Old-time Menus and MY Blood- and Burn-Free Marmalade

I am a hazard in the kitchen. I don’t like being there and when I am, I hurt myself. In the last fortnight I have poured boiling water from the kettle onto my hand; I somehow managed not to steam the rice in the microwave steamer – it was burnt brown – while steaming the epidermis right off my left thumb; I ruined cupcake icing; I branded myself on the grill and turned bacon into shattering black heartbreak. This is not a problem that keeps me up at night, however. Food is fuel. I prefer tasty fuel to cup o’ soup, I really do appreciate good food but I do not mind living on two-minute noodles and Clementines. If I am particularly involved in some research, I can forget to eat for 36 hours, only realising that I’ve survived on coffee (milk, no sugar) when I start to sway and lose consciousness upon standing.

The burnt bacon of unhappiness.

The burnt bacon of unhappiness.

I am not a dieter at all but my absolute lack of passion when it comes to food did give me some cause for concern when I read domestic goddess, Nigella Lawson’s interview in the Big Issue.

But I do think that women who spend all their lives on a diet probably have a miserable sex life: if your body is the enemy, how can you relax and take pleasure? Everything is about control, rather than relaxing, about holding everything in.

I spent minutes worrying if I was a cold, robotic creature but quickly came to the conclusion that my extreme passion for shoes and champagne and chilli chocolate and my doing Michael Jackson’s Thriller dance most nights at 7 p.m. probably exempted me from this foodist censure.

I am not averse to trying new and strange foods either. When in Singapore, I ate a fabled durian fruit. 23Thorns spent the first 10 years of our marriage telling me about this wonder fruit, the taste of which was quite sublime if you could overcome the stench of it. The smell is described variously as mid-stage rotting, manure, dirty gym clothes left in a bag for a week, sour milk, like a gas leak. Upon approaching the fruit, I can say with certainty that all of the descriptions are valid. The shock though was quite how awful it tasted. It was supposed to be nectar of the gods if you held your nose. It wasn’t. It coated my tongue, palette and teeth in an impossible to swallow away, slightly granular slime. I tasted my one bite for hours and surreptitiously threw the rest of my portion into a bin in order not to offend all the happy durian snackers in the market.

So, so far we have established that

1. I hate cooking. The kitchen is a place of torture and despair.

2. I love nice food but I can live on salt-seasoned cardboard and citrus.

3. I am adventurous and passionate despite what Nigella Lawson has to say on the matter!

4. I drink too much champagne at any given opportunity.

In light of all the above, imagine my surprise yesterday afternoon when after a very stressful long-weekend with the children instead of drinking champagne in the garden and weeping, I took to the kitchen willingly to make something so ridiculously homely and old-fashioned, I giggle a little bit having to mention it. I picked lemons from the garden and my daughter and I made lemon marmalade. We made marmalade! Not only did we make it, we made it edible. It set. We can spread it on toast and not just pour it on roast chickens. And I made this tasty food without any injury to my person. “The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air.”

Our homemade lemon marmalade on toast breakfast.

Our homemade lemon marmalade on toast breakfast.

To continue the new food focus of my life, I woke up this morning to find the first entry on my Facebook timeline was a menu. An Australian friend was having a stupidly pretentious lunch. The menu:

Atlantic salmon, celeriac purée, smoked leek, hazelnut romesco

Spiced chick peas, sofrito, semolina cake, caramelised fennel, quark

Muscat braised duck leg, braised witlof, carrots, peas

Lamb press, parsnip purée, apple candy

Even my spellcheck is up in arms about at least one ingredient per dish. Having to turn to Wikipedia though to decode a menu has piqued my interest. As a fan of obscure information, I have decided that what I need to be cooking is obscure food. Obscure food might fire the foodie passions in a way that chops and rosemary potatoes simply don’t. And if I can find my way to cooking obscure, pretentious and historical food, I might just have hit kitchen gold. Before I share some historical menus I might shortly give a bash, here’s a little translation of Rob’s menu in case you too are not familiar with quark in a non-particle physics sense.

