Frédéric Chopin had a love affair with food. On a trip to the town of Toruń, the 15-year-old composer goes to great length to describe the local food specialty. Although he visited the famed Copernicus museum and various fortified building, “it was the gingerbread that made on me the greatest impression, or impact.” Produced since the Middle Ages, it came in different types and varieties, and apparently Chopin liked them all!
Although Chopin would leave his Polish homeland, his appetite for home cooking never left him. He became almost excessively sentimental about all things Polish, and although he spent a lot of time and money on strudels and donuts with jam filling and candied orange peel garnish at his favorite “Wild Man” restaurant in Vienna, he couldn’t wait to get invited to the villa of Dr. Johann Malfatti. Dr. Malfatti had gained notoriety for treating Ludwig van Beethoven, and he always served Polish foods to Chopin. Among them the composer’s all time favorite, a dish called “Zrazy.” This dish is made of thin slices of beef traditionally wrapped around vegetables, mushrooms, eggs, and potato.
Once he moved to Paris, Chopin was overwhelmed by the city. “Here exist the greatest luxury,” he writes “the greatest wickedness, the greatest virtue, the greatest sin, posters about sexually transmitted diseases are everywhere! …One day you will eat the most abundant and satisfying dinner for 32 sous in a restaurant with mirrors, gold and gas lamps—and the next day you can go to have breakfast where you’ll get food for a bird and you’ll pay three times as much.”
Countless dinner invitations greatly expanded his culinary horizon, and he seemed to have developed a taste for truffles. However, emerging medical problems forced him to forgo wine and coffee and replace it with milk and acorn coffee, served with spices, cloves and honey. He sheepishly reports, “I am starting to look like a maiden.” Nevertheless, he was known to have a liking for Tokay wine. His favorite restaurant was “Au Rocher de Cancale,” and that particular eatery is still located at rue Montorgueil, Paris 75002.
The composer also liked to eat at the “Café de Foy” when it was actually called Café Tortoni. Since it was also the favorite restaurant of George Sand, we might rightly assume that they occasionally enjoyed a quick bite?
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Frédéric Chopin: Mazurkas