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FOOD: Menier's Dining Apparatus

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Frederick The Monk
338411.  Sat May 17, 2008 4:07 am Reply with quote

Q: If a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle, how do you explain this [IMAGE OF GASTON MENIER’S DINING APARATUS – FISH ON A TRAIN]?


A: This is chocolate magnate Gaston Menier’s dining apparatus – an electric train which delivered meals to his dining room with, as one guest noted “particular liveliness and intimacy”. Nor is this an outmoded thing of the past, - a new restaurant in Nuremberg uses the exact same system. You input your order on a computer screen, the chef picks up the order in the roof, cooks the meal, then sends it down a system of tracks to your table.

Fish on Bicycles (Gaston Menier)
In 1887, the French chocolate magnate Gaston Menier installed a novel apparatus in his dining room that allowed meals to be transported straight from the kitchen to the table, without the need for servants or the passing of plates. A miniature electric railroad brought the fully prepared dishes to a stop directly in front of each guest. And when the meal concluded, the dishes were whisked away, back through a hole in the wall and out of site.

The magazine "Nature" had this to say about Menier's dining apparatus in its edition dated 29 October 1887
This is a refinement of a comfortable and gracious politeness that gives the meal a special animation and intimacy. The facility also gives us another example of a thousand services that can make electricity in domestic life, we must thank Mr. Gaston Menier we have the opportunity to appreciate the charm and approval of this strange and interesting application.

Gaston Menier was also one of the first Frenchmen to install electric lighting in his houses.

According to F. Caradec the Maharajah of Gwalior installed a similar system in his palace that ran on a table set for 200 seats. He hoped that it would not only amuse his guest but also himself as its complicated control system allowed him to deprive guests of food as well as deliver it. Sadly it proved very unreliable and during a visit by the viceroy of India suddenly malfunctioned, hurtling round the track spraying sauce over everyone.

A 1922 Buster Keaton film - the Electric House - is a comedy about a hi-tech home which malfunctions, including a dining apparatus like Menier's which runs out of control.

More Notes:
Fish on Bicycles (Gaston Menier)
The Menier family of Noisiel, France, was a prominent family of chocolatiers who began as pharmaceutical manufacturers in Paris in 1816. The Menier Chocolate Co. remained in the family until 1965. Today, it is owned by the Nestlé company.

Jean-Antoine Brutus Menier, who founded the business was an unqualified pharmacists who started out using chocolate in his medicinal preparations. The success of this side of his business led him to open the first mechanised chocolate factory in France in 1830. The chocolate business was kind to the Meniers and the founders grandson was rich enough to buy Anticosti Island at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River in Canada - a large and heavily forested island one-quarter the size of the country of Belgium as well as the Château de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley. During the First World War Gaston Menier turned the chateau into a hospital, run at his own expense.

In July 1914 Menier commented to the New York Times that the recent business crisis was in the past and 'a general improvement is coming'. Ten days later the First World War broke out.


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