March 25 ...
I don’t think I am giving you enough historic menus - in spite of a great surplus on my computer. I have plenty to spare because quite a large number in my ‘collection’ do not have an exact date, so they are no use in my book Menus from History, which has an ‘on this day’ theme. It seems a shame that these fine bills of fare should languish un-appreciated, so I will bring one out from time to time and dust it off for your interest.
I confess to another motive for my generosity: I have been completely stumped by some of these menus. I am unable to authenticate a number of them, or to discover any other interesting details on an awful lot more. Perhaps you might be able to help?
Today’s menu is mentioned as a curiosity under ‘Banquets’ in Larousse (at least, in my 1961 edition). The ‘bill of fare’ is the from the Nuptial Dinner of Maître Baude Cuvillon (Conseiller et Maître ordinaire de la Chambre des comptes), in 1571. The Larousse says that there was an afternoon banquet with two courses plus ‘Issue’ (dessert), and then at there was a supper (disner de chauldéau). The bill of fare is apparently preserved in the archives of the Nord Department, but it is not detailed in Larousse. It is, however, described on several internet sites, without its exact provenance being stated. A crash course in sixteenth century French and a visit to the Archives du Nord both being slightly the other side of impossible for me at present, I give you the internet version, and hope that one of you can spread some light.
Salads of various kinds.
Flesh of prinsels with parsley and vinegar.
Fricasse of gosling.
Spring chickens with spinach.
Pigeons a la tremoulette.
Roast joints of mutton.
Small pastries with hot sauce.
Spring chickens in aspic.
Roast spring chickens, some stuffed some larded.
Pate of meaux hams.
Leg of lamb daube.
Capon in aspic.
Pate of pears.
Pears in mead.
I gave you a recipe for roast swan from the late fourteenth century Le Menagier de Paris, so I looked further afield for today. I was surprised to find one in Alexis Soyer’s Gastronomic Regenerator (1847) in the section intriguingly entitled Amateur Receipts . It is in the form of a rhyme, and is also in serious need of light-shedding.
Roast Swan à la
Take three pounds of beef, beat fine in a mortar,
Put it into the Swan - that is, when you've caught her ;
Some pepper, salt, mace, some nutmeg, an onion,
Will heighten the flavour in Gourmand's opinion ;
Then tie it up tight with a small piece of tape,
That the gravy and other things may not escape.
A meal-paste (rather stiff) should be laid on the breast,
And some whited-brown paper should cover the rest.
Fifteen minutes at least ere the Swan you take down,
Pull the paste off the bird, that the breast may get brown.
To a gravy of beef (good and strong) I opine
You'll be right if you add half a pint of port wine :
Pour this through the Swan - yes, quite through the belly :
Then serve the whole up with some hot currant jelly.
N. B. - The Swan must not be skinned.
Tomorrow’s Story …
Quotation for the Day …
Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good.