This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
In one respect, at least, the writer of these lines has always been misunderstood by some readers. He has never denied that the French are the leaders of the fashions in dining as well as in other things, but has denied that French fashions are applicable to American hotel dinners. He has never denied that the French know more about cooking, taking them as a people, than any other people; but hat always contended, and contends yet, that to adopt strictly French cooking in an American hotel would drive most of the customers away. This is not supposition, but observation and experience. The French cooks themselves make the same observations and go back to France in disgust, complaining of a lack of appreciation, or else, if they stay here, they change their ways somewhat to suit our people.
But yet, if some amongst our hotel patrons will follow French fashions and dine upon fashionable dishes in fashionable formality we, as hotel caterers, are required to understand the subject with all the whys and wherefores, and for that reason these different samples of bills of fare are presented, showing different forms; only pressing one line of opinion, viz: that while French cooking and French ways are the very best for the French we need a little different system, because we are a different people and do not like the same things in the same ways as they do» The real point of contention, and where the writer may possibly appear to be eccentric, if not original, is in this: that while most of the fine writers and would-be gastronomical educators say, "But you ought to do thus and so because the French do so," the argument of these articles has always been: let the French go their ways; few of us like their oil, their garlic, their glaze, their espagnole, their nutmeg (in meats and potatoes), their herbs, their thin soups, their anchovies, their snails, their many things, and we cannot help these likes and dislikes in food.
The French say we can not have good cooking unless we employ French cooks at their own prices, but we will say we will educate our own cooks and see what French, Italian, German and Spanish cooks know, that we want; and will adopt so much of their knowledge as is applicable to our own people, and leave the rest The above is partly in answer to criticisms. There are some partisans who are disappointed when there is not a fight, and they look for a running down and depreciation of every French form only because it is French, and because they do not understand it That would be, extremely ridiculous. The object of these writings is to show the meaning and the merits of other people's fashions that we may hold fast that which is good and agreeable, and leave the remainder for them that like them, although we do not like them ourselves. If it were necessary to adopt some other country's fashion for a model the Italian bill of fare would come nearer to our predictions than the French. It is from the Italians we get our "sweet entrees;" our favorite "fritter" is the fritto of the Italian bill of fare, an indispensable course in every Italian dinner.
The best known names among the noted cooks and caterers of New York are Italians; the fancy cake and confectionary business of London is largely In the hands of Italians - it is almost given up to them; and it does not follow that because they are excellent in some branches of the art we should make our bill of fare all of the Italian pattern, nor made up all of Italian dishes any more than French, although a steward, having to provide for the entertainment of a distinguished party of Italians, may be very glad to have the following example for a guide.
The following is the bill of fare of a dinner of a national character, prepared for Italians by an Italian, and it helps to explain why some of our American hotel bills of fare are formed as they are; it is the mixture of Italian with French ways. The employment of fine Italian cooks in many hotels causes the bills of fare of such hotels to be really Italian in form, and therefore seem to be wrong when compared with French patterns, and hence some of the apparent confusion, and hence another argument in favor of adopting a distinctly American bill of fare: