January 14 ...
Over a thousand people, including Queen Christina of
The event was recorded by the Ambassador’s steward, John Michael Wright, and he left some details about the food.
“This large table, having (as is said) these adornments in the middle, had between them, and the napkins, (which were also most artificially folded) two rows of Assiets, or Intermesses, on either side, fill'd with all sorts of relishing bits, whether salt, sweet or soure; as Pickles, Butter, slices of delicate Bacon, Bologna-Sausiges, Taratufoli, Composts, &c., all which, stood in the abovesaid order, for two whole days, (according to the Roman way) that everyone's curiosity might have some share in the Entertainment."
The art of napkin-folding had impressed Samuel Pepys a few decades earlier, so it seems that it was a relatively new fashion in
Mr. Wright’s inclusion of ‘composts’ in his list seems a little old-fashioned for the time. It was already an old word to describe a ‘composition’ or combination of ingredients – as in the modern use of the word to describe a mix of garden refuse in the process of melting down into rich soil. We do still use it in a culinary sense too – although we use the Frenchified version: the little accent mark over the second ‘o’ in compôte indicates the loss of a letter ‘s’. So there you are – next time you have a fruit compote you are really having a modern version of compost.
Composts were not exclusively made of fruit in medieval and early modern times. Here are a couple of versions from
Peres in composte.
To mak peres [pears] in composte tak a good quantite of canelle [cinnamon] and sugur and set it on the fyer to boile and draw yt throughe a stren then lesk [slice or chop]dates thyn and put them ther to in a pot and boille wardens [pears] and pair them and put them in the ceripe [syrup] put ther to sanders [red sandalwood, used to color the dish] and boile them and alay them up with chardwins and salt it and mak yt doucet [sweet] and chargaunt and put it out of the vesselle in to a treene vesselle and let it boille then pare smalle raisins and tried guinger and temper it ij dais or ij nyghtes with wyne then lay it in clarified hony cold a day and nyght then tak the raisins out of the hony and cast ther to peres in composte and serue it furthe with a cold ceripe.
To mak compost.
To mak composte tak chekins [chickens] and halve them then tak saige parsly lekes and other good erbes and chop them small then tak a pint of hony and som of the erbes and lay in the botom of the pot and som of the chekyn then tak lard of pork smale mynced and lay it on and cast ther to pouder of guingere and canelle and boille it and serue it.
Tomorrow’s Story …
Living on Parmesan.
Quotation for the Day …
Monsieur Guizot assures us that while he was ambassador in
Lucien Tendret (1825-1896) great-nephew of Brillat-Savarin.