Seige of Metz Food for Thought: Auguste Escoffier: Franco-Prussian War: Seige of Metz
By Southern (Southern) on Wednesday, March 10, 1999 - 10:21 pm: Edit

The capitulation of Metz during the Franco-Prussian war (1870-71) is considered as one of the greatest shames of the history of the French army. The Marshal Bazaine, commanding the Rhine army, decided to lock himself, with the best of the French troops, in the city of Metz rather than fighting against the Prussian army. This fact accelerated the fall of the French Empire and the following loss of Alsace and Lorraine (until 1918). Bazaine was sued in 1873 (after the fall of the Empire, he also tried unsuccessfully to have a political role and to negotiate directly with Bismarck) and sentenced by a War Council to capital punishment. He was finally sentenced for life, escaped and died in Madrid in 1888.

SOURCE: The Destruction of Flags

By Anonymous on Wednesday, March 10, 1999 - 10:15 pm: Edit

... those difficult days [were] described by Escoffier in his Memoires d’un soldat de l’armee du Rhin. (These Memoirs appeared first in serial form in the review l’Art Culinaireduring 1894 and 1895.) ... In his description of the siege of Metz, Escoffier allows himself some bitter remarks on the extravagance and lack of discipline and forethought on the part of the majority of the chefs. He relates how each day brings new restrictions. Beef is replaced by horse-meat, turnips take the place of potatoes. (Incidentally, there are more than 100 different ways of serving turnips!) ...

[Escoffier writes:] “On 28 August [1870] provisions were running low. Horse-meat had already made its appearance in butchers’ windows. Eggs cost 6 francs a dozen and sugar 3 francs 20 a kilo. As for fresh butter, it was better not even to think of it. Since the very first days of our return to Metz, I had had a premonition of the way things would turn, and took the necessary measures. I gathered in a yard where only I had access, fifty chickens, a few geese, ducks and turkeys, half-a-dozen rabbits, two piglets, a sheep and a goat. I had also put in reserve a large earthenware jar of excellent Mirabelle plum preserve which was to stand me in such good stead as I used it in place of sugar when supplies ran out. I also collected about twenty kilos of salt, which prevented my later having recourse to substitutes which chemists were quick to put on the market ...

“It was around 15 September that the shortage of provisions really began to make itself felt, and I had to fall back on my reserves. From then on horse-meat was my ‘pièce de résistance.’ I served it one day stewed, the next day braised with macaroni; at other times with lentils, haricot beans or a puree of peas. No matter which method I used, I was always careful first to scald the meat and then cool it before cooking. This simple precaution took away the bitter flavour and made it much more palatable. Fortunately my hens were laying a little. I used the eggs in every conceivable way, boiled, served on a bed of chicory, or as often as not with minced horse-meat ... On the day Metz surrendered there remained one chicken, a jar of meat extract, a tin of tunny fish and the goat, which I sold.”

SOURCE: Eugene Herbodeau and Paul Thalamas, Georges Auguste Escoffier (London: Practical Press Ltd, 1955)

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