Emma and Charles: Two's a Crowd
As Charles Darwin was busy obsessing over finches and subverting the moral order of the universe, his wife was busy in the kitchen. Emma Wedgwood Darwin, like many a Victorian wife, kept a notebook filled with the minutiae of everyday life, culinary instructions and, of course, recipes.
"Mrs. Charles Darwin's Recipe Book: Revived and Illustrated," (Glitterati, $35) compiled by Dusha Bateson and Weslie Janeway, takes the reader behind the doors of a proper English kitchen of the 1800s.
Emma's kitchen would be the envy of today's hip, health-conscious foodie. It was a GMO-free zone of organic and free-range products unsullied by sodium nitrites, butylhydroxytoluene, high-fructose corn syrup and other harbingers of progress.
It was also a fat zone. Here is baked cheese custard, Scotch Woodcock, beef collops, veal cake, turnips Cresselly. The recipes call for cream, heavy cream, bacon, eggs with extra yolks added, gravies, sauces, cheeses and butter. Mrs. D was to bad triglycerides what John Gotti was to witness intimidation.
But did you know that Charles, even while working on his magnum opus, was also keeping a domestic journal? Here's a sample:
The work goes on. Am proving conclusively that chickens descended from barnacles when one of the hens flutters up and begins pecking me viciously. Later dream I am a large egg. A sign?
Try to amuse Emma, or as we like to call her, Little Miss Fatty, by making her collops into wee boats sailing in an ocean of gravy. She says not to make a monkey of myself.
Time creeps. Am interrupted by Farmer Famshawe arriving with a dray of butter and a hogshead of cream. Downe House trembles with strange slurping noises coming from the kitchen.
Observed at breakfast that the kedgeree was a bit off. This depressed E., who took to her bed with a large whitefish.
Saw a chimpanzee at the zoo today and remarked to Whewell on the creature's resemblance to him, heh heh. He demurred violently and began throwing feces.
Emma wanted to have her Mum and Dad to dinner, but I begged off, pleading work. Seem to have prevailed.
Dressed for dinner with E's Mum and Dad. Asked for help finding cuff link, but E said she didn't have to find any stinking missing link.
My fame spreads. Heard the local urchins calling me "The Weirdo of Downe," "The Monkey's Uncle" and "Barnacle Boy."
Noticed last night that the blancmange had a queer pink hue, but E said it was ever so au courant. Said my taste never evolves.
Had the Huxleys in for sheep kidneys in butter and bacon bits in re-fried cream. Retired to the drawing room with Thomas for brandy and cigars. Told my naughty story about the vicar. Thomas told his tiresome knock-knock jokes. Dared me to pull his finger. E. asked how we could go on 'till all hours. Told her it was survival of the wittiest.
Sensed a breakthrough last night but this morning found notes, which read: Populations devolve over the course of gyrations through a process of natural dejection. More work?
Everybody curries favor with me. Lamarck is jealous of Wallace, who envies Lyell, who is annoyed by Huxley. H got so furious at Wilburforce he flushed his mollusks down Crapper's wonderful instrument.
A curiosity: have gained five pounds.
Dreamed of wonderful new device called the PC, which will change everything. Possible research idea: on the origin of PCs.