Monday, March 30, 2009

Carnivorous boarding

In the NYTBR, Caleb Crain on 19th-century American boardinghouse life:
Boardinghouses in Victorian America served three meals a day, and the low quality of them is Gunn’s chief complaint. At the Fashionable Boardinghouse, the meat is sliced too thin and the plates are whisked away too quickly; at the Dirty Boardinghouse, there are “hairs and crumbs in the ketchup,” and “every body was over-porked.” The landlady of one Mean Boardinghouse serves salt fish and sheep’s liver three times a week, along with pastry “of solid construction, and damp, ­putty-like material,” while the landlady of another prepares salt mackerel and pickled pork by “interring and then baking them in batter.” For one experimental summer at a Vegetarian Boardinghouse, Gunn allows himself to be fed “bananas, melons, peaches, grapes, oranges, cherries, [and] pine-apples,” but he worries that the diet fosters meekness and “a generally-sublimated and windy estimation of our own importance and destiny,” and soon returns to carnivorous boarding, with results not altogether happy. Of an establishment presided over by an untidy Southern woman, he writes that “we have known blood to follow an incision in a shoulder of veal.”

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