In yesterday’s post the cookery book of the day mentioned “shambles meat.” This is – or was - meat bought from “the shambles” – a familiar term to those of you who live in Britain or have visited some of its cities. The shambles were the butchers’ markets, and the meat sold there was generally the larger beasts – cattle, sheep and pigs, hence ‘shambles meat.’
The word ‘shambles’ is interesting. It derives originally from the Latin scamellum, meaning a small scamnum or bench. By the tenth century, in Old English, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, it was a general word for a table or counter used for such activities as selling goods or counting money. Four hundred years later the word had become applied specifically to a stall where meat was sold.
As the recipe for the day, I want to go back to A Way to Get Wealth: Containing Six Principal Vocations … (1687) by Gervase Markham, because I think it (the recipe) is a lot of fun. It is made from shamble meat – with lark. (I should have called this post "Having a Lark with Shamble Meat"!)
If you will Roast a Chine of Beef, a loyn of Mutton, a Capon, and a Lark, all at one instant, and at one fire, and have all ready together and none burnt, you shall first take your Chine of Beef, and parboyl it more than half through: Then first take your Capon, being large and fat, and spit it next the hand of the turner, with the legs from the fire, then spit the Chine of Beef, then the Lark, and lastly the Loyn of Mutton, and place the Lark so as it may be covered over with the Beef and the fat part of the Loyn of Mutton, without any part disclosed, and then baste your Capon & your loyn of Mutton, with cold water & salt, the Chine of beef with boyling Lard, then when you see the beef is almost enough, which you shall hasten by scotching and opening of it, then with a clean cloth you shall wipe the mutton and Capon all over, & then baste them with sweet butter till all be enough rosted, then with your knife lay the Lark open, which by this time will be stewed between the beef and mutton, and basting it also with dredge altogether, draw them and serve them up.
I am intrigued by this dish. Why would one cook one small lark between two huge pieces of meat? Because one could, I suppose?And what is the role of the Capon, which seems a little superfluous, the lark being safely ‘undisclosed’ between the beef and the fat mutton. And how would one serve the meat? Did everyone get a piece of the lark?
Sadly, I cannot make this dish. I do not have an open cooking fire with a very large spit, nor do I have a ‘turner’ in my employ.
Once again, Gervase delights! The beef and the mutton - well, these are utterly common, nothing special there- the capon near the hand of the turnspit, both a shield and a signal that it's time to dredge the beef and the mutton. The whole point of the lark - no one sees it coming!It's like the prize box of Wheaties. Cracker Jacks, you look for a prize - but Wheaties???
I wonder if that is the start of the way shambles is used here in America. The definition I learned was a scattered, chaotic mess. Which would certainly apply to a butchers' market.
Hi Kathleen - thanks for your insight! It is obvious, now you have pointed it out!
Hello Kate: I am not sure when 'shambles' came to refer to a general chaotic mess - but I am sure you are right and it post-dates the use of the word to refer to a butchers' market. I will look it up!
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