There is no doubt that articles about food fads and food fears make up a huge part of the massive volume of food writing which fills up our magazines and tries desperately to fill up cyberspace. They are not new issues however, nor is the nuisance of the fussy eater in our lives (every family has one.) An article written in 1762 in the English periodical the St. James' Chronicle shows that the host and his guests had to cope with these problems too. The article is quoted in The Market Assistant, (New York, 1867) by Thomas F. de Voe.
An amusing article on diet, written above one hundred years ago, is found in a London paper called "St. James' Chronicle," dated November 6, 1762, and thus reads:
“There is no affectation more ridiculous than the antipathies which many whimsical people entertain with respect to diet. One will swoon at a Breast of Veal; another can't bear the sight of a Sucking-pig; and another owes as great a grudge to a Shoulder of Mutton as Petruchio, in the farce.
How often does it happen in company that we are debarred of a necessary ingredient in a salad because somebody, forsooth, cannot touch oil! And what a rout is made, whisking away the cheese off the table, without our being suffered to have a morsel of this grand digester, if any one should happen to declare his dislike to it!
''There are others of an equally fantastic disposition, who, as we may say, choose to quarrel with their bread and butter. These are eternally suspicious that their food is not sweet. They bring their plates up to their noses, or their noses down to their plates, at every thing that is put upon them. Their stomachs are so delicately nice that they descry a fault in all they eat. The fish is stale, the mutton is rank, or the suet in the pudding is musty. I have an aunt who almost starves herself on account of her squeamishness in this particular. At one time she is sure the sheep died of the rot; at another the pork is measly; and she would not touch a bit of beef all the time of the distemper among the homed cattle. Veal she detests, because, she says, it is well known the Butchers blow it up with their nasty breath; besides, the Calves have brine given them to make their flesh white. She used to declare House-Lamb to be the only wholesome food, because the innocent creatures were fed with nothing but their mother's milk; but she has lately
taken disgust to this likewise, since she has been told that some rascally butchers keep large mastiff-bitches on purpose for their Lambs to suck.”
If you have a fussy, but lamb-loving relative, and you can be convinced that no dogs have been involved in its rearing, you may find the following recipes from Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy (1784 ed.) useful.
House-Lamb [to roast]
If a large fore-quarter, an hour and a half; if a small one, an hour. The outside must be papered, basted with good butter, and you must have a very quick fire. If a leg, about three quarters of an hour; a neck, a breast, or shoulder, three quarters of an hour; if very small, half an hour will do.
To boil Fowls and House-lamb.
Fowls and house-lamb boil in a pot by themselves, in a good deal of water, and if any scum arises, take it off. They will be both sweeter and whiter than if boiled in a cloth. A little chicken will be done in fifteen minutes, a large chicken in twenty minutes, a good fowl in half an hour, a little turkey or goose in an hour, and a large turkey in an hour and a half.
After I stopped laughing I breathed a sigh of relief to know that this phenomenon had roots in the relatively distant past and wasn't just the fad of the current decade. Thank you, Janet!
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