The Oxford English Dictionary is unusually poetic on the subject of simmering. To simmer means ‘to make a subdued murmuring sound under the influence of continued heat; to be at a heat just below boiling-point.’ I will never again simmer anything without being especially attentive and appreciative of the sound. I do have a question though, for the food scientists out there. What does ‘just below boiling’ mean, exactly? How much below? Five degrees? One degree? Half a degree? Someone please put a thermometer in a gently murmuring pot of broth and let me know, soon.
To sod is an obsolete way of saying to boil, and sodden simply meant boiled – so it is possible to have sodden wheat (frumenty) or sodden milk, or even sodden beer.
To seethe, however, according to the OED, means ‘to boil; to make or keep boiling hot; to subject to the action of boiling liquid; esp. to cook (food) by boiling or stewing; also, to make an infusion or decoction of (a substance) by boiling or stewing. The noun seethe (I did not know it was also a noun) is an ‘ebullition (of waves); intense commotion or heat.’ So, seething is more violent than simmering? I think we are agreed that the temperature of a good ebullition cannot be more than 100 degrees C.Someone please put a thermometer in a violently seething pot of broth and let me know, soon.
I give you a nice recipe for pork and cheese pies – or fried pasties, perhaps - from the fifteenth century. I don’t know what the origin of the word ‘raynolles’ could possibly be.
Nym sode Porke & chese, & sethe y-fere, & caste ther-to gode pouder Pepir, Canelle, Gyngere, Clowes, Mace, an close thin comade in dow, & frye it in freysshe grece ryt wel; an thane serue it forth.
Which is translated, more or less as:
Take seethed Pork & cheese, & seethe together, & cast thereto good powdered Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger, Cloves, Maces, and close thy mixture in dough, & fry it in fresh grease very well; and then serve it forth.
Quotation for the Day.
The whole of nature, as has been said, is a conjugation of the verb to eat, in the active and in the passive.
William Ralph Inge