Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Mace & Maces.

Yesterday I talked about the two different sorts of cloves we use regularly in cooking. As I puddled around in the Oxford English Dictionary, mace suddenly jumped into my mind.

A mace is a nasty club used to hit your enemy on the head, isn’t it? Or a ceremonial version of the same thing, used by civic organisations in their less violent version version of Intimidate and Subdue the riff-raff.

What have these war-like connotations got to do with mace, the spice, you may ask? Before we go any further, it may bear repeating that mace, the spice, is the outer covering of the nutmeg, and has a clearly related aroma and flavour.

On the topic of mace, the weapon, I am a little confused by the entries in the Oxford English Dictionary. It appears that the word is ultimately derived from French mace or masse, but is unclear what this actually means - although it does sound weighty - and there is some suggestion that it might relate to classical Latin ‘mateola (rare) an agricultural implement, probably a maul or beetle.’

As for mace, the sweet spice, the OED says that it is the French name for the aril, or outer covering to the nutmeg, which hardly answers our question. It is now as clear as mud to me, and I eagerly await the comments from the wordsmiths amongst you.

Here is a nice way to use up some of those blades of mace you have lurking in your pantry. I don’t believe I have ever cooked fish with mace.

Strong Fish Gravy.
Skin two or three eels, or some flounders; gut and wash them very clean; cut them into small pieces, and put into a saucepan. Cover them with water, and add a little crust of bread toasted brown, two blades of mace, some whole pepper, sweet herbs, a piece of lemon-peel, an anchovy or two, and a tea-spoon of horseradish. Cover close, and simmer; add a bit of butter and flour, an boil with the above.
A New System of Domestic Cookery, Maria Rundell, 1814.

Quotation for the Day.
This is the icing on the gravy.
Lucas Glover.

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