Monday, November 10, 2014

Soup makes the soldier

Leopold Beyer (1789-1877) sketched French soldiers cooking soup in a pot in 1813.  A contemporary wrote that the French soldiers were better cooks than the English.  "...six French troopers fling their messes into the same pot, and extract a delicious soup ten times more nutritious..." while the English soldiers toss their meat onto the coals and burn it.

"Soup makes the soldier" or "La soupe fait le soldat" was an old French proverb or, some say, was a quote from Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821; Emperor 1804-1814, 1815).  An 1820 British excerpt:

"Cest la soupe," says one of the best of proverbs, "qui fait le soldat. It is the soup that makes the soldier." Excellent as our troops are in the field, there cannot be a more unquestionable fact, than their immense inferiority to the French in the business of cooking.

The English soldier lays his piece of ration beef at once on the coals, by which means the one and the better half is lost, and the other burnt to a cinder. Whereas six French troopers fling their messes into the same pot, and extract a delicious soup ten times more nutritious than the simple roti could ever be." The Edinburgh Monthly Magazine  1820
In the first and third images, the soldier is cutting a potato, turnip or onion into the pot.  The pots (and lid by the knapsack, 2d image) are irregularly shaped, and further described with more illustrations HERE

The artist Leopold Beyer was about 24 when he sketched the images and then became an engraver in Austria.  I could not find who holds/owns the sketches. and a few Napoleonic War web sites say the sketches show the French Army in Germany. 

Tabella Cibaria. The Bill of Fare: a Latin Poem, implicitly translated and fully explained in copious and interesting notes, relating to the Pleasures of Gastronomy, and the mysterious Art of Cookery. London: 1820 reviewed in The Edinburgh Monthly Magazine  1820

Other posts on military subjects include Campaign tables of Revolutionary and Civil Wars, Civil War salt works making 500 bushels a day, British burning the White House, 18th cen. Earthen kitchen. HERE
©2014 Patricia Bixler Reber
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