The Book-Lover’s Library
Edited by Henry B. Wheatley, F.S.A.
OLD COOKERY BOOKS AND ANCIENT CUISINE
W. CAREW HAZLITT
_THE BOOK-LOVERS LIBRARY_ was first published in the following styles:
No. 1.–Printed on antique paper, in cloth bevelled with rough edges, price 4s. 6d.
No. 2.–Printed on hand-made paper, in Roxburgh, half morocco, with gilt top: 250 only are printed, for sale in England, price 7s. 6d.
No. 3.–Large paper edition, on hand-made paper; of which 50 copies only are printed, and bound in Roxburgh, for sale in England, price L1 1s.
There are a few sets left, and can be had on application to the Publisher.
Man has been distinguished from other animals in various ways; but perhaps there is no particular in which he exhibits so marked a difference from the rest of creation–not even in the prehensile faculty resident in his hand–as in the objection to raw food, meat, and vegetables. He approximates to his inferior contemporaries only in the matter of fruit, salads, and oysters, not to mention wild-duck. He entertains no sympathy with the cannibal, who judges the flavour of his enemy improved by temporary commitment to a subterranean larder; yet, to be sure, he keeps his grouse and his venison till it approaches the condition of spoon-meat.
It naturally ensues, from the absence or scantiness of explicit or systematic information connected with the opening stages of such inquiries as the present, that the student is compelled to draw his own inferences from indirect or unwitting allusion; but so long as conjecture and hypothesis are not too freely indulged, this class of evidence is, as a rule, tolerably trustworthy, and is, moreover, open to verification.
When we pass from an examination of the state of the question as regarded Cookery in very early times among us, before an even more valuable art–that of Printing–was discovered, we shall find ourselves face to face with a rich and long chronological series of books on the Mystery, the titles and fore-fronts of which are often not without a kind of fragrance and _gout_.
As the space allotted to me is limited, and as the sketch left by Warner of the convivial habits and household arrangements of the Saxons or Normans in this island, as well as of the monastic institutions, is more copious than any which I could offer, it may be best to refer simply to his elaborate preface. But it may be pointed out generally that the establishment of the Norman sway not only purged of some of their Anglo-Danish barbarism the tables of the nobility and the higher classes, but did much to spread among the poor a thriftier manipulation of the articles of food by a resort to broths, messes, and hot-pots. In the poorer districts, in Normandy as well as in Brittany, Duke William would probably find very little alteration in the mode of preparing victuals from that which was in use in his day, eight hundred years ago, if (like another Arthur) he should return among his ancient compatriots; but in his adopted country he would see that there had been a considerable revolt from the common saucepan–not to add from the pseudo-Arthurian bag-pudding; and that the English artisan, if he could get a rump-steak or a leg of mutton once a week, was content to starve on the other six days.
Those who desire to be more amply informed of the domestic economy of the ancient court, and to study the _minutiae_, into which I am precluded from entering, can easily gratify themselves in the pages of “The Ordinances and Regulations for the Government of the Royal Household,” 1790; “The Northumberland Household Book;” and the various printed volumes of “Privy Purse Expenses” of royal and great personages, including “The Household Roll of Bishop Swinfield (1289-90).”
The late Mr. Green, in his “History of the English People” (1880-3, 4 vols. 8vo), does not seem to have concerned himself about the kitchens or gardens of the nation which he undertook to describe. Yet, what conspicuous elements these have been in our social and domestic progress, and what civilising factors!
To a proper and accurate appreciation of the cookery of ancient times among ourselves, a knowledge of its condition in other more or less neighbouring countries, and of the surrounding influences and conditions which marked the dawn of the art in England, and its slow transition to a luxurious excess, would be in strictness necessary; but I am tempted to refer the reader to an admirable series of papers which appeared on this subject in Barker’s “Domestic Architecture,” and were collected in 1861, under the title of “Our English Home: its Early History and Progress.” In this little volume the author, who does not give his name, has drawn together in a succinct compass the collateral information which will help to render the following pages more luminous and interesting. An essay might be written on the appointments of the table only, their introduction, development, and multiplication.
The history and antiquities of the Culinary Art among the Greeks are handled with his usual care and skill by M.J.A. St. John in his “Manners and Customs of Ancient Greece,” 1842; and in the _Biblia_ or Hebrew Scriptures we get an indirect insight into the method of cooking from the forms of sacrifice.
