Thursday, January 31, 2008

Restoring the Cooks Palate

January 31

The issue of the cook’s palate becoming dulled and insensitive seems to have become a non-issue – or perhaps when it happens nowadays the cook moves on and becomes a celebrity and makes TV appearances and writes books. It was certainly an issue for William Kitchiner, the eccentric author of The Cook’s Oracle, in 1817, and although - most unusually for the time - he cooked and cleaned up for himself, he did have some most considerate advice for those who employed a cook:

The Master, who wishes to enjoy the rare luxury of a table regularly well served in the best style, must treat his Cook as his friend—watch over her health with the tenderest care, and especially be sure her taste does not Suffer from her Stomach being deranged by Bilious Attacks.

Thc greatest care should be taken by the man of fashion, that his Cook's health be preserved : one hundredth part of the attention usually bestowed on his dog, or his horse,will suffice to regulate her animal state.

If worst came to worst, Dr. Kitchener had the solution:

If you find your Cook neglect his business, — that his Ragouts are too highly spiced or salted, and his cookery has too much of the ' haut goȗt,' — you may be sure that his Index of Taste wants regulating, — his Palate has lost its sensibility, — and it is high time to call in the assistance of the apothecary, — who will prepare him by two days' aqueous diet, and then administer a Potio Purgans — regulating the dose according to the greater or less insensibility of his Palate:—give him a day's rest. — " Purger encore" — let him have two days' rest after his second dose, and you may then hope to have at the head of your stoves a man altogether renovated. "
" Purger souvent" is the grand maxim in all kitchens where le Maitre d'Hotel has any regard for the reputation of his table. Les Bonnes Hommes de Bouche submit to the operation without a murmur; — to bind others, it should be made the first condition in hiring them. Those who refuse prove they were not born to become masters of their art; — and their indifference to fame will rank them, as they deserve, among those stupid slaves, who pass their lives in as much obscurity as their own stew-pans.

Not having ever worked in a professional kitchen, I cannot say with any certainty that this routine has been abandoned, but I suspect it has or surely Mr. Bourdain would have mentioned it at least briefly in his Kitchen Confidential.

For today’s recipe, I give you a simple bread and butter pudding from Dr.Kitchiner’s book. It should not need repeated tasting while in the making, and will not cause your cook (or yourself) to need the attention of your friendly local apothecary.

You must have a dish that will hold a quart,—wash and pick two ounces of currants ; strew a few at the bottom of the dish; cut about four layers of very thin Bread and Butter, and between each layer of Bread and Butter strew some currants ; then break four eggs in a basin, leaving out one white ; beat them well, and add four ounces of sugar and a drachm of nutmeg ; stir it well together with a pint of new milk ; pour it over about ten minutes before you put it in the oven,—it will take three quarters of an hour to bake.

Tomorrow’s Story …

Very Wild Meats.

Quotation for the Day …

A man's palate can, in time, become accustomed to anything. Napoleon Bonaparte.

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