the eighteenth century, in which luxury consumption changed from being the primary means by which hegemonic social groups such as rulers and nobles manifested exclusive power, to a set of practices to which many might aspire.17
If, as Vera Lee notes, ‘social mobility was most possible, most rapid and most turbulent’ for sex workers in eighteenth-century France, it is apt that Margot’s initiation into the sex trade should be marked with the giving and receiving of a café au lait: social mobility, pleasure, and stimulation in liquid form.18
With Margot’s stomach full and her career path set, the story that follows tracks her progress as a woman whose every move is informed by the principles of social ascent, self-preservation, and judicious consumption. In contrast to her growing intelligence and philosophical outlook, the dining companions she meets along the way consistently descend into excess and animality. However refined their exteriors, the colleagues and clients with whom she works soon fall foul of gluttony and drunkenness, giving way to violence, unbridled sexuality, and disgusting bodily functions. The table, we learn, is a great leveller in a society built on finance, power and the pretence of morals. Margot’s first sight of chaotic consumption plays out in Madame Florence’s brothel, shortly after her arrival. True to the luxuries hinted at by Mme La Croix’s little rolls and milky coffee, the meal served at Mme Florence’s indicates a dramatic increase in wealth and fortune when compared to Margot’s humble origins. The dinner to which she is invited is long, composed of multiple dishes, served by waiting staff, and consumed by young women dressed in finery that astonishes their new dining companion. Following her snack at the Tuileries, this meal, composed of a ‘potage’, various ‘plats’, ‘ragouts’ and ‘sauces’, and an abundance of wine, provides Margot with an even greater contrast to the rustic bread and wine that adorned Pierrot’s table at the tavern.19 The power of Margot’s newfound access to wealth is neatly hinted at in her observation that: ‘Nous officiames toutes de manière à faire perdre aux subalternes l’espérance de notre desserte’ (‘We tucked
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