Dear Rennie,

You know how in middle school, you’re hoping to not be the one girl in the group of girls that makes the other girls look good? But, it can be, like, super hard to tell? I need a way to know. Something more certain than skinny jeans, and way more definite than daikon in my lunch, because let’s face it, just about anyone can get those these days. Please, help! There’s a pool party coming up at Tina D’Amicco’s, and I have to know before I wear that bikini!

Nervous Elle in West Bromley

Chère jeune Madame N.E.W.B.–

Zut! So many questions! So many potential social entanglements that, not catered to properly, could spell a lifetime of wandering the lower quarters of the great house, searching for a cast-off button mushroom with which to bribe Hildegarde the kitchen matron into furtive gropings in the root cellar….but, I digress. Your matters are grave, cherie, but, fall within my powers to amend, with the aid of a simple series of carefully conducted tests, as devised by my dear friend, Jean (you have heard of him, yes? of course you have). I have modified several of the elements so as to better suit your particular situation–I am sure Monsieur B___S___ will take no exception, once he understands the nature of your plight. Onwards!

Now, Jean’s original proposition is designed to ferret out those amongst your acquaintance who are as of yet unmoved by the perfection of mousseline, who are dead to the song of the eggs a la neige, and are thusly to be avoided–I see no reason why such standards could not also be used to determine if you are la belle or la bête. Are not tastes and our sensitivities to them the very hallmarks of one’s rank and comely nature? And so! On the afternoon of your choosing, assemble les filles in your salon, and, having divided them according to stature and, ah, basque size (easiest to determine, I’ve found, when all interested parties are en déshabillé), present each group in turn with the following:

Group DD

A bowl of Creme Chantilly, perfumed with eau de vanille
preserved cherries in Sirop, made provocative by the addition of Brandy
a decanter of Jaeger’s eau de vie
bendy straws

EXPRESSION: “Jaeger! That looks well, pray, let us remove these confiningly starched undergarments and pay our attentions to this repast.”

Group B

A crock of your finest pickling cucumbers
a Platter of Saucisson
banane sur gelée sur un bâton
projectiles de jello (i believe you call these ‘shots’, most charmingly)

EXPRESSION: “Let us eat these lingeringly, and with little regard for the prevention of juices decorating our garments!”

Group 34C*

A fowl weighing seven pounds, stuffed with truffles, so that it has become a spheroid.
A patte perigord in the form of a bastion.
A cask a la Chambord richly dressed and decorated.
A pike stuffed with craw-fish secundum artum.
A pheasant dressed a la sainte alliance.
Asparagus, large as possible, served up in osmazome.
Two dozen ortolans a la provencale, as the dish is described in the Cook’s Secretary.
A pyramid of sweet meats, flavored with rose and vanilla.

EXPRESSION: “Madame, I shall pass on this great display of generosity, for lo, I ate an ’em and em’ at the noon hour, and could not possibly entertain another meal.”

Should you find yourself cherie, at the last, uttering this final expression, be assured: you are indeed the fairest of them all–but, with much to learn from lesser classes of gourmands. Indeed, I would suggest joining the general repast of the other two groups most post-haste, so as to preserve your naturally elevated state by means of showing even more enthusiasm for the delights of the table than those who are your inferiors. Frolic! Imbibe! Pay no heed to the stray flash from the window, it is only the glorious sun, burning in envy of your nubile brilliance!

I do so hope that this has provided the remedy that you sought, fair N.E.W.B. Should it not, I would remind you that I am available for on-site tutelage, for a modest fee.

Your Humble Servant,

G de la R.

*I could do no better than the original for this particular test–all credit is due to M. Brillat Savarin