Monday, February 18, 2013

A Counterblaste to Mustard.

King James I (1566-1625) hated the increasingly popular herb in his kingdom – tobacco. He was a man ahead of his time in warning of its dangers. In his famous Counterblaste to Tobacco of 1604, he denounced it as “… a custome loathsome to the eye, hatefull to the Nose, harmefull to the braine, dangerous to the Lungs, and in the black stinking fume thereof, nearest resembling the horrible Stigian smoke of the pit that is bottomlesse.”

It appears that the king also disliked a couple of popular dishes of the time as much as he disliked tobacco. He once said that should he invite the devil to dinner he should have these three dishes: 1.a pig; 2. a poll of ling and mustard; 3. A pipe of tobacco.

So, James did not like pork. That must have put a bit of a strain on the royal kitchens, pork being a very important flesh-meat of the time. I wonder if his dislike included bacon?

Ling is a type of cod, and also very common and popular at the time. A ‘poll’ (or ‘jowl’) was the head and shoulders of the fish – considered by many to be the best part. My second wonder of the day is – I wonder if it was the ‘poll’ he disliked, but would have been happy with a fillet, or was it the mustard sauce?

I am pretty sure we will never know the answers to those questions, but while we puzzle over them, here are some alternative ways of cooking ling (or cod, or even sturgeon) in case you have a mustard-sauce hater in your family.

For Ling.
As for Ling you may send it up dry, garnish with raw Parsly; another way is boil'd with Poached Eggs on it; another way is fry'd after it is boil'd, washing it over with the Yolk of an Egg, or with Eggs; or you may make a lng Pasty, putting Cream, Eggs, and melted Butter over it.
The Compleat City and Country Cook: Or, Accomplish'd House-wife, (1732) by Charles Carter.


Anonymous said...

"So, James did not like pork. That must have put a bit of a strain on the royal kitchens, pork being a very important flesh-meat of the time."

He was Scotch. I think you'll find pork wasn't so commonly eaten in Scotland at the time. I'd guess Mutton was probably commoner, as there was plenty of grazing.

I may be wrong, but I think there's a note in one of Scott's novels -- probably "Waverley" -- that has some bearing on the matter. What's on the table when Waverley dines with the Highland clan? Not pork, as I recall.

The Old Foodie said...

Thanks, Mike! I must look into this - your idea is interesting. I am off now to look at the reference, and see what else I can find on pork and Scotland.

The Old Foodie said...

I wonder if that is why he referred to it as "pig", not "pork"?

Foose said...

Could there be a certain Jewish reference in the king's choices of what to serve the devil? Pig is of course not kosher, I have seen ling cod - a freshwater cod - on certain Websites listed as being non-kosher, and I think tobacco at the time was non-kosher.

Could James be saying, cynically, that the Devil is a Jew? I'm not sure he was perhaps being merely anti-Semitic - he was fond of displaying his wide knowledge of the Bible and familiarity with the Old Testament scripture.

Foose said...

A less intellectual conjecture, but one in keeping with the humor of the sixteenth century, is that all three dishes were associated with flatulence. Hence the Devil - sulphurous by nature - would indeed be mocked by such a repast!

The Old Foodie said...

I did wonder about the Jewish connection. I did not know about ling being non-kosher. Do we have anyone out there reading this who can answer the freshwater cod-kosher question?