I came across the word ‘be-basted’ some time ago – I have no idea where, it was too long ago and I did not, or was not able at the time, to note the reference. The unreferenced word came unbidden into my mind recently, and caused me to look it up. I half expected not to find it in the OED, but there it was:
bebaste v. Obs. (with a cudgel or with gravy).
1582 R. Stanyhurst tr. Virgil First Foure Books Ǣneis iii. 52 With larding smearye bebasted.
1620 S. Rowlands Night-raven 29 Tom with his cudgell well bebasts his bones
I understand that in some kitchens there may be an occasional be-basting of the cudgel variety directed towards fumbling apprentices, or at the behest of the producers of infotainment TV cooking-shows, but it is the culinary technique that interests me here. What other colourful cooking terms with the prefix be- might have been lost to our kitchen vocabulary, I wondered?
The OED does not attempt to list all of the derivative words, which it admits are ‘practically unlimited in number’, but it does note that the original meaning was ‘about.’ A few which it does include and which do fit today’s criterion are:
becrust, begarnish, besauce, besugar, beginger, besaffron, bebrine.
Several other derivatives, which do not have a culinary use as far as the OED knows, but certainly could be appropriated for that use are:
becurse, becut, bedamp, befinger, bemingle, bemix, bequirtle (besprinkle), bethwack, beclamour, becrushed, beflap (clap), beshake, beshrivelled, bestock, besweeten, becrave, befuddle (to fuddle with drinking), behusband (to economize to the full).
All of which put me in mind of a couple of lists in Robert May’s Accomplisht Cook (1664) which I have been looking for an excuse to give you for some time, and which will serve as our recipes for the day. Here are some ideas for bebreading (not in the OED but perhaps should be) and bebasting your meat while it is roasting:
Divers ways of breading or dredging of Meats and Fowl.
1. Grated bread and flower.
2. Grated bread, and sweet herbs minced, and dried, or beat to powder, mixed with the bread.
3. Lemon in powder, or orange peel mixt with bread and flower, minced small or in powder.
4. Cinamon, bread, flour, sugar made fine or in powder.
5. Grated bread, Fennil seed, coriander-seed, cinamon, and sugar.
6. For pigs, grated bread, flour, nutmeg, ginger, pepper, sugar; but first baste it with the jucye of lemons, or oranges, and the yolks of eggs.
7. Bread, sugar, and salt mixed together.
Divers Bastings for roast Meats.
1. Fresh butter.
2. Clarified suet.
3. Claret wine, with a bundle of sage, rosemary, tyme, and parsley, baste the mutton with these herbs and wine.
4. Water and salt.
5. Cream and melted butter, thus flay’d pigs commonly.
6. Yolks of eggs, juyce of oranges and biskets, the meat being almost rosted, comfits for some fine large fowls, as a peacock, bustard, or turkey.
Quotation for the Day.
A cook, when I dine, seems to me a divine being, who from the depths of his kitchen rules the human race. One considers him as a minister of heaven, because his kitchen is a temple, in which his ovens are the altar.
Marc-Antoine Madelaine Désaugiers (1772-1827)