Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Culinary Franglish.

This week’s source of inspiration (The Art of Cookery and Pastery … by J.Skeat, 1769) has many recipes with bizarre names I’ve never seen in modern cookbooks. Names like Beef Meriton, Beef Troublon, Calf’s Foy, Rabbits Pouleard, Ragou’d Mela, Pigeons a la Perigode, and Palpitune of Pigeons. And what, pray is a ‘Baragade’? Are these ‘lost’ dishes, begging to be rediscovered in the twenty-first century?

The naming of some of these dishes remains a mystery to me, and we will leave them until tomorrow to puzzle over. A few however, come a little clearer when you say them with French attitude. French food became increasingly fashionable in England in the seventeenth century following the return of King Charles II from his prolonged exile in Europe in the aftermath of the Civil War. There was a reaction against this ‘Frenchification’ in the eighteenth century (see Hannah Glasse’s words at the end of this post), but the classic names of classic dishes were far too entrenched to be reversed. Besides, it was convenient, for the name of a dish spoke the style to a chef or sophisticated diner, meaning that a lengthy description was not needed. We have to remember that even the spelling of English words was not standardized at this time, and it is not rare to see the same word spelled two different ways on the same page. As for “French” words – most chefs neither spoke nor read French, so the names were interpreted phonetically (and not necessarily accurately, as most would not have heard the word spoken by a fluent speaker of French.)

For example, bisshmell and beshmell both appear in this book, and are dishes with thickened white sauces – in other words, they are béchamel. Several dishes are cooked in, and served with a cooley, which in the short glossary is called ‘white broth or weak gravy’ – so methinks it is an interpretation of coulis.

As for our named dishes, Palpitune is from polpettone, and Perigode is presumably from à la Périgord. The latter classically refers to a dish which includes truffles, but in this book is a simple dish of roasted pigeons in gravy (or ‘cooley’). Say ‘Calf’s Foy’ with a bad French accent and you get Calfs Foie – or Calf’s Liver. Sure enough, here is the recipe.

A Calf’s Foy.
Take a calf’s liver, and fry it in slices not quite enough; then drain off the fat and put them in good gravy, with some chopt parsley and shallots. Garnish with rolls of bacon, and fry’d parsley or stewed spinage.

More puzzles tomorrow.

Quotation for the Day.

So much is the blind Folly of this Age, that they [Gentlemen] would rather be imposed on by a French Booby, than give encouragement to a good English Cook!
Hannah Glasse, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy (1747)


Artemis Cooks said...

For "bagarade", I just saw something that says "bigarade" is a sour orange. And having seen lots of uses for these in early receipts, perhaps that is what is being referred to. I'm very curious as to the context!

The Old Foodie said...

Hello ArtemisCooks. That was my first thought too, but there are no oranges in the recipe. There has been a fair bit of curiosity about this dish, so I will probably post about it later in the week. Thanks for your interest!