Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Master Cook.

Finally, the job description you have been waiting for with bated breath all week – that of a seventeenth century Master Cook, as portrayed in our book of the week - The Perfect School of Instruction for the Officers of The Mouth (1682). Unfortunately, the description of his duties – unlike that of the other officers we have looked at this week – is short. In fact, it is non-existent. No notes on uniform (grubby, probably), working hours (long, certainly), behaviour (same as modern chefs? – people havent changed all that much), or ceremonial appearances (none). The Master Cook simply cooked (or more likely ordered other, lesser cooks about).

The Perfect School assisted the Master Cook by:

‘Shewing you in a very familiar way how to make all manner of new Dishes and Ragoues, and the manner how to season all Meats, both Fish and Flesh, as also the method of Services for all the four Quarters of the Year, as well as Inter-messes as Deserts. … Meats fitting for Feasts, Banquets, and Collations of all sorts, &c’

In other words, it simply provided the wannabe Master Cook with recipes. We can glean a little of interest from the above paragraph however. It was clearly important for the cook in the second half of the seventeenth century to be aware of new and fashionable dishes, and it was important to take the seasons into account when planning meals. Some things have changed little, after all, in several hundred years.

Although I am all for taking inspiration from the past, a modern Master Cook would probably be best advised not to send a dish of Sheeps feet and Hogs feet to table with hot charcoal buried within the dish itself, as in the following recipe taken from this week’s book, which was written when litigation was less of an issue.

Sauce d’Enfer, or Hell-sauce.
Boil Hogs feet in good Broth, and when they are boiled take them out and broil them upon the Gridiron; this done, cut your Hogs feet into good handsom pieces, and lay them in a Dish, and put green Sauce over them. Or if you will, after they are broiled, take Onions minced very small, put them into a Dish, and set them a stewing with some Verjuice; and when they are stewed put some Mustard to it, then take Sheeps feet cut in pieces into a Dish, but very hot, put in at the same instant some burning Charcoal a top of the Sheep’s feet, and then put the Hogs feet on top of that, with their sharp Sauce with them: And serve this at the entry of the Table, or as an Entermesse.

Quotation for the Day.

People have been cooking and eating for thousands of years, so if you are the very first to have thought of adding fresh lime juice to scalloped potatoes, try to understand that there must be a reason for this.
Fran Lebowitz.


Anonymous said...

I go to culinary school and this is exactly what it, and the people who work there, are like.

Well, perhaps not!


Anonymous said...

Sauce d'enfer does sound a bit hellish, but I've been using that Fran Leibowitz quotation for years (and never once been tempted to put lime juice, etc.)

The Old Foodie said...

I dont think the human species has changed all that much over time, has it!
I've never put lime juice on potato of any description either.