Romesco is a nut and red pepper-based sauce from Tarragona, Catalonia, Spain. It is typically made from any mixture of roasted or raw almonds, pine nuts, and/or hazelnuts, roasted garlic, olive or sunflower oil, bitxo peppers and/or nyora peppers.

~Wikipedia

Quark is a type of fresh dairy product. It is made by warming soured milk until the desired degree of denaturation of milk proteins is met, and then strained.

~Wikipedia

Witlof is a variety of salad green that is equally good raw or cooked. It’s related to radicchio, and has similarly crisp leaves to that vegetable. Its leaves are tightly packed and white in colour, with pale green tips. They have a  crisp texture and delicate, slightly bitter flavour.

~Woolworths Australia

Onto obscure foods… The first menu I came across in A Proper newe Booke of Cokerye originally published in the mid 16th century.

Booke of Cokerye

Booke of Cokerye

I must confess to not ever having seen this much food served, even at a wedding. It is no wonder that Henry VIII turned into a barrel! I do like the idea of “bolde meate”* though. No bashful meat has place in my kitchen. The children will also be delighted to have custard served with their pigs toes.

Here after foloweth the order of meates how they must be served at the Table with their sauces for fleshe dayes at dynner.

The fyrste course.

Potage or stewed broath.

Bolde meate or stewed meate.

Chekins and Bacon.

Powdred beyfe.

Pyes.

Goose.

Pygge.

Roosted beyfe.

Roosted veale.

Custarde.

The seconde course.

Roosted Lambe.

Roosted Capons.

Roosted Connies.

Chekins.

Pehennes.

Baken

Veneson.

Tarte.

The fyrste service at supper.

Potage or sewe.

A salette.

A pygges petytoe.

Poudred beyfe slyced.

A shoulder of mutton or a Breste. Veale.

Lambe.

Custarde.

The seconde coorse.

Capons roosted.

Connies roosted.

Chekins roosted.

Pigeons roosted.

Larckes roosted.

A pye of pygeons or Chekins.

Baken

venison.

Tarte.

The seruice at dyner.

Brawne and mustarde.

Capons stewed, or in whyte broath.

A pestle of veneson upon a browes.

A chyne of beyfe and a breste of mutton boylde.

Chuettes of pyes of fyne mutton.

Thre grene gese in a dyshe, sorel sauce; for a stubble gose, mustarde and vineger.

After all halowen daye, a swan Sauce chadel.

A pygge.

A dubble rybbe of beyf roosted, sauce pepper and vyneger.

A loyne of veale or a brest sauce Halfe a lambe or a kyd orengers.

Two capons roosted – sauce wyne and salte, ale and salt, except it be uppon soppes

Two pasties of falow dere in a dyshe.

A custarde.

A dyshe of Leches.

First Course

First Course!

The seconde course.

Jellye.

Peacooke – Sauce wyne and salt.

Two connies or half a dosyn rabets; Sauce mustarde and suger.

Half a dosyn chekyns upon sorell soppes.

Half a dosyn pigeons.

Mallarde.

Teyle. Sauce mustarde

Guiles and verges.

Storke.

Heronshewe.

Crane Sauce galentyne.

Curlew.

Bitture. Bustarde. Fesande — Sauce water and salt with onyons slyced.

Halfe a dosen woodcockes, Sauce mustarde and suger.

Halfe a dosen partriches,

Half a dosen tayles, Sauced as the fesantes.

A dosen of Quayles.

A dyshe of Larkes.

Two pasties of redde deare in a dyshe.

Tarte.

Gensbread.

Fritteris.

Service for fyshe dayes.

Butter.

A sallett with harde Egges.

Potage of Sande Eles and Lamperns.

Read hearynge, grene broyled strawed upon.

Whyte herynge.

Lynge.

Haburdyn mustcarde.