The earliest legend which remains to us of Hellenic gastronomy is associated with cannibalism. It is the story of Pelops–an episode almost pre-Homeric, where a certain rudimentary knowledge of dressing flesh, and even of disguising its real nature, is implied in the tale, as it descends to us; and the next in order of times is perhaps the familiar passage in the _Odyssey_, recounting the adventures of Odysseus and his companions in the cave of Polyphemus. Here, again, we are introduced to a rude society of cave-dwellers, who eat human flesh, if not as an habitual diet, yet not only without reluctance, but with relish and enjoyment.
The _Phagetica_ of Ennius, of which fragments remain, seems to be the most ancient treatise of the kind in Roman literature. It is supposed to relate an account of edible fishes; but in a complete state the work may very well have amounted to a general Manual on the subject. In relation even to Homer, the _Phagetica_ is comparatively modern, following the _Odyssey_ at a distance of some six centuries; and in the interval it is extremely likely that anthropophagy had become rarer among the Greeks, and that if they still continued to be cooking animals, they were relinquishing the practice of cooking one another.
Mr. Ferguson, again, has built on Athenaeus and other authorities a highly valuable paper on “The Formation of the Palate,” and the late Mr. Coote, in the forty-first volume of “Archaeologia,” has a second on the “Cuisine Bourgeoise” of ancient Rome. These two essays, with the “Fairfax Inventories” communicated to the forty-eighth volume of the “Archaeologia” by Mr. Peacock, cover much of the ground which had been scarcely traversed before by any scientific English inquirer. The importance of an insight into the culinary economy of the Romans lies in the obligations under which the more western nations of Europe are to it for nearly all that they at first knew upon the subject. The Romans, on their part, were borrowers in this, as in other, sciences from Greece, where the arts of cookery and medicine were associated, and were studied by physicians of the greatest eminence; and to Greece these mysteries found their way from Oriental sources. But the school of cookery which the Romans introduced into Britain was gradually superseded in large measure by one more agreeable to the climate and physical demands of the people; and the free use of animal food, which was probably never a leading feature in the diet of the Italians as a community, and may be treated as an incidence of imperial luxury, proved not merely innocuous, but actually beneficial to a more northerly race.
So little is to be collected–in the shape of direct testimony, next to nothing–of the domestic life of the Britons–that it is only by conjecture that one arrives at the conclusion that the original diet of our countrymen consisted of vegetables, wild fruit, the honey of wild bees–which is still extensively used in this country,–a coarse sort of bread, and milk. The latter was evidently treated as a very precious article of consumption, and its value was enhanced by the absence of oil and the apparent want of butter. Mr. Ferguson supposes, from some remains of newly-born calves, that our ancestors sacrificed the young of the cow rather than submit to a loss of the milk; but it was, on the contrary, an early superstition, and may be, on obvious grounds, a fact, that the presence of the young increased the yield in the mother, and that the removal of the calf was detrimental. The Italian invaders augmented and enriched the fare, without, perhaps, materially altering its character; and the first decided reformation in the mode of living here was doubtless achieved by the Saxon and Danish settlers; for those in the south, who had migrated hither from the Low Countries, ate little flesh, and indeed, as to certain animals, cherished, according to Caesar, religious scruples against it.
It was to the hunting tribes, who came to us from regions even bleaker and more exacting than our own, that the southern counties owed the taste for venison and a call for some nourishment more sustaining than farinaceous substances, green stuff and milk, as well as a gradual dissipation of the prejudice against the hare, the goose, and the hen as articles of food, which the “Commentaries” record. It is characteristic of the nature of our nationality, however, that while the Anglo-Saxons and their successors refused to confine themselves to the fare which was more or less adequate to the purposes of archaic pastoral life in this island, they by no means renounced their partiality for farm and garden produce, but by a fusion of culinary tastes and experiences akin to fusion of race and blood, laid the basis of the splendid _cuisine_ of the Plantagenet and Tudor periods. Our cookery is, like our tongue, an amalgam.
