I have no system yet for sorting through the many photographs, documents and letters I have inherited from both sides of my family. Much of the time I cannot even read them as they are written in either Russian or German. Sometimes, when I pass them onto translators, even native Russian and German speakers have problems as the documents are written in old scripts. My method is haphazard at best. I rummage through the various briefcases and tubs scattered throughout my study and pull out a document or photograph or letter which looks interesting. Sometimes I can read whatever I have pulled out of the pile. Most times I have to send it to be translated.
Today I pulled out of an old envelope what looks like a photocopy of a menu which has been signed by, I would guess, the guests at the dinner. The dinner was held on 12 May 1912, which was a Sunday. As the menu is obviously from Russia, it must belong to either of my grandparents, most likely my grandfather, Paul Woronoff. But who do the signatures belong to and where was the dinner held?
The menu itself is in French. The signatures are in Russian. The menu is headed by what looks like the crest of the Russian Imperial Family, although the photocopy is not the best quality and the crest has come out looking more like a black blob than anything else. But I know the Russian Imperial Family had menus written in French.
I have attempted to translate the menu. The dinner began with soup – Minestrone to be exact. Then a cold consommé, which is also a soup. Perhaps guests had the choice of one or the other? The next line on the menu reads “Petits Patés”. I Googled it and they could be small pies, eaten as either an hors d’oeuvre, together with a salad, or as a dessert. As they are placed toward the top of the menu, I am going to guess they were served as the hors d’oeuvre.
The next line has me stumped. It reads “Fruites et Soudacs Moutarde” but there are some very small letters after the final “s” of Soudacs, which I cannot read. As much as I can make out, the guests at this dinner will be treated to a fruity Russian fish in mustard sauce. This is followed by a saddle of lamb, cooked in the Printanier fashion; roast chickens and partridges; and a lettuce salad. Another Google and I discovered Printanier means “made or dressed with diced spring vegetables”.
The desserts sound refreshing and tasty. First there is Pineapple á la Marquise, which is diced pineapple soaked overnight in kirsch, vanilla sugar, white wine and vanilla bean and then served in a champagne glass with champagne poured over it. The other dessert is a strawberry soufflé. It sounds like a wonderful feast.
Of course knowing what was eaten does not help me discover where the dinner was held, who were the guests or why they signed the menu. I also wonder where the original menu is, who belongs to the signatures and why copies of the menu were made.