Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Samuel Pepys, who is a dear friend to this blog, made mention one day of a style of dinner that was unfamiliar to me.

“… At noon went by water with Mr.Maylard and Hales to the Swan in Fishstreete at our colly-feast, where we were very merry at our Jole of Ling.”

The world of dictionaries is pretty quiet on the topic of colly-feasts, but the definition which pervades the Internet is that a colly-feast is ‘a feast of collies (cullies, good companions) at which each pays his share.’ The OED doesn’t seem to know colly-feast (which seems strange to me since it was mentioned by Pepys) but it does have an interesting definition of ‘cully’ (etymology uncertain), which it says is ‘a man, fellow; a companion, mate.’ It seems, then, that a colly-feast was an early version of a boys-only meal.

It also seems difficult not to believe some connection with the word colleague, doesn’t it? The OED opines that colleague derives from the French, and originally meant ‘one chosen along with another, a partner in office.’ The idea of choice in relation to work colleagues is intriguing, isn’t it? Anyhow, perhaps you have a new name for the next office get-together – one that makes it quite clear who is paying, which might save embarrassment.

The other words in Pepys’ diary entry that might need explaining are – ling and jole. Ling we have dealt with previously. A ‘jole’ is a jowl, or a jaw, but in the case of fish (especially salmon, sturgeon, and ling) usually refers to the ‘head and shoulders’ which used to be considered a delicacy in Britain, and still are in many parts of the world.

The following recipe, from a very popular cookbook of Pepys’ era -The Accomplish’t Cook, or, the Art and Mystery of Cookery, by Robert May (1660) can be adapted to ling, if you want to eat fish seventeenth century style.

To broil Sturgeon, or toast it against the fire.
Broil or toast a rand or jole of sturgeon that comes new out of the sea or river, (or any piece) and either broil it in a whole rand, or slices an inch thick, salt them, and steep them in oyl-olive and wine vinegar, broil them on a soft fire, and baste them with the sauce it was steeped in, with branches of rosemary, tyme, and parsley; being finely broiled, serve it in a clean dish with some of the sauce it was basted with, and some of the branches of  rosemary; or baste it with butter, and serve it with butter and vinegar, being either beaten with slic’t lemon, or juyce of oranges.

Quotation for the Day.

Good cookery is not an extravagance but an economy, and many a tasty dish is made by our Continental friends out of materials which would be discarded indignantly by the poorest tramp in Whitechapel.
General Booth, in Darkest England and The Way Out.


Shay said...

When I saw the words "Colly-feast" I thought you meant something like this:


The Old Foodie said...

Hello Shay - thanks for that pic, it made my day!