But the Roman historian saw little or nothing of our country except those portions which lay along or near the southern coast; the rest of his narrative was founded on hearsay; and he admits that the people in the interior–those beyond the range of his personal knowledge, more particularly the northern tribes and the Scots–were flesh-eaters, by which he probably intends, not consumers of cattle, but of the venison, game, and fish which abounded in their forests and rivers. The various parts of this country were in Caesar’s day, and very long after, more distinct from each other for all purposes of communication and intercourse than we are now from Spain or from Switzerland; and the foreign influences which affected the South Britons made no mark on those petty states which lay at a distance, and whose diet was governed by purely local conditions. The dwellers northward were by nature hunters and fishermen, and became only by Act of Parliament poachers, smugglers, and illicit distillers; the province of the male portion of the family was to find food for the rest; and a pair of spurs laid on an empty trencher was well understood by the goodman as a token that the larder was empty and replenishable.
There are new books on all subjects, of which it is comparatively easy within a moderate compass to afford an intelligible, perhaps even a sufficient, account. But there are others which I, for my part, hesitate to touch, and which do not seem to be amenable to the law of selection. “Studies in Nidderland,” by Mr. Joseph Lucas, is one of these. It was a labour of love, and it is full of records of singular survivals to our time of archaisms of all descriptions, culinary and gardening utensils not forgotten. There is one point, which I may perhaps advert to, and it is the square of wood with a handle, which the folk in that part of Yorkshire employed, in lieu of the ladle, for stirring, and the stone ovens for baking, which, the author tells us, occur also in a part of Surrey. But the volume should be read as a whole. We have of such too few.
Under the name of a Roman epicure, Coelius Apicius, has come down to us what may be accepted as the most ancient European “Book of Cookery.” I think that the idea widely entertained as to this work having proceeded from the pen of a man, after whom it was christened, has no more substantial basis than a theory would have that the “Arabian Nights” were composed by Haroun al Raschid. Warner, in the introduction to his “Antiquitates Culinariae,” 1791, adduces as a specimen of the rest two receipts from this collection, shewing how the Roman cook of the Apician epoch was wont to dress a hog’s paunch, and to manufacture sauce for a boiled chicken. Of the three persons who bore the name, it seems to be thought most likely that the one who lived under Trajan was the true godfather of the Culinary Manual.
One of Massinger’s characters (Holdfast) in the “City Madam,” 1658, is made to charge the gourmets of his time with all the sins of extravagance perpetrated in their most luxurious and fantastic epoch. The object was to amuse the audience; but in England no “court gluttony,” much less country Christmas, ever saw buttered eggs which had cost L30, or pies of carps’ tongues, or pheasants drenched with ambergris, or sauce for a peacock made of the gravy of three fat wethers, or sucking pigs at twenty marks each.
Both Apicius and our Joe Miller died within L80,000 of being beggars–Miller something the nigher to that goal; and there was this community of insincerity also, that neither really wrote the books which carry their names. Miller could not make a joke or understand one when anybody else made it. His Roman foregoer, who would certainly never have gone for his dinner to Clare Market, relished good dishes, even if he could not cook them.
It appears not unlikely that the Romish clergy, whose monastic vows committed them to a secluded life, were thus led to seek some compensation for the loss of other worldly pleasures in those of the table; and that, when one considers the luxury of the old abbeys, one ought to recollect at the same time, that it was perhaps in this case as it was in regard to letters and the arts, and that we are under a certain amount of obligation to the monks for modifying the barbarism of the table, and encouraging a study of gastronomy.
There are more ways to fame than even Horace suspected. The road to immortality is not one but manifold. A man can but do what he can. As the poet writes and the painter fills with his inspiration the mute and void canvas, so doth the Cook his part. There was formerly apopular work in France entitled “Le Cuisinier Royal,” by MM. Viard and Fouret, who describe themselves as “Hommes de Bouche.” The twelfth edition lies before me, a thick octavo volume, dated 1805. The title-page is succeeded by an anonymous address to the reader, at the foot of which occurs a peremptory warning to pilferers of dishes or parts thereof; in other words, to piratical invaders of the copyright of Monsieur Barba. There is a preface equally unclaimed by signatures or initials, but as it is in the singular number the two _hommes de bouche_ can scarcely have written it; perchance it was M. Barba aforesaid, lord-proprietor of these not-to-be-touched treasures; but anyhow the writer had a very solemn feeling of the debt which he had conferred on society by making the contents public for the twelfth time, and he concludes with a mixture of sentiments, which it is very difficult to define: “Dans la paix de ma conscience, non moins que dans l’orgueil d’avoir si honorablement rempli cette importante mission, je m’ecrierai avec le poete des gourmands et des amoureux:
“Exegi monumentum aere perennius
Non omnis moriar.”
