The Salon of Abundance shows us the picture of the big nef of Louis XIV. This fancy holder of the king’s victuals was waiting for the royal dinner in the Guards Room and all the courtiers saluted it on their way to witness the king’s consumption of mass quantities. “You never tiered of watching him eat,” reports to us Saint-Simon. For the duke himself this was an opportunity to canvas an opinion; this he did indirectly, by engaging into some conversation a gentleman serving the king. The king thus remained within the earshot and a captive audience of Saint-Simon.
Besides the members of the king’s family, there were seven or eight guests seated in a semi-circle next to the table, other than that, standing around, gathered all those who belonged at the court, or had a letter of introduction from a courtier and came for the purpose of bearing a witness. The princes talked about themselves. Sometimes Duke Orleans made a discourse about cheeses. The appetites of all those present were usually fairly matched, but the king played the first violin! He snatched with his fingers the choicest morsels. “They never forbade me the use of the fork and the knife,” writes Princess Palatine, but the poor kids had to eat with their hands whenever admitted at the royal table.
We shall skip here the description of the eight courses, and twenty-eight dishes and move straight to the most spectacular part of the meal, the dessert. The pyramids of fruit were so tall that sometimes they had difficulty bringing them inside. Decorated with flowers they were mounted into most elaborate arrangements, mixing the fresh and dried fruits with preserves. “To communicate after those things had been placed on the table, we were sending each other notes,” writes Madame de Sevigne, “…they had to tilt one of them to clear the door, and it toppled over, covering with the noise of broken porcelain the music of the violins…”
For sure, it was a little late for all this food, the great sitting invariably scheduled for ten o’clock.