Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Other Uses of Bread.

In a previous post I introduced you to the idea of divination by cheese (tyromancy) – and now I bring to you the alternative idea of aleuromancy (or alphitomancy) – or divination by bread (or a bread-like material).

There are numerous interpretations and expectations of the ritual. It is said that in Ancient Greece, sentences were composed (by whom, I am not quite clear) and written down (on what, I am definitely not clear, as paper was not invented yet), and rolled up in small balls of flour dough which were then mixed up and randomly selected by those who wished to know the truth, or the answer, or the future. It appears the messages and wrapping did not have to be eaten. A bit like the fortune cookie idea, by the sounds of it.

The other thing that could be divined by ‘bread’ – in the larger European sphere – was one’s guilt or innocence. The ‘ordeal of bread’ was carried out by the accused party being given an amount of barley bread, or dry oatmeal, or whatever the local favourite substance was, and ordered to swallow it at once – choking being indicative of guilt.

The recipe for the day is a divine use of bread indeed – a delicate carrot pudding which sounds light and delicious. It is from A modern system of domestic cookery, or, The housekeeper's guide, by M. Radcliffe (1823).

Fine Carrot Pudding.
Grate half a pound of the sweetest and most delicate raw carrot, and double the quantity of white bread; mix eight beaten yolks and four whites of eggs, with half a pint of new milk; and melt half a pound of fresh butter, with half a pint of white wine, three spoonfuls of orange flower water, a grated nutmeg, and sugar to palate. Stir the whole well together; and, if too thick, add more milk till it be of a moderate consistency. Lay a puff paste all over the dish and bake it an hour. Serve it up with sugar grated over. This fine pudding is easily made still more delicious by using Naples biscuit and cream instead of bread and new milk, and putting in a glass of ratafia with the orange flower water. On account of its beautiful colour this pudding is often sent to table turned out of the crust bottom upward, having a little fine sugar grated over it. Some too boil the carrot, and scald the cream but neither is necessary and by boiling much of the saccharine quality of the carrot is always unavoidably lost.

Quotation for the Day.

Bread is the warmest, kindest of all words. Write it always with a capital letter, like your own name.


Shay said...

Ordeal by Pound Cake:

Before MRE's, the US military ate something called C-Rations, the C standing for what I don't know but there were always plenty of suggestions, few of them clean. MRE's are freeze-dried, C-rations came in little tin cans (everyone had a can opener AKA a John Wayne on his/her dog-tag chain back in them thar days).

A frequently-appearing item on the dessert menu was canned pound cake, some of it probably older than the consumers.

Anyway, long story short, we used to place bets on who could eat a canned C-ration pound cake and then whistle afterwards.

Often attempted, never successfully. You needed a major swig of water before you could get the particles out of your mouth.

The Old Foodie said...

Great story Shay - thanks!!!

alexis said...

The Greeks must have used papyrus to write down questions and answers...