THE EARLY ENGLISHMAN AND HIS FOOD.
William of Malmesbury particularly dwells on the broad line of distinction still existing between the southern English and the folk of the more northerly districts in his day, twelve hundred years after the visit of Caesar. He says that they were then (about A.D. 1150) as different as if they had been different races; and so in fact they were–different in their origin, in their language, and their diet.
In his “Folk-lore Relics of Early Village Life,” 1883, Mr. Gomme devotes a chapter to “Early Domestic Customs,” and quotes Henry’s “History of Great Britain” for a highly curious clue to the primitive mode of dressing food, and partaking of it, among the Britons. Among the Anglo-Saxons the choice of poultry and game was fairly wide. Alexander Neckani, in his “Treatise on Utensils (twelfth century)” gives fowls, cocks, peacocks, the cock of the wood (the woodcock, not the capercailzie), thrushes, pheasants, and several more; and pigeons were only too plentiful. The hare and the rabbit were well enough known, and with the leveret form part of an enumeration of wild animals (_animalium ferarum_) in a pictorial vocabulary of the fifteenth century. But in the very early accounts or lists, although they must have soon been brought into requisition, they are not specifically cited as current dishes. How far this is attributable to the alleged repugnance of the Britons to use the hare for the table, as Caesar apprises us that they kept it only _voluptatis causa_, it is hard to say; but the way in which the author of the “Commentaries” puts it induces the persuasion that by _lepus_ he means not the hare, but the rabbit, as the former would scarcely be domesticated.
Neckam gives very minute directions for the preparation of pork for the table. He appears to have considered that broiling on the grill was the best way; the gridiron had supplanted the hot stones or bricks in more fashionable households, and he recommends a brisk fire, perhaps with an eye to the skilful development of the crackling. He died without the happiness of bringing his archi-episcopal nostrils in contact with the sage and onions of wiser generations, and thinks that a little salt is enough. But, as we have before explained, Neckam prescribed for great folks. These refinements were unknown beyond the precincts of the palace and the castle.
In the ancient cookery-book, the “Menagier de Paris,” 1393, which offers numerous points of similarity to our native culinary lore, the resources of the cuisine are represented as amplified by receipts for dressing hedgehogs, squirrels, magpies, and jackdaws–small deer, which the English experts did not affect, although I believe that the hedgehog is frequently used to this day by country folk, both here and abroad, and in India. It has white, rabbit-like flesh.
In an eleventh century vocabulary we meet with a tolerably rich variety of fish, of which the consumption was relatively larger in former times. The Saxons fished both with the basket and the net. Among the fish here enumerated are the whale (which was largely used for food), the dolphin, porpoise, crab, oyster, herring, cockle, smelt, and eel. But in the supplement to Alfric’s vocabulary, and in another belonging to the same epoch, there are important additions to this list: the salmon, the trout, the lobster, the bleak, with the whelk and other shell-fish. But we do not notice the turbot, sole, and many other varieties, which became familiar in the next generation or so. The turbot and sole are indeed included in the “Treatise on Utensils” of Neckam, as are likewise the lamprey (of which King John is said to have been very fond), bleak, gudgeon, conger, plaice, limpet, ray, and mackerel.
The fifteenth century, if I may judge from a vocabulary of that date in Wright’s collection, acquired a much larger choice of fish, and some of the names approximate more nearly to those in modern use. We meet with the sturgeon, the whiting, the roach, the miller’s thumb, the thomback, the codling, the perch, the gudgeon, the turbot, the pike, the tench, and the haddock. It is worth noticing also that a distinction was now drawn between the fisherman and the fishmonger–the man who caught the fish and he who sold it–_piscator_ and _piscarius_; and in the vocabulary itself the leonine line is cited: “Piscator prendit, quod piscarius bene vendit.”
The whale was considerably brought into requisition for gastronomic purposes. It was found on the royal table, as well as on that of the Lord Mayor of London. The cook either roasted it, and served it up on the spit, or boiled it and sent it in with peas; the tongue and the tail were favourite parts.
