Friday, March 12, 2010

A Parting Dish.

I want to give you two more ‘meals’ today, to complete our series. Firstly, lets take a break for ‘bever’ (or ‘beaver’). ‘Bever’ is another small refreshment with flexible timing in the day. According to the OED it is ‘A small repast between meals; a ‘snack,’ nuncheon, or lunch; esp. one in the afternoon between mid-day dinner and supper’, so perhaps does fit better at afternoon tea-time. It is most usually taken to refer to a liquid refreshment, as you can guess from its association with the word ‘beverage’.

Our final meal, for now, is also beverage-based. It is ‘a collation consisting of wine accompanied by spices, comfits, or the like, partaken of before retiring to rest or the departure of guests; a repast of this nature following upon a feast or fuller meal; a parting dish, and in medieval times was known as the voidé (or voidée). The name is not hard to fathom as it took place as the guests were leaving and the hall was being cleared of the trestle tables (the hall then reverting to a large communal bedchamber). It was usually taken standing up, even by the King. There was a medicinal element to this little ceremony, the spices and beverages being chosen for their digestive and strengthening qualities. The traditional drink was hippocras ‘a cordial drink made of wine flavoured with spices’ (‘cordial’ here referring to its supposed tonic benefits.)

Ancient cookery manuscripts commonly contain instructions for the making of hippocras, but I found some interesting ‘new’ interpretations of the idea in How to mix drinks: or, The bon-vivant's companion,… by Jerry Thomas, and Christian Schultz (1862)

Hypocras Framboisé (Raspberry Hippocras.)
3 lbs. of raspberries made to a pulp; add 9 gallons of claret wine, and ½ gallon of alcohol, 95 per cent. Dissolve 8 lbs of sugar in powder in it. Filter.

Hypocras au Vin d’Absinthe. (Absinthe Hippocras)
2 ½ lbs fresh wormwood; macerate for 12 hours in 9 gallons of white wine, filter; add to this
40 lemons, the thin yellow rinds only.
40 cedrats, ditto
5 ounces of anise-seed
½ ounce of cloves.
Ground and cut; macerate the whole with ½ gallon of alcohol, 95 per cent; add 8 lbs of powdered sugar; strain and filter.

Quotation for the Day.

The king and the ambassadours were serued at a banket with two hundred and sixtie dishes, and after that a voidee of spices with sixtie spice plates.
Holinshed’s Chronicles III.


Anonymous said...

This talk of liquid meals brings to mind stirrup-cups (which probably don't actually fit the bill) and nightcaps, which I think do. A glass of warm milk (to aid sleep) and a nibble of sorts just before bed might not quite be "medicinal," but it's not far off. Sandra

Deana Sidney said...

I honestly thought I had read everything about hippocras.. even made it with ambergris and spikenard... but this absinthe version... I need to make a version of this!!!! Thank you so much for the recipe!!!