Salte samon minced. Sauce Mustard and Vergis and a lyttle suger.

Powdred Conger.

Shadde. Sauce vineger.

Makrell.

Whytinge – Sauce wyth the lyuer and mustarde.

Plyace, Sauce sorel, or wyne and salte, or mustard, or vergys.

Thorneback — Sauce lyver and mustard, peper

A Proper newe Booke of Cokerye (mid-16th c.)
Text: Frere, Catherine Frances (ed.): A proper newe booke of cokerye. With notes, introduction and glossary; together with some account of domestic life, cookery and feasts in Tudor days, and of the first owner of the book, Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Margaret Parker his wife. Cambridge: W. Heffer& Sons Ltd. 1913.
Bibliography: A.W. Oxford, English cookery books to the year 1850, p. 3
 Electronic version: Thomas Gloning, VII/2001

Right, I was going to include several other old menus and recipes but it appears the Tudors have exhausted my word allowance and tolerance for food-talk for the day. (Rome wasn’t built in one; and we can’t expect miracles in my first week of foodie passion). And besides, if I’m going to serve peahen in vinegar and sand eels in custard for dinner, I better get cracking. All the good peahens are sold out by 12 and goodness knows if those witlof suppliers are to be relied upon. The children will be so disappointed if I have to substitute the witlof for green straw.

If you are interested in more recipes, check out www.foodtimeline.org

*Bolde meat is boiled or boylde meat. I am ignoring this in favour of the far more appealing concept of ‘bold meat’ because, really, it is my kitchen and I’m making the rules.

33 thoughts on “Old-time Menus and MY Blood- and Burn-Free Marmalade

  1. I am always fascinated by these belly bursting menus. Did everyone eat everything or was that just a choice? The religious houses had huge kitchens where teh men worked naked. Try to get that in your head when you next do some cooking.

  2. When I was reading that menu the item that caught my eye the most was the Roosted Connies.
    Before the government here in Victoria decided that public transport should be an unsupervised free for all we used to have conductors on trains, trams and buses. Naturally they were always referred to as Connies. Now all I can see in my minds eye is a Connie, with their distinctive hat and leather satchel, perched on the back of a train seat. You’d need a pretty big platter to serve that dish!

    As for the stupidly pretentious Australian lunch…. we don’t eat out often, so when we do there is the added entertainment of trying to decipher the menu. Whereever you go these days in Melbourne (and I bet most of the country has been infected) it seems that every eatery is trying to outdo the others for obscure items and exclusive ingredients. Oh, for the days when you could go down the pub for a parma…. ;)

    And your Witlof murmurings made me laugh. We have a tiny supermarket in town that barely supplies the necessities in some things, yet I can still buy at least five kinds of lettuce, that is the kind of variety we have been conditioned to expect! So silly. :D

    PS; I want your lemon marmalade recipe!

      • I expect that Connies were actually hares, as later in the menu it refers to “Two connies or half a dosyn rabets”. They must have been pretty big hares to equal half a dozen ‘rabets’!

    • Roasted bus conductor! That might be worse than a durian. I never caught busses when there were still conductors. I did catch the school bus though and Swartland, the driver, was tough as nails. He had to be with 50-odd giggling all girls’ school girls in his bus twice a day. Even one bite of tough Swartland would have kept us chewing for days.

      I’ve lost the link to the recipe but I Googled ‘lemon marmalade recipe’ and hit upon a BBC Food Mag link. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the ingredients list on the recipe (was it the iPad or denial?), so I imagined quantities. I did follow the step-by-step instructions and even put a plate in the freezer to test if the concoction had reached its setting point! It reached it! It is super tasty and mine is tart enough so that I don’t have to share it with the nippers ;)

      • 50 schoolgirls twice a day? Swartland might have seemed tough but I bet he went home and had a cry each night. ;)

        If your efforts succeeded with an imaginary ingredient list I am even more impressed!

