Thirsty Thursday & Hungry Hearts: Champagne for the Fish Course


I am reading The Gate of Angels by Penelope Fitzgerald. I have had this book for years, and tried reading it several time, but it’s never ‘stuck’ til now.

Here is a description of dinner at St Angelicus, the fictional Cambridge college at the centre of the novel:

They drank manzanilla imported for them from San lucar, until the butler came in. ‘The Master is on his way.’ Everyone got to their feet. With his chair drawn back for him to exactly the right distance, the Master needed no guidance, and none was offered. The Chaplain pronounced a grace which was used on domestic occasions by Benedict XIII himself, followed by the menacing Spanish words — El Juicio Final descubrira las secretas de la Historia. All the chairs trundled back, and those who had dropped their napkins disappeared for a moment, recovering them. The manzanilla continued with the soup, and changed to champagne for the fish course only. After that it was claret at St Angelicus. At the end the guests were always offered preserved fruits, of the kind which failed to poison their Founder.

I am only at Chapter 5 and food has not been mentioned much, but I like this small passage. I can taste the manzanilla and would like champagne for my birthday next month.


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