|Dinner with Friends
[letter to Olivia Clemens, 18 November 1885]
Clemens's taste in food ran to simple dishes—particularly those remembered from his Missouri childhood—made from the freshest ingredients. Of course, the greatest enhancement to a meal was the company in which he found himself.
In this November 1885 letter to his wife, he described a memorable dinner at a New York restaurant with four friends from the world of publishing and journalism, including William Laffan and James R. Osgood. The dinner
consisted of but 3 courses, but I tell you it was a marvel. By each man's foot stood a quart of champagne in a silver cooler—& an extra one on a sideboard—there was no other wine.
1st course—Very small raw oysters—just that moment opened, & swimming in their own sea water. Delicious.
2d course. Terrapin stew, in dainty little covered pots, with curious little gold-&-silver terrapin spoons from Tiffany's. Sublime. There never was such terrapin before. It was unspeakable.
3d course. Before each man was set an entire canvass-back duck, red hot from the oven, & on his plate was laid a carving knife & fork—he must do his own carving. These ducks were just simply divine.
So ended the dinner. No coffee, dessert, cheese—nothing. Not a scrap of the 3 courses was left. Five skeletons represented the ducks, 6 empty bottles represented the champagne. A memorable dinner.