Tuesday, July 15, 2008

On the naming of dishes.

July 15 ...

As an extension to yesterday’s theme, I am also constantly amused and intrigued by the naming of individual dishes. This one, for an eighteenth century example.

Spread-Eagle Pudding.
Cut the Crust off three stale Halfpenny Rolls, and slice them into a Pan; then set three Pints of Milk on the Fire, making it scalding hot, but not to boil; pour it over the Bread, cover it close, and let it stand an Hour; sweeten it with Sugar, add a very little Salt, a Nutmeg grated, a Pound of shred Sewet, half a Pound of Currants, half a Pint of cold mlk, ten Yolks and five Whites of Eggs; stir it well, butter your Dish, and bake it half an Hour.

This particular example appears in Richard Bradley’s The country housewife, and lady’s director, published in 1762, but it can also be found word for word (as was the habit at the time) in many other eighteenth century coobooks.

How did a fairly simple variation on the theme of bread pudding get a name like this?

A ‘spread eagle’ is a heraldic term. The motif appears on coats-of-arms in many places around the world, to represent noble virtues such as courage and far-sightedness. But these themes are hardly likely to be related directly to an innocuous, homely bread pudding, are they?

The term can also be used of course to represent a position of punishment – as when a prisoner is secured in a stretched out position in order to be flogged, or one of extreme subjugation with sexual overtones. How could a harmless little mix of bread and milk attract these connotations?

In one copy of the recipe, it is referred to as The Spread-Eagle pudding. There are many very old hostelries with the name, so perhaps it was a specialty in one of them, and was so popular it acquired the name.

Any other theories gratefully accepted for discussion.

Regardless of its name, it might attract you a certain cachet (and provide a dinner table conversation gambit) if you whip up a Spread-Eagle pudding for your guests!

Tomorrow’s Story …

On the naming of dishes, Part 2.

Quotation for the Day …

A philosopher is a person who doesn't care which side his bread is buttered on; he knows he eats both sides anyway. Joyce Brothers.


Mallory Elise said...

wow i love your blog! i just wrote about "food naming" on my blog--and a friend pointed mw to you as a historian, bravo!

The Old Foodie said...

Hello mallory elise; the great thing about blogging and commenting is that now I have seen your blog. Fun, isntn it?