Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Primitive Cookery.

October 30 ...

Yesterday we considered choosing a book by its wordy title and front page “blurb” in the days before colourful graphic covers. Those plain text days could still be misleading.

Take a look at this wonderful title, from 1767.

Primitive Cookery.
Kitchen Garden display’d
Containing a Collection of
For preparing a great Variety of
Cheap, healthful, and palatable Dishes,
Without either Fish, Flesh, or Fowl,
A BILL OF FARE of Seventy Dishes, that
will not cost above Two-pence each.
Directions of pickling, gathering, and preserving
Herbs, Fruits, and Flowers:
With Many other Articles appertainingto the
Product of the Kitchen Garden, Orchard, &c.

It would seem reasonable to assume from the title that this was a “vegetarian” text, although the word would not be coined for another century, and the very concept would have been unintelligible to most folk of the time whose primary goal was to get good animal protein on the table as often as possible.

There was a philanthropic spin on the contents as well as a health angle. A certain Dr. Lobbs provided some verbose Advice to the Poor with regard to Diet – and excellent advice it would have been too, if only the poor had been able to afford his recommendations (or buy the book; or even read it, most of the poor of the time being illiterate.) He does offer some general dietary advice which does fall within his area of medical expertise however, so perhaps we could trust him in this regard:

“I should advise all persons to conclude their dinner with eating the quantity of a nutmeg or two of old Cheshire, or double Gloucestershire cheese, on account of its efficacy against flatulencies. I speak from my long experience, who seldom eat cheese at any other time.”

It appears that the good doctor was long-winded in more ways than one.

The doctor and several other contributors also misread the brief for the book (if indeed there was one), as a number of recipes include meat, or meat bones. If that was not an issue for his eighteenth century readers, or for yourself, this one caught my fancy.

A Cabbage Pudding.
Chop two pound of lean veal with as much beef suet; beat it in a mortar with half a cabbage scalded; season it with mace, nutmeg, pepper, salt, green gooseberries, grapes, or barberries, according to the time of year. In winter put in a little verjuic, beat all together with four or five yolks of eggs; then wrap it up in green cabbage-leaves, tie a cloth over it, boil it an hour, and melt butter for sauce.

Tomorrow’s Story …

A Birthday Dinner.

Quotation for the Day …

Cabbages, whose heads, tightly folded, see and hear nothing of this world, dreaming only on the yellow and green magnificence that is hardening within them. John Haines.

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