Friday, May 04, 2007

A reasonable supply of Breadfruit.

Today, May 4th …

Joseph Banks was the botanist aboard the Endeavour on its voyage (1768-71) under the command of Captain James Cook. The first goal of the voyage was to make astronomical observations of the transit of the planet Venus from the vantage point of the newly ‘discovered’ island of Tahiti – which had been named King George’s Island.

Banks kept a journal during the voyage, and on this day wrote:

`Georges Land'
No trade this morn but a little fish so we are for the first time in distress for nescessaries. I went into the woods to Tubourai and perswauded him to give me 5 long baskets of bread fruit, a very seasonable supply as they contain above 120 fruits

Breadfruit is the fruit of Artocarpus incisa, a native of the Malay peninsula and the Pacific Islands. It is an enormously prolific tree, producing huge fruit with edible white pulp. It was called breadfruit by early Europeans because the fruit, when cooked (it is rarely eaten raw) is reminiscent of white bread, but it is also an apt name as it is the staple food of the islands where it is grown. This was the fruit that indirectly triggered the Mutiny on the Bounty in 1787. The purpose of that voyage was to obtain breadfruit plants from Tahiti and deliver them to the Caribbean where they were to be grown to provide cheap food for slaves. There were many problems aboard the ship, one of which was the usual one of sufficient fresh water – and some of the crew resented it being ‘wasted’ on the plants, giving them a convenient excuse for the mutiny that was no doubt already being fomented. Fletcher Christian led the revolt, Capt Bligh was set adrift - with breadfruit being thrown at him as he was forced into the small boat. The rest, as they say, provides a historic example of superb seamanship as Bligh and his men managed to survive and return to England.

We take our daily bread for granted nowadays, and are willfully wasteful of it in ways that would horrify previous generations who did not throw away a single crumb. All arguments about domestic economy aside, it seems that we are throwing away an extraordinarily useful and versatile ingredient. I am of a mind to collect recipes for leftover or stale bread to prove this theory, starting today. They are not all excruciatingly frugal and ill-disguised leftovers either, as this very elegant recipe shows:

Bread Brandy Cakes.
Separate the yolks from the whites of eight eggs, beat up the yolks and five whites together. Dissolve six ounces of butter in a pint of milk, and pour it, while hot, over a pound of breadcrumbs. When cold, pour in the eggs and add equal quantities of sugar and well-washed currants, with about a quarter of an ounce of nutmeg, grated, and a glass of brandy. Line patty pans with short paste, put in a spoonful of the preparation, and bake for twenty minutes.
[Cassells Dictionary of Cookery, 1870’s]

Monday’s Story …

Clubbing and Banqueting.

This Day, Last Year …

We had a story about a kosher banquet .

Quotation for the Day …

I understand the big food companies are developing a tearless onion. I think they can do it – after all, they have given us tasteless bread Robert Orben


Jann said...

Enjoyed your post about Capt. Cook. Have taken his route through the South Pacfic-was introduced to the importance of the bread fruit. What an amazing food! Thanks for sharing......

Anonymous said...

Thanks for another great story, Janet.

I'm glad I read it before I got into the car to drive the children to school, so that while my daughter kept trying to play Led Zeppelin on the radio before 8AM while at the same time telling some endless tale about her hairstyle and while my son kept insisting that she must shut up, I could imagine myself as captain of the ship and was glad that at least we had enough breadfruit to survive it all.

Your story this morning also inspired me to post an old thing I wrote, on my blog today, about breadsauce. :) (One way to use up old bread, ha ha!)

Hmm. I wonder how a breadfruit-bread pudding would taste . :)

Sally said...

*That's* breadfruit?! It looks like something we call "hedgeapples" which we use as a natural bug repellant. I wonder if they're the same thing?

I never thought of pouring brandy into my bread pudding! What a great idea - thanks!

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Karen - glad to see you have posted again. When will Branston P.I return? (not that I want to put pressure on you or anything!)

Sally - I dont know what Hedgeapples are, but I doubt if they are breadfruit. Breadfruit are very large - melon size at least. Now I must find out what hedgeapples are!

Anonymous said...

Hedgeapples are the osage-orange (Maclura pomifera), completely unrelated to breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis).

Considering the harsh discipline common to the British Navy of the time, occasional mutinies aren't surprising. Bligh was known as a disciplinarian, but he was, indeed, an extraordinarily skilled sailor.

Karin W. said...

Did you taste it? Someone said breadfruit tastes like wallpaper paste.