The late eighteenth century recipe in yesterday’s post called for a piece of mutton which had been soaked in a marinade before cooking. Unfortunately for twenty-first century readers, the exact nature of the marinade was not given. This sort of omission was not unusual for the time as a level of knowledge of many processes was assumed by writers of cookery books.
The word marinade and its variations is related, as one might expect, to everything marine. In culinary terms it originally indicated something briny, as explained by the Oxford English Dictionary :
In earlier use in English as in other foreign languages apparently referring to steeping food (especially fish) in preparations (especially containing brine or heavily salted) intended for preservation as well as for flavouring or tenderizing.
In later use in English (the early eighteenth century) it came to indicate:
A mixture of vinegar, oil, herbs, or similar ingredients in which meat, fish, etc., may be steeped before cooking or eating, in order to tenderize it or to add flavour. Formerly also: meat, fish, etc., treated in this manner.
The first reference cited for this usage covers the word as meaning both the soaking liquid and the dish itself, is in the Dictionaire Oeconomique: or, The family dictionary a French work by Noel Chomel, published in English by Richard Bradley in 1725. Here is the entry:
MARINADE; pickled Meat, either of Flesh or Fish; several Things are put into a Marinade or Pickle, either for garnishing of other Messes or to make a particular Dish. Fricassies of Chickens are usually garnished with other marinated Chickens; a Marinade of Veal serves to garnish farced Breasts of Veal, or roasted Loyns of Veal, and so of the rest, as Pidgeons, Partridges, and others, with which, separate Services may be prepar'd for Sidedishes.
To have a Marinade of Chickens, let them be cut into Quarters and marinaded, with Lemon Juice and Verjuice ; or with Vinegar, Pepper, Salt, Cloves, Chibbols, and a Bay-leaf or two: Leave them in this Marinade for the Space of three Hours, and having made a Sort of clear Paste or Batter, with Flower, White-wine, and the Yolks of Eggs, dip your Chickens into it, then fry them in Lard, and let them be serv'd up in Form of a Pyramid, with fry'd Parsley and Slices of Lemon, if you design to make a particular Dish of them.