July 11 ...
The most basic ‘gravy’ is of course what we call jus – the ‘essence’ of roast meat if you like. A true roast is done on a spit in front of a fire, this juice dripping off to be collected in a pan underneath (which, if you are very lucky indeed, contains Yorkshire Pudding batter.) Nowadays – not many of us having open fires in the kitchen and little boys willing to sit beside the same fire and turn the roasting jack for hours – we ‘bake’ our ‘roasts’ in the oven. No matter how well we ‘rest’ our ‘roast’, some of this jus waits to do its oozing until we carve. One eighteenth century writer was aware of how precious these droplets are, and gave thanks:
All honour to Wedgwood, for much do we owe to him ! Well will his claims on the regards of a grateful posterity of carvers be appreciated on reading the following account from the pages under review of what he has done for us : — " Mr. Wedgwood made a number of little every-day useful contrivances ; that dish, in which there is a well for the gravy. In the olden times, unhappy carvers were obliged to poke under the heavy sirloin for gravy ; or to raise and slope the dish, at the imminent hazard of overturning the sirloin, and splashing the spectators. Knife, fork, spoon, slipping all the while, one after another, into the dish! And, ten to one, no gravy to be had after all ! Nothing but cakes of cold grease. But now, without poking, slopping, splashing, the happy carver, free from these miseries of life, has only to dip his spoon into a well of pure gravy. Thanks to the invention of one man, all men, women, and children, may now have gravy without stooping the dish. So I give you, gentlemen and ladies, for a toast, ' The late Mr. Wedgwood, and the comforts of life.’
So good is gravy, in all its incarnations, that many say it is good for the health. Soup, in some of its incarnations is universally considered a panacea. Put them together and you have Gravy Soup, which surely must be amost magical in its health properties ? The author of one eighteenth century cook book did, calling it Soup Santé (healthy soup).
Gravy Soup or Soup Santé.
Put at the bottom of a stewpan six good rashers of lean ham, then put over them three pounds of lean beef, and cover the beef with three pounds of lean veal, six onions cut in slices, two carrots, and two turnips sliced, two heads of celery, a bundle of sweet herbs, six cloves, and two blades of mace. Put a little water at the bottom, draw it very gently till it sticks, and then put in a gallon of boiling water. Let it stew two hours, season it with salt, and strain it off. Then have ready a carrot cut in small pieces of two inches long, and about as thick as a goose quill, a turnip, two heads of leeks, two heads of celery, two heads of endive, cut across, two cabbage lettuces cut across, a little sorrel, and chervil. Put them into a stewpan, and sweat them gently a quarter of an hour. Then put them into your soup, and boil it up gently for ten minutes. Put it into your tureen, with the crust of a French roll.
[The Universal Cook, Francis Collingwood. 1792]
Monday’s Story …
Quotation for the Day …
There is no such passion in human nature as the passion for gravy. Charles Dickens.