The culinary rivalry between England and France is centuries old, but intentionally or not, inevitably each country has absorbed something of the other’s cuisine. I thought it might be fun to look at a mid-nineteenth century English view of the situation, and to find some recipes which perhaps represent “fusion cuisine” of the time.
The London Saturday Journal in 1841 gave a review of The Domestic Dictionary, And Housekeeper’s Manual, by Merle Gibbons, which included an opinion of the Anglo-French divide.
The main recommendatory feature of this diligently compiled Dictionary, (five hundred pages) and, at the same time, its chief originality, consists in the variety of information which it contains as to French Cookery and Domestic Economy; or rather, Anglo-French Cookery, which, according to Ude, is the best system in the world. Frenchmen, we know, dress a dinner, and Frenchwomen, themselves, better than any other people; and France is the highest authority upon matters of the mouth and of dress; but, so beneficial has been the renewed intercourse of French and English of late years, that we have actually improved their science of cookery, this Ude himself admitted, and neither Carême nor any other French artiste can gainsay it; though we admit, that in Confectionery, the French still keep the lead. The author of this Dictionary has evidently long resided in Paris, and his information is as certainly gathered by experience; for there runs throughout this work a current of information, such as has long been wanted—we mean, on French Cookery adapted to English habits. Yet, he has no partiality on the subject; for he loses no opportunity to set the relative advantages of English and French cookery before the reader; and his introductory chapter upon the Comparative Expenses of Living at home and abroad, will be very serviceable to that large class of the expensive English, who cannot make both ends meet In their own country, and so go to reside on the continent for purposes of economy, which, by the way, is an excellent lure to extravagance. The whole of this chapter is excellent, and we believe the lesson it reads to be the true stale of the case—that Paris is, by no means, the place for a man of small income to reside in, if his object be economy; and, that if he wish to play tricks with his fortune, (as Dr. Johnson phrases it,) he had better settle in London. But, the English flock to France - are fascinated with the change of customs, scenery, and general habits; and there is a certain gaieté and showiness about French society, which is just the bait for English persons of limited income, who too often aim at doing great things on a small scale at home. But, a man of easy income, we should say, may do greater things with his fortune in Paris than in London; for Trench party-giving is by no means so expensive as "having a few friends" in England. We arc, doubtless, the richest people in the world; and, at the same time, the most costly in our tastes and habits; Out tables are
better appointed than those of our neighbours; we have massive plate of standard value, whereas they have silver of all finenesses, and of filagreed lightness. Upon the relative merits of French and English cookery, medical men do not generally agree; but in what do they not differ? Dr. Prout, however, maintains that viands well stewed and macerated, are in the fittest state for digestion, and he has a large class of followers; so that the English underdone school is a mistake; though instead of broths, convalescent invalids are now recommended to cat a mutton-chop. Turn to the food of the working classes in the two countries: an Englishman grumbles if he does not cat meat daily—a Frenchman is satisfied with meat on every alternate day, and many in the south dine from bread and grapes, or a pipkin of stewed vegetables: but the English operative is stronger than the French artisan; and we have been assured that in a large work at Nantes, some few years since, undertaken by an English capitalist, the engineers of our own country did twice the labour of the men of Nantes, and with twice the regard to neatness and substantiality.
And here are a selection of “Anglo-French” recipes from the era. I don’t know which aspects of each recipe are English and which are French, but perhaps you do.
Pie Hot Raised, Anglo-Française.
Take the fillets from four loins of mutton, trim and cut them into scollops, season well with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, dissolve slowly three quarters of a pound of butter, and the moment it becomes liquid put into it two spoonfuls of parsley, four of mushrooms, the same of truffles, a shalot, all shred fine. Make a raised crust of whatever size and form you please, and having soaked the fillets in the butter and herbs, lay them on the pie en couronne; fill up the centre with mushrooms minced truffles, artichoke bottoms, veal sweetbreads; pour the remainder of the butter and herbs over; cover them with two bay leaves, slices of bacon; the lid and the walls or sides decorate tastefully, dorez and set it in a brisk oven; when you find the top is sufficiently done cut it off, and lay in its place three or four sheets of paper, and put the pie in the oven; an hour and a half is the time required for baking. As soon as done take out the bacon and bay leaves, and pour in a demi-glaze of mutton, mixed with an essence of truffles and mushrooms and the juice of a lemon; glaze the crust, and serve quite hot.
The Illustrated London Cookery Book, by Frederick Bishop (1852)
The following sweet pie recipe is interesting with its rice and cherry filling:
Take a deep dish, line the edge with puff paste like a common pie; stew a quarter of a pound of rice with some sugar until quite soft and sweet; take a pound of ripe juicy cherries, which pick and roll in a quarter of a pound of powder-sugar, and lay about a quarter of them at the bottom of the dish cover these with a fourth part of the rice, then the cherries again, and so on till your materials are used, taking care to keep the pie high in the middle; cover it with a layer of puff paste, which wash over lightly with some white of egg, and strew a little powder-sugar over; put it in a moderate oven for an hour and a quarter; then take it out, mask the crust with apricot marmalade, and a few macaroons crushed. Serve it either hot or cold.
The Cook's Own Book, by Mrs N.K.M.Lee (1832)
And repurposing a marrow pudding as fritters apparently make it Anglo-French:
Fritters a l’Anglo-Française.
Make a batter as follows:—Put into a saucepan one glass and a half of water, two ounces of fresh butter, and a little salt, let it boil, then stir in enough flour to make it a firm batter, keep stirring for three minutes, then turn it into another vessel. Make previously a marrow pudding, while it is cooling prepare your batter, cut the pudding into thin slices, divide again into pieces about two inches long and three quarters of an inch wide, dip them into the batter and fry them, when done drain them, glaze with fine sugar, and serve them as hot as you can.