I have this thing about history books-- especially ones about food history, military history, and the misdoings of European royalty. If its got a lot of useless trivia packed into it, I will read it, digest it, and annoy my friends with the opening line, "Hey did you know...?"
And if what I'm reading includes all of the above, I am one happy nerd.
Thanks to my recent reading, its finally happened. I've met him-- my new historical crush, Stanislaw Leszczynski. He might not have been the handsomest fellow in the world, but he had it going on: he lost the crown of Poland, became the French Duke of Lorraine by marrying off his daughter Maria to Louis XV (after losing Poland a second time), and, most likely by virtue of is own good nature and a heavy dose of pity from Frederick III, was made a count of the Holy Roman Empire. It doesn't matter much that, by the 18th Century, The H.R.E. was neither holy, nor Roman. It wasn't even much of an Empire, but a cluster of bickering Central European states. Still, it was a nice title.
But it really isn't his laundry list of honors that impresses me. I'd still like him if he were merely an viscount or baron or margrave. It's his penchant for popularizing and ascribing names to food that I like. Really, really popular food. King Stanislaw, it seems, was quite a gastronome, as his painting might hint at. Just look at those multiple chins.
According to my latest read, The Food Chronology by James Trager, Stanislaw started a craze in Paris for pigs' feet, tripe, and most importantly, onion soup soon after his daughter became queen of France. According to legend, he was so taken with an onion soup he was served at an inn on his way to Paris that he visited the kitchen in his dressing gown and demanded the chef to show him how to make it. Et voilà, everyone was eating Soupe à l'Oignon.