The porpoise, however, was brought into the hall whole, and was carved or _under-tranched_ by the officer in attendance. It was eaten with mustard. The _piece de resistance_ at a banquet which Wolsey gave to some of his official acquaintances in 1509, was a young porpoise, which had cost eight shillings; it was on the same occasion that His Eminence partook of strawberries and cream, perhaps; he is reported to have been the person who made that pleasant combination fashionable. The grampus, or sea-wolf, was another article of food which bears testimony to the coarse palate of the early Englishman, and at the same time may afford a clue to the partiality for disguising condiments and spices. But it appears from an entry in his Privy Purse Expenses, under September 8, 1498, that Henry the Seventh thought a porpoise a valuable commodity and a fit dish for an ambassador, for on that date twenty-one shillings were paid to Cardinal Morton’s servant, who had procured one for some envoy then in London, perhaps the French representative, who is the recipient of a complimentary gratuity of L49 10s. on April 12, 1499, at his departure from England.
In the fifteenth century the existing stock of fish for culinary purposes received, if we may trust the vocabularies, a few accessions; as, for instance, the bream, the skate, the flounder, and the bake.
In “Piers of Fulham (14th century),” we hear of the good store of fat eels imported into England from the Low Countries, and to be had cheap by anyone who watched the tides; but the author reprehends the growing luxury of using the livers of young fish before they were large enough to be brought to the table.
The most comprehensive catalogue of fish brought to table in the time of Charles I. is in a pamphlet of 1644, inserted among my “Fugitive Tracts,” 1875; and includes the oyster, which used to be eaten at breakfast with wine, the crab, lobster, sturgeon, salmon, ling, flounder, plaice, whiting, sprat, herring, pike, bream, roach, dace, and eel. The writer states that the sprat and herring were used in Lent. The sound of the stock-fish, boiled in wort or thin ale till they were tender, then laid on a cloth and dried, and finally cut into strips, was thought a good receipt for book-glue.
An acquaintance is in possession of an old cookery-book which exhibits the gamut of the fish as it lies in the frying-pan, reducing its supposed lament to musical notation. Here is an ingenious refinement and a delicate piece of irony, which Walton and Cotton might have liked to forestall.
The 15th century _Nominale_ enriches the catalogue of dishes then in vogue. It specifies almond-milk, rice, gruel, fish-broth or soup, a sort of _fricassee_ of fowl, collops, a pie, a pasty, a tart, a tartlet, a charlet (minced pork), apple-juice, a dish called jussell made of eggs and grated bread with seasoning of sage and saffron, and the three generic heads of sod or boiled, roast, and fried meats. In addition to the fish-soup, they had wine-soup, water-soup, ale-soup; and the flawn is reinforced by the _froise_. Instead of one Latin equivalent for a pudding, it is of moment to record that there are now three: nor should we overlook the rasher and the sausage. It is the earliest place where we get some of our familiar articles of diet–beef, mutton, pork, veal–under their modern names; and about the same time such terms present themselves as “a broth,” “a browis,” “a pottage,” “a mess.”
Of the dishes which have been specified, the _froise_ corresponded to an _omelette au lard_ of modern French cookery, having strips of bacon in it. The tansy was an omelette of another description, made chiefly with eggs and chopped herbs. As the former was a common dish in the monasteries, it is not improbable that it was one grateful to the palate. In Lydgate’s “Story of Thebes,” a sort of sequel to the “Canterbury Tales,” the pilgrims invite the poet to join the supper-table, where there were these tasty omelettes: moile, made of marrow and grated bread, and haggis, which is supposed to be identical with the Scottish dish so called. Lydgate, who belonged to the monastery of Bury St. Edmunds, doubtless set on the table at Canterbury some of the dainties with which he was familiar at home; and this practice, which runs through all romantic and imaginative literature, constitutes, in our appreciation, its principal worth. We love and cherish it for its very sins against chronological and topographical fitness–its contempt of all unities. Men transferred local circumstances and a local colouring to their pictures of distant countries and manners. They argued the unknown from what they saw under their own eyes. They portrayed to us what, so far as the scenes and characters of their story went, was undeceivingly false, but what on the contrary, had it not been so, would never have been unveiled respecting themselves and their time.
