Café Anglais, Paris, 1890
It's extraordinary that this beautiful image of a little boy chef feeding the moon a piece of steak is over a hundred years old. Among the dishes on offer is Poulet Marengo. According to a popular myth, the dish was first made after Napoleon defeated the Austrian army at the Battle of Marengo at Marengo south of Turin in 1800, Italy, when his chef Dunand foraged in the town for ingredients (because the supply wagons were too distant) and created the dish from what he could gather. According to this legend, Napoleon enjoyed the dish so much he had it served to him after every battle, and when Durand was later better-supplied and substituted mushrooms for crayfish and added wine to the recipe, Napoleon refused to accept it, believing that a change would bring him bad luck.
This colorful story, however, is probably myth; Alan Davidson writes that there would have been no access to tomatoes at that time, and the first published recipe for the dish omits them. The more plausible explanation for the origin of the dish is that it was created by a restaurant chef to honor Napoleon's victory.
Café Anglais opened in 1802 and achieved its highest fame when chef to the Rothschilds, Adolphe Dugléré, took over the kitchen in 1866. It closed in 1913 and was referenced by authors such as Marcel Proust, Umberto Eco and in the Alice B. Toklas Cookbook. It is also mentioned in the Oscar winning 1987 Danish film Babette's Feast.
*Courtesy University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Libraries Collections
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