Monday, February 06, 2006

A theme too far?

Today, February 6th …

In the second half of the nineteenth century there was a campaign by “men who, by their high social position, could exert a salutary influence on public opinion” to promote the consumption of horsemeat. Some of these “hippophagists” were almost evangelical in their zeal to popularise it – not necessarily for their own tables of course, but as a cheap and nourishing food for the masses.

The move was most fervent in France, but enthusiasts in London took up the cause, and on this day in 1868 a horsemeat dinner was held at Langham’s hotel.

There were 29 dishes on the menu, spread over the traditional two “services”. Not quite every dish was of horse, but it was hard to avoid: even the sole and the lobster dishes were dressed with horse-oil. The meal started with two soups – consommé de cheval, and a puree of destriers (warhorses), and went on to include such delights as horse sausages with pistachios, little pastries with horse marrow, jellied horse feet, and boiled withers. I bet the chefs even snuck some horse-oil into the petits pois à la Francaise, and the choux-fleurs au parmesan.

Frank Buckland was a naturalist famous for his enthusiasm to try anything as food: he once even disinterred and ate a leopard that had died at the zoo. He was present at the dinner, and said:

“ … I devoutly wished I had the talent of a Hogarth to be able to record the various expressions … there seemed to be a dubious and inquisitive cast spread over the features of most who were present … A very pleasant party at our end of the table, but the meat simply horrible.”

If you come across some dead horse, you could try

Veterinary students meatloaf.
Mix together ground horse meat and ground pork (3:1) with bread soaked in milk (2 slices per pound of meat), some finely chopped onions and chopped celery, beaten egg (1 per 2 pounds of meat), salt, pepper, dry mustard, crushed garlic, and a little Worcestershire sauce. Form into a loaf and bake at 350deg F. After the first half hour, pour off the fat and ladle over the loaf a mixture of canned tomato sauce and water (2:1) and some crushed garlic. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and bake till done. [From Calvin Schwabe’s Unmentionable Cuisine]

[The OldFoodie will email the complete menu on request.]

Tomorrow: An Australian mention.


Anonymous said...

What is the culinary term used for horse meat?

Thanks in advance for the help.

The Old Foodie said...

The only phrase I have ever seen for horsemeat is "cheval" (from the French)