The expenditure on festive occasions seems, from some of the entries in the “Northumberland Household Book,” to present a strong contrast to the ordinary dietary allowed to the members of a noble and wealthy household, especially on fish days, in the earlier Tudor era (1512). The noontide breakfast provided for the Percy establishment was of a very modest character: my lord and my lady had, for example, a loaf of bread, two manchets (loaves of finer bread), a quart of beer and one of wine, two pieces of salt fish, and six baked herrings or a dish of sprats. My lord Percy and Master Thomas Percy had half a loaf of household bread, a manchet, a pottle of beer, a dish of butter, a piece of salt fish, and a dish of sprats or three white herrings; and the nursery breakfast for my lady Margaret and Master Ingram Percy was much the same. But on flesh days my lord and lady fared better, for they had a loaf of bread, two manchets, a quart of beer and the same of wine, and half a chine of mutton or boiled beef; while the nursery repast consisted of a manchet, a quart of beer, and three boiled mutton breasts; and so on: whence it is deducible that in the Percy family, perhaps in all other great houses, the members and the ladies and gentlemen in waiting partook of their earliest meal apart in their respective chambers, and met only at six to dine or sup.
The beer, which was an invariable part of the _menu_, was perhaps brewed from hops which, according to Harrison elsewhere quoted, were, after a long discontinuance, again coming into use about this time. But it would be a light-bodied drink which was allotted to the consumption at all events of Masters Thomas and Ingram Percy, and even of my Lady Margaret. It is clearly not irrelevant to my object to correct the general impression that the great families continued throughout the year to support the strain which the system of keeping open house must have involved. For, as Warner has stated, there were intervals during which the aristocracy permitted themselves to unbend, and shook off the trammels imposed on them by their social rank and responsibility. This was known as “keeping secret house,” or, in other words, my lord became for a season incognito, and retired to one of his remoter properties for relaxation and repose. Our kings in some measure did the same; for they held their revels only, as a rule, at stated times and places. William I. is said to have kept his Easter at Winchester, his Whitsuntide at Westminster, and his Christmas at Gloucester. Even these antique grandees had to work on some plan. It could not be all mirth and jollity.
A recital of some of the articles on sale in a baker’s or confectioner’s shop in 1563, occurs in Newbery’s “Dives Pragmaticus”: simnels, buns, cakes, biscuits, comfits, caraways, and cracknels: and this is the first occurrence of the bun that I have hitherto been able to detect. The same tract supplies us with a few other items germane to my subject: figs, almonds, long pepper, dates, prunes, and nutmegs. It is curious to watch how by degrees the kitchen department was furnished with articles which nowadays are viewed as the commonest necessaries of life.
In the 17th century the increased communication with the Continent made us by degrees larger partakers of the discoveries of foreign cooks. Noblemen and gentlemen travelling abroad brought back with them receipts for making the dishes which they had tasted in the course of their tours. In the “Compleat Cook,” 1655 and 1662, the beneficial operation of actual experience of this kind, and of the introduction of such books as the “Receipts for Dutch Victual” and “Epulario, or the Italian Banquet,” to English readers and students, is manifest enough; for in the latter volume we get such entries as these: “To make a Portugal dish;” “To make a Virginia dish;” “A Persian dish;” “A Spanish olio;” and then there are receipts “To make a Posset the Earl of Arundel’s way;” “To make the Lady Abergavenny’s Cheese;” “The Jacobin’s Pottage;” “To make Mrs. Leeds’ Cheesecakes;” “The Lord Conway His Lordship’s receipt for the making of Amber Puddings;” “The Countess of Rutland’s receipt of making the Rare Banbury Cake, which was so much praised as her daughter’s (the Right Honourable Lady Chaworth) Pudding,” and “To make Poor Knights”–the last a medley in which bread, cream, and eggs were the leading materials.
Warner, however, in the “Additional Notes and Observations” to his “Antiquitates Culinariae,” 1791, expresses himself adversely to the foreign systems of cookery from an English point of view. “Notwithstanding,” he remarks, “the partiality of our countrymen to French cookery, yet that mode of disguising meat in this kingdom (except perhaps in the hottest part of the hottest season of the year) is an absurdity. It is _here_ the art of _spoiling good meat_. The same art, indeed, in the South of France; where the climate is much warmer, and the flesh of the animal lean and insipid, is highly valuable; it is the art of making _bad meat eatable_.” At the same time, he acknowledges the superior thrift and intelligence of the French cooks, and instances the frog and the horse. “The frog is considered in this country as a disgusting animal, altogether unfit for the purposes of the kitchen; whereas, by the efforts of French cookery, the thighs of this little creature are converted into a delicate and estimable dish.” So sings, too (save the mark!), _our_ Charles Lamb, so far back as 1822, after his visit to Paris. It seems that in Elizabeth’s reign a _powdered_, or pickled horse was considered a suitable dish by a French general entertaining at dinner some English officers.
