Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sham Tortoise.

Regular readers will be aware that one of my particular amusements is the concept of ‘mock’ food. There are a number of things that intrigue me about this topic. One is the sheer ingenuity demonstrated by some of the ideas – chicken and cheese to make “mock crab”, or crackers biscuits to make “apple pie”, for example. Another is the variety of motives for wanting to do it in the first place.

Sheer unavailability of the original ingredients are possible reasons for clever substitutions of course. I can understand how, if in the grip of severe nostalgia for the homeland, an emigrant or expatriate might try really hard to make mock sole en papillote out of a sow’s ear. I just cant quite appreciate how the resulting dish could ever be close enough to appease the longing.

I guess not too many of us are sufficiently nostalgic about tortoise flesh to feel the need to mimic it - but if we were, the following recipe might do a passable job of at least recreating the shape of the beast. Of course, a valid reason for mock food is sheer fun, and there is always the possibility that this dish might convince the kids to eat up their liver and bacon with relish.

From The Art of Cookery and Pastery Made Easy and Familiar, in upwards of two hundred different receipts and bills of fare, never before made public, by J.Skeat, Cook (1769), I give you a recipe for “Sham Tortoise.”

A sham tortoise is made of a calf’s liver. There is a small nut of liver that hangs to it, which serves for the head; the thickest part of the liver must be stuff’d with a good forcemeat, and the back larded with bacon. Have a tin that will hold it, with plenty of bacon fat; then was your tortoise over with egg, and send it to the oven. Be sure not to let it be set in when the oven is hot, and an hour will do it. The milt of the calf is to be stuffed also, and that is to serve for feet. When done, lay your tortoise in the dish, and a ragout sauce made high with it. Rub it all over with a glossee*.

*A ‘glossee’ is a glaze, or, in the words of the author ‘Strong gravy boil’d down to the consistence of treacle.’


Quotation for the Day.

Our forefathers did without sugar until the 13th century, without coal fires until the 14th, without buttered bread until the 16th, without tea or soup until the 17th, without gas, matches or electricity until the 20th.
Anonymous (until I track it down!)

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

A slightly different version:
"Our forefathers did without sugar until the 13th century, without coal fires until the 14th, without buttered bread until the 16th, without tea or soup until the 17th, without gas, matches or electricity until the 19th, without cars, canned or frozen foods until the 20th. Now what was it you were complaining about?" (Note an additional century.) This is attributed to Rev. Richard Stephens (English vicar). Wikipedia doesn't help here, as they only Richard Stephens there are a Canadian figure skater and a Jamaican singer (who goes by Richie Stephens). Lots of other cites/sites, but all say "unknown."
Sandra

bklynharuspex said...

Surely Mock Tortoise wasn't uncommon in the Victorian age, or why would Lewis Carroll have bothered to cast the Mock Turtle (remember his old schoolmaster: "we used to call him Tortoise -- because he taught us") as a character in Wonderland.

But then again they ate actual turtle soup by the gallon, apparently, and we never do.