Monday, October 29, 2007

To the Officers of the Mouth.

October 29 ...

It may be true that you can judge a book by its cover, but what of the days before colour printing and graphic designers and the whole colourfull digital age? One clearly chose by the front page. Words instead of pictures. So they better be good words. And preferably a catchy title.

Below is one of my favourites, from a book published in 1682.

A Perfect School of
For the
Officers of the Mouth:
The Whole ART
A Master of the Household A Master Confectioner
A Master Carver A Master Cook
A Master Butler A Master Pastryman

Being a Work of singular Use for Ladies and
Gentlewomen, and all Persons whatsoever
that are desirous to be acquainted with the
most excellent ARTS of Carving, Cookery,
Pastry, Preserving, and Laying a Cloth for
Grand Entertainments. The like never before
Extant in any Language.

Adorned with Pictures curiously Ingraven
displaying the whole Arts.
By Giles Rose, one of the Master Cooks in
His Majesties Kitchen.

How could you resist a title like this? There are those of you who are vocal in your hatred of the word “foodie” – I know, because I have read your rants. Unfortunately, none of you have come up with a suitably catchy alternative. Could we co-opt “Officers of the Mouth”? OOMs for short? Giles was referring to the staff who made it all happen in the kitchens and at the dining tables of the well-off, but as few of us have servants these days the title is languishing, begging to be recycled and appreciated once more.

If, like me, you throw a towel over your shoulder while you are cooking, you may say that this is because you like to keep a wiping-cloth handy at all times. You may not have realised it, but you have also been demonstrating your rank at the top of the meal-producing hierarchy – as Steward, or Maistre de Hostel.

Giles explains it thus:

The hour of Meals being come, and all things are now in readiness, le Maistre de Hostel takes a clean Napkin, folded at length, but narrow, and throws it over his Shoulder, remembring that this is the ordinary Mark, and particular sign and demonstration of his Office: and to let men see how credible his Charge is, he must not be shamefaced, nor so much as blush, no not before any noble Personage, for his Place is rather an Honour than a Service, for he may do his Office with his Sword by his side, his Cloak upon his Shoulders, and his Hat on his Head; but his Napkin must be always upon his Shoulder, just in the posture I told you of before.

We will examine the job descriptions of the Master Carver and the other Officers in due course, but for now I leave you with the recipe for the day, also taken from Giles’ book. It is an especially delicious-sounding one that I am sure you will be unable to resist. Let me know how it turns out.

A Tart of the Brain of a Capon.
Mince the Brain of a Capon Raw, with as much Marrow, or Beef Suet, as the Flesh contains to, sheet your Patty-pan with fine Paste, and add to your Meat, Champignons, Truffles, Cockscombs, Sweet-breads of Veal, and season all this with a packet or bundle, Salt, Pepper, Nutmeg, and a little Lard beaten or melted, cover it with the same Paste, and indore* it, let it bake an hour and a half, then put into it, when it is baked, Pistaches, the juice of Lemons, and a good gravy in serving it away.

* indore = to make golden, for example by using an egg wash, or saffron - or occasionally real gold.

Tomorrow’s Story …

Primitive Cookery.

Quotation for the Day …

"What science demands more study than Cookery? You have not only, as in other arts, to satisfy the general eye, but also the individual taste of the persons who employ you; you have to attend to economy, which every one demands; to suit the taste of different persons at the same table; to surmount the difficulty of procuring things which are necessary to your work; to undergo the want of unanimity among the servants of the house; and the mortification of seeing unlimited confidence sometimes reposed in persons who are unqualified to give orders in the kitchen, without assuming consequence, and giving themselves airs which are almost out of reason, and which frequently discourage the Cook." Louis Eustache Ude.


Karen Resta said...

OOM's is an excellent alternative to foodie. "I am an OOM". Just listen to the music. Beautiful.

If there are not any "Officers of the Mouth" yet in any Monty Python movie though, they should be. They belong in Monty Python or at least in The Mighty Boosh as characters.

The Old Foodie said...

Karen, you are just the person to take "OOMS" and make them (us) famous - how about a starring role for them in one of your stories?

Karen Resta said...

What? Are you suggesting I write something rather than just coming up with ideas?

I never thought of that. Good idea.

By the way, Janet, if anyone makes "foodie" not only palatable but delightful, it is you.


The Old Foodie said...

Karen - the answer is Yes. You should write. Why should we go without your stories? What are you - selfish?