It is difficult to avoid an impression that Warner has some reason, when he suggests that the immoderate use of condiments was brought to us by the dwellers under a higher temperature, and was not really demanded in such a climate as that of England, where meat can be kept sweet in ordinary seasons, much longer even than in France or in Italy. But let us bear in mind, too, how different from our own the old English _cuisine_ was, and how many strange beasts calling for lubricants it comprehended within its range.
An edifying insight into the old Scottish _cuisine_ among people of the better sort is afforded by Fynes Morisoh, in his description of a stay at a knight’s house in North Britain in 1598.
“Myself,” he says, “was at a knight’s house, who had many servants to attend him, that brought in his meat with their heads covered with blue caps, the table being more than half furnished with great platters of porridge, each having a little piece of sodden meat; and when the tables were served, the servants did sit down with us; but the upper mess, instead of porridge, had a pullet with some prunes in the broth. And I observed no art of cookery, or furniture of household stuff, but rather rude neglect of both, though myself and my companion, sent by the Governor of Berwick upon bordering affairs, were entertained in the best manner. The Scots … vulgarly eat hearth-cakes of oats, but in cities have also wheaten bread, which, for the most part, was bought by courtiers, gentlemen, and the best sort of citizens. When I lived at Berwick, the Scots weekly upon the market day _obtained leave in writing of the governor_ to buy peas and beans, whereof, as also of wheat, their merchants to this day (1617) send great quantities from London into Scotland. They drink pure wine, not with sugar, as the English, yet at feasts they put comfits in the wine, after the French manner: but they had not our vintners’ fraud to mix their wines.”
He proceeds to say that he noticed no regular inns, with signs hanging out, but that private householders would entertain passengers on entreaty, or where acquaintance was claimed. The last statement is interestingly corroborated by the account which Taylor the Water-Poet printed in 1618 of his journey to Scotland, and which he termed his “Penniless Pilgrimage or Moneyless Perambulation,” in the course of which he purports to have depended entirely on private hospitality.
A friend says: “The Scotch were long very poor. Only their fish, oatmeal, and whiskey kept them alive. Fish was very cheap.” This remark sounds the key-note of a great English want–cheaper fish. Of meat we already eat enough, or too much; but of fish we might eat more, if it could be brought at a low price to our doors. It is a noteworthy collateral fact that in the Lord Mayor of London’s Pageant of 1590 there is a representation of the double advantage which would accrue if the unemployed poor were engaged to facilitate and cheapen the supply of fish to the City; and here we are, three centuries forward, with the want still very imperfectly answered.
Besides the bread and oatmeal above named, the bannock played its part. “The Land o’ Cakes” was more than a trim and pretty phrase: there was in it a deep eloquence; it marked a wide national demand and supply.
The “Penny Magazine” for 1842 has a good and suggestive paper on “Feasts and Entertainments,” with extracts from some of the early dramatists and a woodcut of “a new French cook, to devise fine kickshaws and toys.” One curious point is brought out here in the phrase “boiled _jiggets_ of mutton,” which shews that the French _gigot_ for a leg of mutton was formerly in use here. Like many other Gallicisms, it lingered in Scotland down to our own time.
The cut of the French cook above mentioned is a modern composition; and indeed some of the excerpts from Ben Jonson and other writers are of an extravagant and hyperbolical cast,–better calculated to amuse an audience than to instruct the student.
Mr. Lucas remarks: “It is probable that we are more dependent upon animal food than we used to be. In their early days, the present generation of dalesmen fed almost exclusively upon oatmeal; either as ‘hasty-pudding,’–that is, Scotch oatmeal which had been _ground over again_, so as to be nearly as fine as flour;… or ‘lumpy,’–that is, boiled quickly and not thoroughly stirred; or else in one of the three kinds of cake which they call ‘fermented,’ viz., ‘riddle cake,’ ‘held-on cake,’ or ‘turn-down cake,’ which is made from oatcake batter poured on the ‘bak’ ston” from the ladle, and then spread with the back of the ladle. It does not rise like an oatcake. Or of a fourth kind called ‘clap cake.’ They also made ‘tiffany cakes’ of wheaten flour, which was separated from the bran by being worked through a hair-sieve _tiffany_, or _temse_:–south of England _Tammy_,–with a brush called the _Brush shank_.”
ROYAL FEASTS AND SAVAGE POMP.
