandiose role anytime soon is beside the point. What matters is the underlying shift here in the vision of the chef as a public figure.

    Soyer's example established that chefs did not have to pretend to be great writers in order to be seen as noteworthy personages. And this is precisely the change in perspective underpinning the later emergence of chefs as broadcast stars. While Soyer's ostentatious personal style struck his contemporaries as outmoded, his ideas and initiatives anticipated much of our own culinary and gastronomic modernity.

    His unconventional dress in the kitchen prefigured the vogue today for "non-traditional 'fun' chef's attire" George 9. Even allowing for the ambiguities and contradictions in Soyer's relation to the masses, he had a degree of social conscience not seen again in a prominent chef before Alice Waters who, in a book jacket endorsement for Ann Arnold's The Adventurous Chef: Alexis Soyer , praises "this chef who cooked with great talent and compassion".

    The Gastronomic Regenerator av Alexis Soyer (Heftet) | Tanum nettbokhandel

    Soyer was interested in regional and foreign cuisines and even, in his Symposium of All Nations , as well as in the book he did not live to write—to be called The Culinary Wonders of All Nations— anticipated what has come to be known, for better or worse, as "world cuisine. Indeed, his Symposium , with its diverse attractions, strolling entertainers, fireworks, and other visual effects, was more than a restaurant, "it was also what would today be called a theme park" Brandon How then to gauge Soyer's legacy?

    Questions of cultural transmission and transformation become all the more thorny when dealing with such a forward-thinking figure.