Episode 37

Musketeers & Mousselines: Alexander Dumas' Massive Dictionary of Food

Alexander Dumas by Nadar, ca. 1855

Alexander Dumas by Nadar, ca. 1855

Alexander Dumas was among the most beloved writers of the 19th century, responsible for classics like The Three Musketeers The Count of Monte Cristo. But did you know Dumas longest work was devoted entirely to his other passion? Food! Written at the end of his life, Dumas' Le Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine, published posthumously in 1873, is part cookbook, part memoire, and 100% unique. From celery-based hangover recipes to 200 lb. sturgeon centrepieces, Dumas' book is a portrait of French culinary life under the Bonapartes. Join us as we explore Dumas' unusual dictionary, all the way from absinthe to lemon zest! 

Written and Produced by Laura Carlson

Technical Direction by Mike Portt

A Proper Foodie Tribute: Delmonico's Dumas Salad

Delmonico's on Beaver and William streets, by Robert L. Bracklow, 1849 - 1919. From the Collections of the Museum of the City of New York. [ link

Delmonico's on Beaver and William streets, by Robert L. Bracklow, 1849 - 1919. From the Collections of the Museum of the City of New York. [link

Thanks to the continued international success of his books, Dumas was a household name throughout Britain and the United States. In honour of his musketeer tales, the famous New York City restaurant Delmonico's even named a salad for him in the mid-19th century. It's unclear how popular the salad was at the time, but its survival in menus and records of the restaurants inspired the James Beard foundation to include a recipe for "Alexander Dumas Potato Salad" on their website. A simple enough recipe, it calls for the potatoes to be dressed with a 1/2 cup of white wine, perhaps a nod to Dumas' well-known love of wining and dining in the best homes and restaurants of France. 

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Dumas' 20th Century Editor: Alan Davidson

Alan Davidson, along with his wife Jane, were responsible for bringing Dumas' Le Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine to the English reading public, a full century after its publication in 1873. Davidson, an established and celebrated food writer in his own right, shortened the 600,000-word dictionary into a sizeable volume which was published under the title Dumas on Food in 1978. Davidson would go on to contribute his own massive reference work to the world of food writing with the publication of The Oxford Companion to Food at the end of the 1990s. Read more about his career in The Guardian's obituary of Davidson, published shortly after his death in 2003

Dumas & The Silver Screen

Although Dumas' final work never was a best-seller, his romantic stories of the three musketeers remained a crowd favorite for years to come. With the dawn of motion pictures in the early 20th century, Dumas' books found new life on the silver screen. Here's just one scene from the estimated 40+ movie adaptations of his timeless story, taken from the 1948 film The Three Musketeers starring a young Gene Kelly as the would-be musketeer, D'Artagnan. 

Episode Soundtrack