Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas in 1674.

No matter how many guests you are having over the next day or two, and how much cooking you are submerged in, the following Christmas dinner menu suggestion will probably give you a little perspective. It is from The English and French Cook, by ‘several approved Cooks of London and Westminster’, 1674.

A Bill of Fare for Christmas Day.

A Coller of Brawn with a large sprig of rosemary, iced.
Stewed broth of mutton and marrow bones.
Boil’d Partridge.
A Sur-loyn of beef.
Minced Pyes.
A made-dish of Sweet-breads.
A roasted Swan.
A Venison Pasty.
A Steak Pye.
Venison Roasted.
A Turkey stuck with Cloves, and roasted.
Bran Geese, roasted.
Roasted Capons.

Second Course.
A whole Kid, roasted.
Two couple of Rabbets, two larded.
A Pig souc’d, with Tongues.
Three Ducks, one larded.
Half a dozen Teal roasted.
Half a dozen Plovers, some larded and roasted.
A Quince-Pye.
Half a dozen Wood-cocks, some larded.
Two dozen of Larks, roasted.
Powdered Geese.
Dryed Neats Tongues.

That is not all: saving the best till last, perhaps, these two courses would have been followed by a separate ‘banquet’ course of sweetmeats, fruit, biscuits and other small sweet treats. Although the number that this is intended to serve is not stated, this is still an awesome amount of food. Of course any household owning a copy of The English and French Cook would certainly have had a large number of kitchen and serving staff – but no appliances, no oven thermometers, and no refrigeration.

Two particular ideas jump out at me from this menu. One is the ‘large sprig of rosemary, iced’ to decorate the collar of brawn. A frosty-looking sprig of rosemary must have looked like a mini snowy Christmas tree, mustn’t it? What a lovely garnish. The second thing is the idea of turkey flavoured with cloves: I would never have thought of that, would you?

The recipe for the day, from the same book, is for turkey (with cloves). I remind you that in the seventeenth century, ‘roasting’ meant cooking meat on a spit in front of an open fire, while ‘baking’ specifically referred to cooking in an oven. The difficulty in those times was the lack of shaped metal baking dishes – which did not become possible until the advances in metal technology during the Industrial Revolution. The solution was to make a baking container out of very thick pastry – in other words, a ‘baked’ dish was a form of pie.

Turkey baked in the French fashion.
Having boned your Turkey, lard it with big Lard, then season it with Pepper, Cloves and Mace, Salt and Nutmeg; put into his belly some interlarded Bacon, some Rosemary, Bays, whole Cloves, whole Pepper and Mace, then let it steep all night in White wine; in the morning close it up in a sheet of course [coarse] paste, and bake it in a Pan with the same liquor it was in, it will require four hours baking; when it is enough, serve it on a Pye-plate stuck with Rosemary and Bays, with Mustard and Sugar in saucers.

Quotation for the Day.

This December.
That love weighs more than gold!
Josephine Dodge Daskam Bacon.


Sid The Cat said...

I'm new to this blog but what a delight...I've thought for years that food is one of the surest ways into history. The story of an ingredient (as Mr. Kurlansky has shown) can be the story of a society.

Anonymous said...

What in the world is a powdered goose?

The Old Foodie said...

Hello Sid the Cat - thanks for finding my blog, and enjoying it. I do hope you keep coming back for more stories.
Sandra: I meant to 'translate' this - powdered means salted or 'corned'.

Fay said...

Carnivores delight!
I wonder when the term Vegetarianism was invented?
Love reading your blog, though it does waste a lot of hours in wandering down the Googled paths of provender past!
Happy Holidays to you!

The Old Foodie said...

Hello Fay - the term 'vegetarian' was apparently coined in the 1830's - before that they were "Pythagoreans"

srhcb said...

I once saw I clove brine for poultry. I can't recall where, but Google turned up a similar recipe:

Kathy Walker said...

My goodness...I should not say a word about preparing many dishes for the Christmas meal! I now have it in perspective!!

~~louise~~ said...

Hi Janet, just popped in to say Happy Holidays. I'm loving the thought of a frosty-looking sprig of rosemary on a holiday lamb; not so much on a boiled piece of pork though.

Just in case things get really hectic around here (I'm moving this week:) Happy (early) Birthday too!!!

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Louise - Thanks, and the very best wishes to you too! And best of luck with the moving.

Shankie said...

A whole Kid, roasted. ???????

Anonymous said...

This is getting my stomach growling with hunger. Thank you!

The Old Foodie said...

I hope you enjoyed your virtual meal, MandrakeTrekker!