Monday, September 03, 2012

Vine-Bud Potage.

My story on Friday was inspired by my latest find – the Dictionaire Œconomique, or, The Family Dictionary, a translation of the second edition an impressively large work by a M. Chomel, of Paris, and published in England in 1725.

This work is my current love, and I thought it might be fun to stay with it all week, and see what we can discover about life in general and food in particular in 1725. This was the year that Casanova was born, Peter the Great of Russia died, the Treaty of Hanover was signed, J.S. Bach’s St. John’s Passion was performed for the second time, and there were about 75,000 black slaves in the American colonies. This is the ultimate DIY book. It is the book you need if you want to build your own house, create your own garden, build a trap to catch moles or badgers, cure your horses of gourdy-legs and dropping nostrils, or your human companions of hecktick fevers or gangrene, or perform any one of the myriad other day-to-day tasks involved in running a household.

The translator and publisher of the work felt the need to adapt the work to their English audience, and added explanations to various entries which I suspect did not appear in the original French. There is a ‘recipe’ in the book for a soup made with vine-buds, which intrigued me greatly. Initially I thought it unlikely that the English readers would have had the opportunity to try it for themselves, but then remembered the recipe for wine from vine leaves which I gave you some time ago, which appeared in the staunchly British Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery, in the 1870’s.

“They sometimes make a Vine-Bud Potage in the Countries abounding with Vineyards; in order to which they cut off the largest Leaves of the Buds, takimg care that none of the Wood be left; then they scald them in boiling Water, and tying of them up in Bunches, stew them in a little Pot, with a Carrot, a few Turneps cut in Quarters, and a Clove of Garlick; they add to these as they are dressing a little thickning Liquor, and garnish the Potage with other Buds, and a Loaf in the Middle.”

I guess this recipe represents the domestic economy of the time. Nothing was wasted – not even the plant trimmings and prunings. If it was not poisonous, then it was edible, and therefore valuable and not to be discarded.

Interestingly, the author of The Master Books of Soups , featuring 1,001 titles and recipes (Henry Smith, London, c.1900), gives a version of the recipe, which he attributes to the 18th century French vineyard worker.

Vine Bud Potage.
This is an 18th century soup, said to be prepared regularly in the vineyards in those time. The procedure was to cut off the largest leaves of the buds, they were scaled and tied up in bunches; they were stewed in a pot with carrot and turnip and a clove. The brew was then strained and the small buds then added. Lastly, crusts of bread were thrown in as was the popular way with all French soups in those days.
In the vineyards the pickers camped out like the English hop-pickers. Their pay was small, but their ingenuity knew no bounds.

There is another , even more intriguing use for vine-buds given in the Dictionaire Œconomique. I give you the entry, for you to interpret and judge as you will.

The Depraved Appetite of Women may be cured, by giving them inwardly the Juice of Vine-Buds, or else give them quite green to be eaten by them, or else before Meals give them either Olives, comfited Mulberries, or Almonds, and the last thing, at Supper or Dinner, some Gooseberries, Quinces or Medlars, Pears, and other Fruits, which should be ready dress’d.

My own assumption is that this refers to the perverted appetite of pregnancy. What do you think?


Les said...

I think I would prefer Greek dolmas to stewed grape leaves.

I looked up depraved at the Lexicons of Early Modern English ( and found this:

Depraved: wicked, vile, base
Explanations (Examples of use):

Emetos, or Emesia, vomiting, a depraved motion of the stomach.

Fames Canina, Boulimia, dogs appetite, when the appetite is depraved or offendeth in quantity or quality: in quantity when nourishment is required in greater quantity ...

Singultus, sighing or sobbing: it signifies also a depraved motion of the stomack called the Hiccough by which it desires to expel somthing that's burdensome unto it.

found in John de Renou's A Physical Dictionary published in 1657.

This is from Steven Blankaarts A Physical dictionary (1684):

Bradypepsia is slow digestion, proceeding from a depraved disposition of the Acid ferment in the Stomach.

Cholera is a depraved motion of the Ventricle and the Guts, whereby the Bilious Excrements are discharged in great plenty ...

I guess a depraved stomach would refer to any sort of gastric upset like morning sickness. I also would warn you about browsing the Early Modern Dictionary. The dictionaries at this site are fascinating so be careful browsing them. I don't know how many hours I've spent here looking up one word only to get side tracked at another entry.

Nancy said...

The word depraved leads me to think we are talking about sexual appetites, although perhaps country people would not have been as tetchy about this as were the urban Victorians who later sent women to the doctor to be, um, "massaged" whenever they were, um, overly nervous and irritable. No kidding.

Deb Nelson said...

I agree with the sexual appetite theory. A very brief bit of research turned up 'The Disease of Virgins' (Chlorosis), a.k.a. 'Greensickness'. A 'Green sick' girl, from the time of Galen to the mid-Nineteenth Century, was a just-pubescent girl who betrayed her developing sexuality by strange food cravings-
Another tidbit- a sexually immature woman was often known as 'green' (i.e. unripe) 'fruit', in the plays of the time. Maybe feeding with green gooseberries and vine buds, and the confits of childhood 'last thing', was an attempt to return the victim to a pure and innocent state. The green sick young woman was held to be performing unnatural practices upon retiring for the night. In plain terms, masturbating.

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Les. Thankyou for a very informative comment! I have the same problem as you do with old dictionaries and encyclopaedias. Maybe there is a 12 step program for us?

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Nancy and Deb. The more I think about it the more I think you may be right. There are other references in the book to treatments for the vomiting of pregnancy, so this seems to be a separate condition. Also - elsewhere in the book, thing to do with pregnancy specifically refer to 'women with child', or 'big-bellied women.'