        I am just about to head off into the kitchen to make what this menu has caused me to think of as a Pygge and Egge Pye (I know they refer to it as Bacon in the menu but it all comes from the far more delightfully named Pygge so that is what I am sticking with). I am pleased to report it will also contain onyons (if only there was zucchini on that menu I’d be set. Zookeenee perhaps?). :D

        When I was at the shop this morning I checked the lettuce situation just because of you. There were six kinds…. ;)

      • Marmalade is easy jam as citrus fruits have the pectin to make them set. so it’s about the ratios between fruit, water and sugar. Try a charity shop for an old recipe book. rom the 1950s/60s should have something for you.

  3. Er, has your family expanded exponentially that you need all that at once? Oh, and I had to laugh, for quite a while, at the thought of all the roosting places, and the idea of you & Justin & the children tucked up in one while you ate a pig….

  4. So Durian is the fruity equivalent of okra eh Mrs 23Thorns…methinks it is going to go STRAIGHT into the “do not eat under ANY circumstances” bin along with it’s fellow “Umami rich” bestie, sea urchin roe. I would hasten to add that anyone who sits scribbling down Ms Nigella Lawson’s “How to live your life” quotes might want to sit back and take a look at how she handles her own “passionate love life”…time for a new heroine folks! No matter how much a person sucks in the kitchen there is always some recipe where they can shine. It would appear that you have met your moment Mrs 23Thorns and marmalade might just be your shining star. Do you know how hard it is to get that bloody stuff to set? I went to professional cooking school for 2 years and I can make some pretty amazing grub but getting marmalade to set (or sponge cakes and scones to rise or producing a pavlova that is actually edible) is but a wistful elusive dream to me. I have marmalade envy ma’am! (and lemon marmalade at that…if she says she can make ginger marmalade I am going to have a full blown middle aged tantrum!). I think I am going to have to have a little nap after just reading that list…it would seem like there wasn’t all that much available for vegans back then Mrs 23Thorns, indeed, if one was foolish enough to shun all of that bolde meat, one might find oneself on the end of a witch dunking apparatus just about to sample the contents of the nearest large body of water. I hate wanker food by the way Mrs 23Thorns…not the food per-se, just the stupid need to elevate something that comes out of the other end of your alimentary canal almost the same as a burger and chips from McDonalds to some kind of carnal status…Lets just call it my Aussie need to keep the tall poppy syndrome rolling along and be done with it. I bet your Aussie friend Rob is a lycra clad bike rider as well? (Don’t tell me…I already know ;) ). Kudos on that marmalade. I fear it is something that this little black duck might never be able to master.

    • I’m so terrible in the kitchen, I never even knew that marmalade was supposed to be tricky. Fools rush in and all that. I think my piece de resistance was the muslin bag/ string substitute. The only material lying about the house was a leopard print scarf. I tied the pips up in it with organza ribbon. Perhaps one of the two contained a secret ingredient.

      I certainly hope Australian friend has Lycra. He’s 6’7″ and nearly 50. Now that’s a show I’d pay to see.

      As for the vegan options in the mid-16th century, I’m afraid you’re right. The choices are limited. Broiled straw for you ma’am.

      • Obviously marmalade is an upmarket condiment that requires a touch of luxury. Note to self…”buy a silk scarf and a length of organza ribbon and try again…” If he is almost 50 and 6’7′ and he rides a bike on a regular basis I can almost guarantee that he wears Lycra. We have this horrifying collection of “MAMIL’s” (Middle Aged Men in Lycra) here in Australia that think that they are all going to go in the Tour de France next year. They ride around in pods and take up the entire road. They tend to do this on the windiest dirt roads around and I could care less about their predilections per se but I LIVE on a windy dirt road and being stuck behind 15 wine, gorgonzola and tart tatin stuffed middle aged men with large bellies and spindly legs wearing lycra who refuse to let you past does nothing for the blood pressure. I hope your friend doesn’t live in Tasmania (that salmon bit makes it sound like he lives close as we produce it here…there is a salmon farm just around the corner from Serendipity Farm…) as otherwise I can’t guarantee his continued existence…As a vegan I am used to broiled straw. I have even managed to kid myself that I am fond of it. When you go to a restaurant where everyone else is ordering an amazing array of delicious food and they stare at you blankly when you ask if they have anything without dairy or meat or eggs and you end up with a garden salad that costs you the same as your husband’s lobster you tend to learn to be stoic about it all (and not go out to restaurants! ;) ).

