Thursday, October 25, 2007

A side-effect of chocolate.

October 25th

Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, Marquise de Sévigné was a seventeenth century French aristocrat. For many years she kept up a prolific correspondence with her married daughter, and her letters are a wonderfully witty glimpse into life at the top of the food chain at that time and in that place.

She frequently mentions chocolate in her letters of the early 1670’s when it was very new, very expensive, and very fashionable. Like most newly introduced foods, its qualities were the subject of much debate: was it suitable for periods of fasting, being a mere drink? Did it have medicinal value? Was it addictive? Was it an aphrodisiac?

On this day in 1671 Mme. de Sévigné delivered a juicy piece of gossip disguised as advice to her daughter, who was pregnant at the time:

" … the marquise de Coëtlogon took so much chocolate, being pregnant last year, that she was brought to bed of a little boy who was as black as the devil who died."

Mme. de Sévigné did not need to mention to her daughter that one of the other fashionable household items at the time was a handsome, black, Moorish servingman. It seems that the mother of the unfortunate infant did indeed have one of these fashion accessories, and part of his job description was to take her her evening chocolate drink. But I stoop to repeat gossip myself now, which is not seemly at this distance of centuries.

If France at the time was obsessed with anything Mexican and more-ish or manly and Moorish (Ouch! Sorry, couldn't resist that one), over in England the fashion was for anything French, including of course, the latest dishes.

Today therefore, I give you a recipe from a book with the unexpurgated title of The English and French cook describing the best and newest ways of ordering and dressing all sorts of flesh, fish and fowl, whether boiled, baked, stewed, roasted, broiled, frigassied, fryed, souc'd, marrinated, or pickled; with their proper sauces and garnishes: together with all manner of the most approved soops and potages used, either in England or France. By T. P. J. P. R. C. N. B. and several other approved cooks of London and Westminster. 1674.

Publishers don’t do book titles like that anymore, alas, even for books by approved cooks.

Lemonade a-la-mode de France.
The French make a Lemonade several ways, sometimes by taking two handfuls of Jalsomine [jasmine], and infuse it in a pottle of Water, letting it steep twelve hours, to every quart of Water put six ounces of Sugar: you may make it of Orange-flowers or Gilliflower after the same manner. Or take some Lemons, cut themand take out the juyce, then put it in Water as aforesaid; then pare another Lemon, and cut it in slices, put it among the juyce with a due proportion of Sugar.

Tomorrow’s Story …

Puckering up with Persimmons.

Quotation for the Day ...

Dont wreck a sublime chocolate experience by feeling guilty. Chocolate isn't like pre-marital sex. It will not make you pregnant. And it always feels good. Laura Brody. Growing up on the Chocolate Diet.

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