Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sculphlings and Bashaws.

A couple of food-related terms have puzzled me – one for a long time, and one only recently. I am hoping that by tossing them out, I will reel in some interesting comments (which I will try to answer promptly!)

On June 29, 1800, our old friend Parson James Woodforde recorded, as he often did, the dishes that he had for dinner. He had “a Sculphling of Lamb rosted (viz.) a Breast and Neck joined together.”

There are a couple of interesting things about this entry. Firstly, it appears to be the only use of the word ‘sculphling,’anywhere. The Oxford English Dictionary does not know it, and the only thing that Great Google comes up with on ‘sculphling’ is Woodforde’s entry. Of course, Woodforde actually tells us what it is – a breast and neck of lamb joined together – but that is the other interesting point – he does not usually feel the need to define such terms, especially in a private diary. He is intimately familiar with food production, butchering, fishing and all other elemental food preparation, but he must have been intrigued by the word, or the joint, to have felt it worthy of explanation.

My theories: Maybe it was a local dialect word - but then, it would have been familiar to Woodforde, and it would appear in old dialect dictionaries.  Animal carcasses were cut up in different ways in different regions, but the community was very stable, and it is hardly likely that an out-of-town butcher would have done the job – and in any case, the word should still show up in dictionaries. I am out of theories. Please send in yours.

The second word-puzzle was recent, but easily solved. Have you heard of a ‘Bashaw’?
Here is a recipe from Cre-Fydd’s Family Fare (London, 1864).

Bashaws Of Lobster.
Have a very large fresh-boiled hen lobster, split it down the back, take out the meat and mince it quite small; season with three grains of cayenne, a saltspoonful of white pepper, the eighth part of a nutmeg, grated, half a saltspoonful of salt, and two ounces of dissolved butter. Season three ounces of fine crumbs of bread with a quarter of a saltspoonful of salt, the same of white pepper, and the tenth part of a nutmeg, grated. Take off the small claws; wipe out the four quarters of the shell; spread over each a dessertspoonful of the crumbs, and put in the fourth part of the lobster; cover closely with the crumbs. Baste the four bashaws with three ounces of dissolved butter, and bake in a quick oven for ten or twelve minutes. If not nicely coloured, pass a red-hot salamander over the top. Serve in the shells, placed on a neatly folded napkin.

The OED gives bashaw as a form of pasha, the title of a Turkish ruler. I am not able to see a Turkish connection in the recipe however, are you?


Foose said...

The lobster recipe may be a sort of joke. There was a famous Ottoman general during the Crimean War, Omar Pasha, who was celebrated in France for both his valor (crushing the Russians at Sebastopol) and his cosmopolitan outlook (he installed a Hungarian lady of culture in his harem). A dish of eggs was named after him, Oeufs a la Omer Pacha.

The Lobster Bashaws don't contain eggs. However, the name of this dish could be rendered in French, "Homard [Omer] Pacha" - the joke being Homard (lobster) being homonymous with Omer (Omar).

This is just a speculation. Rummaging around 19th-century food dictionaries on the Web, I see some other dishes "a la pacha," often involving a stuffing of some sort. There's also the thought that Europeans periodically take up Eastern fashions and foods as a result of current world events, and the Bashaws of Lobster might have derived from some now-obscure political occurrence that became a momentary Victorian sensation.

"Sculphling" is a baffler though. The only thought that occurs is it's perhaps a mangling of scapula, but that's the shoulder-bone.

SometimesKate said...

Could "Bashaw" be a corruption of "kickshaw"?

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Kate. I have done a bit more reading around, but am pretty sure it refers to the Turkish "pasha" - but these things can take some unravelling!