      • Once a year we have a cycling race in Jo’burg for which a stack of roads are closed, including our only access to the outside world road. We are prisoners for an entire day! Drives me scatty! I hear you with your windy road blues.

  5. This is a great post! There is so much food/recipe overload out there this is a refreshing take. I have to agree with you in disagreement of Nigella’s comment for many reasons. Also just because you’re thin doesn’t mean you’re on a “diet”. The “stupidly pretentious lunch menu” has been done to death. Cooking with kids (ours are 2 and 7) and making it a learning/fun experience is probably the only reason I like it so much. I try to only post a recipe if it is something really fun/funny or different (quinoa “Mc”nuggets, amaranth “krabby patties”, etc.). When I purchase seeds to grow in the garden I can never resist the unique/weird varieties or the varieties with a unique history (plants that date to the middle ages, seeds found in a monastery garden, etc). Off to make some bold bacon for the kids’ breakfast hahah

    • Sorry I’m only getting to this now. As you’ve no doubt gathered from 23 the small, angry people are on holiday and we’ve been consumed.

      I used to work in sales for a publisher and I used to call on a wonderful health shop. I would return after every call with packets of fascinating food that the children (and 23 actually) refused to touch! We did have success the other night by conning the kids into thinking they were eating cous cous, which they love, when they were actually eating bulgar wheat. Less successful was my blue rice experiment. I went through a phase where I would throw food coloring into everything healthy and spin a story about dinosaurs around it. They were not fooled by ‘blue rice grains are diplodocus pellets’!

      • No worries, it is a miracle I can ever compose a complete sentence on here (probably why my blog has so few!) My kids are fairly adventurous eaters, but anytime I introduce a new grain I call it “rice” or “baby rice”, new proteins are “chicken”, etc. The dino droppings sound appetizing Hahhaha very funny.

  6. What an interesting post! Reading the menu was fascinating. “Powdred Conger…Two pasties of redde deare in a dyshe….” Powdred, as in powdered? Two pasties? [shudder]

    As to Nigella Lawson’s I-am-a-sensual-goddess posturing — “…I do think that women who spend all their lives on a diet probably have a miserable sex life: if your body is the enemy, how can you relax and take pleasure? Everything is about control, rather than relaxing, about holding everything in” — baloney to all that. Any relationship advice dished out by Lawson had better be taken with a grain of salt.

    http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20713596,00.html?xid=rss-topheadlines

    • Thanks. I was also interested in the powdered dishes. Minced, perhaps?

      I have been following the Nigella relationship story peripherally. Saatchi’s statement in response to the whole incident is so shockingly ridiculous, I cannot believe he had the gall to release it. Words like “playful” used to describe the circling of one’s wife’s neck with one’s hands in public are so beyond inappropriate! Schmuck!

      • “Minced” sounds much more appetizing than dried up, pulverized eel :)

        I agree, Saatchi is a schmuck. The scary part is that a witness reported Nigella kissed him on the cheek shortly after he choked her.

      • Right you are about dried eel, pulverized or not. When I was a little girl, my father used to work up in the Congo and he occasionally brought some dried fish home with him. It was so terrifying a taste that I still shudder at its fishy memory.

        Kissed on the cheek! Good grief!

  7. This is wonderful. I have been fascinated by Tudor gastronomy and always found it slightly horrifying to think about the logistics of preparing that volume of complicated dishes in an era before refrigeration… and soap. Gah. I bet much of it was served au maggot.

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