soubise

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Julius Soubise, Macaroni of London

Julius Soubise (1754-1798) was the adopted son of the infamous Catherine Hyde, Duchess of Queensbury (1701-1777), who was a wealthy and scandalous eccentric. He was born at St. Kitts and arrived in London at the age of ten. His good looks generated a good deal of interest among women of rank, and Soubise came to live with the Duchess in 1764.

Raised in privilege, Soubise excelled at violin, acting, and oration; he also became the Duchess’s riding and fencing master as a young man. Although Soubise’s presence in the household was met with the Duke of Queensbury’s approval and encouragement, rumors that a sexual relationship existed between The Duchess and her fencing master pervaded London high society; the top engraving (William Austin, 1773) is a satirical allegory alluding to that relationship.

Gerzina (1995) relates the manner in which the popular young man was received by London society in adulthood:

Soubise ‘suddenly changed his manners, and became one of the most conspicuous fops of the town. He frequented the Opera, and the other theatres; sported a fine horse and groom in Hyde-Park; became a member of many fashionable clubs, and made a figure.’

Soubise became quite accustomed to spending money on clothing, fine dining, and women friends; the prominent Black British academic and abolitionist Ignatius Sancho wrote a letter addressed to him in 1771 entreating the wildly popular fop to tone down his behavior and appeal to respectability. He did not take this advice.

Another engraving of Soubise labels him “A Mungo Macaroni”. “Mungo” refers to a much-maligned Black character in a contemporaneously popular play; “Macaroni” being a 17th Century term for wealthy young men obsessed with (usually French) fashion, gambling, drinking, and generally engaging in dissolute behavior. 

Julius Soubise continued his lavish and decadent lifestyle in London with the blessing of his patron until her death in 1777. Accounts vary as to which event came first, but it is clear within a day or two of the Duchess’s demise, Soubise was accused of assaulting a young woman who worked as a maid, and subsequently fled to Calcutta in Bengal, India. He founded an equestrian school there and spent the rest of his days training young men and women to ride and fence. Julius Soubise died at 44 years of age on August 25, 1798, from injuries sustained by a fall from a horse.

Further Reading:

For a short period, there wasn’t anything Louis XIV could deny his mistress, the Princess of Soubise. Everyone at court was well aware of what was going on in a private room, at the far end of a larger public room, overlooking the courtyard at St. Germain en Laye. It was here that many not-very-discreet but very prolonged meetings took place. Her husband obligingly stayed away from court never revealing to anyone that he knew what was going on between his wife and the king. The result of their liaison was the future Cardinal de Rohan. Surely, the Prince of Soubise had to notice the new addition to his family when he returned from the tour of his estates, as well as the new, comforting additions to his bank accounts. Not only were their debts paid off, but they had enough money to buy and remodel the marvelous Hôtel de Soubise–as well as to construct another palace for the princess’s illegitimate child by the king.

Cauliflower Soubise

I think everybody in my family agrees that my mother is a rice-making queen. Every time family comes over for dinner, she whips up some crazy combination of ingredients, transforming ordinary rice into a feast worthy side dish.

One of my favorites growing up was simpler in nature, but equally tasty. This dish doesn’t really have a name, but we usually ate alongside braised chicken. To make the rice she would start by cooking onions until slightly caramelized and fragrant. Then she would add rice and broth. Within half an hour these three ingredients would marry beautifully, producing a combination of flavor that I can only associate to her cooking: sweet, hearty and effortlessly delicious.

When I came across a rice and onion recipe by Mark Bittman I knew I had to make a Tasty Plan version of this dish. It wouldn’t be like my mother’s, neither would it be like Bittman’s, but it would be inspired by both. It would be tasty, oniony (in a good way!), hearty, and healthy.

Soubise, as it turns out, is a traditional French recipe containing lots of onions, rice, cream, and cheese. This variation is made unique by swapping out the rice for cauliflower, a low calorie, and nutrient packed vegetable. Slowly cooked in a Dutch oven, the onions melt and caramelize, releasing a delicious sweetness unique to this vegetable. The cauliflower becomes soft and tender. The addition of coconut milk makes this whole thing scrumptious and decadent. With a sprinkle of cilantro all the flavor come together with a pop!

This side dish has a distinct combination of flavors, which is both new and reminiscent of its ancestors. It almost tastes like French onion soup, but it doesn’t. It is better. My mother would be proud.

Cauliflower Soubise

Serves 6-8

Cook time: 1 ½ hours

  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 large yellow onions (roughly sliced)
  • 1 cauliflower (florets)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1” piece fresh ginger
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • Handful of cilantro

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a Dutch oven heat olive oil over medium temperature. Add onions, salt, and pepper. Cook for fifteen to twenty minutes, stirring occasionally until onions start to caramelize. Add cauliflower florets and ginger to pot. Stir.  Pour broth over vegetables. Add rosemary and cover. Transfer to preheated over. Cook for 35 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for another 35 minutes. Once ready to serve pour coconut milk over soubise, stirring occasionally until hot. Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro and a drizzle of olive oil.  Enjoy!

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Hotel de Soubise - Archives nationales

Les grands dépôts des Archives nationales, construits sous Louis-Philippe et sous Napoléon III forment une mise en scène architecturale des séries de documents parmi les plus prestigieuses conservées. Lieux exceptionnels de conservation d'une part de notre mémoire archivistique, ils sont en eux-mêmes des monuments historiques mais aussi des dépôts en exercice. De ce fait, ils sont rarement montrés au public. L'armoire de fer, qui forme le centre symbolique et concret de ces dépôts sera ouverte et quelques documents fondateurs seront rendus visibles: mètre étalon, dernière lettre de Marie-Antoinette, testament de Napoléon, constitution de 1958.

ピカソ美術館の裏にあるHotel de Soubise - Archives nationales。昔の貴族の館なので建物の作りや調度品が派手だが、お目当てはマリーアントワネットが死刑台に向かう前、最後に書いた義妹への手紙。緻密な綺麗な筆跡で、残していく子供達の心配をしている。必死の思いで綴った義妹Elisabeth宛ての手紙も、裁判所に留め置かれ、届くことはなかったという。