July 8 …
Samuel Pepys, bless him, alerted me out of my topic-neglect with his diary entry for this day in 1663. His wife was away in the country, but he managed not to starve.
“And then at home to dinner alone, upon a good dish of eeles given me by Michell the Bewpers-man. … I stepped to Sir W. Batten and there stayed and talked with him, my Lady being in the country, and sent for some lobsters; and Mrs. Turner came in and did bring us an Umble-pie hot out of her oven, extraordinarily good, and afterward some spirits of her making (in which she has great judgement), very good, and so home, merry with this nights refreshment.”
I can hardly believe that I have not given you a story about ‘umble pie’ in almost three years of blogging – and me about to give birth to a pie book sometime almost soon. I hope. A pie book has a gestation period of about fifty images, did you know that? The writing was the easy bit. No need to understand pixels, dpi’s, KB’s, jpegs, or how to get rid of red-eye. A piece of chalk and a blank wall will suffice, for words. But I digress.
‘Umbles’ or nombles, or humbles are ‘the inwards of a deer or other beast’ – in other words, the offal from your venison. A most prized part of the beast in Samuel’s day, not one to be shuddered at briefly before being slipped to the hounds or made invisible in sausages. A part traditionally the perquisite of the gamekeeper, but occasionally snaffled by the ‘better class of folk’ for their own enjoyment in ‘umble pie’. An interesting dish, Umble Pie. Quite paradoxical, really. Inferior enough to give us the ‘humble pie’ we eat symbolically when we are mildly humiliated, yet capable of being ‘extraordinarily good’ - good enough to give all fresh and hot from the oven, to your visitors. Desirable enough that if you didn’t have any umbles handy, a recipe book of 1617 could tell you how to fake the recipe, so that no-one could tell.
To make an Umble-pye, or for want of Umbles, to doe it with a Lambes head and Purtenance.
Boyle your meate reasonable tender, take the flesh from the bone, and mince it small with Beefe-suet and Sparrow, with the Liver, Lights, and Heart, a few sweet Hearbes and Currans. Season it with Pepper, Salt, and Nutmeg: bake it in a Coffin raised like an Umble pye, and it will eate so like unto Umbles, as that you shall hardly by taste discerne it from right Umbles.
[A New Booke of Cookerie; John Murrell, 1617]
Lamb’s Purtenance? The ‘innards or entrails of an animal, esp. as used for food’. Sheep Umbles, in other words.
Tomorrow’ Story …
Entertaining the Queen.
Quotation for the Day …
I think that I should like to sing of pies