In Rose’s “School of Instructions for the Officers of the Mouth,” 1682, the staff of a great French establishment is described as a Master of the Household, a Master Carver, a Master Butler, a Master Confectioner, a Master Cook, and a Master Pastryman. The author, who was himself one of the cooks in our royal kitchen, tells Sir Stephen Fox, to whom he dedicates his book, that he had entered on it after he had completed one of a very different nature: “The Theatre of the World, or a Prospect of Human Misery.”
At the time that the “School of Instructions” was written, the French and ourselves had both progressed very greatly in the Art of Cookery and in the development of the _menu_. DelaHay Street, Westminster, near Bird-Cage Walk, suggests a time when a hedge ran along the western side of it towards the Park, in lieu of brick or stone walls; but the fact is that we have here a curious association with the office, just quoted from Rose, of Master Confectioner. For of the plot of ground on which the street, or at any rate a portion of it stands, the old proprieter was Peter DelaHaye, master confectioner of Charles II. at the very period of the publication of Rose’s book. His name occurs in the title-deeds of one of the houses on the Park side, which since his day has had only five owners, and has been, since 1840, the freehold of an old and valued friend of the present writer.
It may be worth pointing out, that the Confectionery and Pastry were two distinct departments, each with its superintendent and staff. The fondness for confections had spread from Italy–which itself in turn borrowed the taste from the East–to France and England; and, as we perceive from the descriptions furnished in books, these were often of a very elaborate and costly character.
The volume is of the less interest for us, as it is a translation from the French, and consequently does not throw a direct light on our own kitchens at this period. But of course collaterally it presents many features of likeness and analogy, and may be compared with Braithwaite’s earlier view to which I shall presently advert.
The following anecdote is given in the Epistle to Fox: “Many do believe the French way of working is cheapest; but let these examine this book, and then they may see (for their satisfaction) which is the best husbandry, to extract gold out of herbs, or to make a pottage of a stone, by the example of two soldiers, who in their quarters were minded to have a pottage; the first of them coming into a house and asking for all things necessary to the making of one, was as soon told that he could have none of these things there, whereupon he went away, and the other coming in with a stone in his knap-sack, asked only for a Pot to boil his stone in, that he might make a dish of broth of it for his supper, which was quickly granted him; and when the stone had boiled a little while, then he asked for a small bit of beef, then for a piece of mutton, and so for veal, bacon, etc., till by little and little he got all things requisite, and he made an excellent pottage of his stone, at as cheap a rate (it may be) as the cook extracted Gold from Herbs.”
The kitchen-staff of a noble establishment in the first quarter of the seventeenth century we glean from Braithwaite’s “Rules and Orders for the Government of the House of an Earl,” which, if the “M.L.” for whom the piece was composed was his future wife, Mistress Lawson, cannot have seen the light later than 1617, in which year they were married. He specifies–(1) a yeoman and groom for the cellar; (2) a yeoman and groom for the pantry; (3) a yeoman and groom for the buttery; (3a) a yeoman for the ewery; (4) a yeoman purveyor; (5) a master-cook, under-cooks, and three pastry-men; (6) a yeoman and groom in the scullery, one to be in the larder and slaughter-house; (7) an achator or buyer; (8) three conducts [query, errand-boys] and three kitchen-boys.
The writer also admits us to a rather fuller acquaintance with the mode in which the marketing was done. He says that the officers, among other matters, “must be able to judge, not only of the prices, but also of the goodness of all kinds of corn, cattle, and household provisions; and the better to enable themselves thereto, are oftentimes to ride to fairs and great markets, and there to have conference with graziers and purveyors.” The higher officers were to see that the master was not deceived by purveyors and buyers, and that other men’s cattle did not feed on my lord’s pastures; they were to take care that the clerk of the kitchen kept his day-book “in that perfect and good order, that at the end of every week or month it be pied out,” and that a true docket of all kinds of provisions be set down. They were to see that the powdered and salted meats in the larder were properly kept; and vigilant supervision was to be exercised over the cellar, buttery, and other departments, even to the prevention of paring the tallow lights.
Braithwaite dedicates a section to each officer; but I have only space to transcribe, by way of sample, the opening portion of his account of “The Officer of the Kitchen:” “The Master-Cook should be a man of years; well-experienced, whereby the younger cooks will be drawn the better to obey his directions. In ancient times noblemen contented themselves to be served with such as had been bred in their own houses, but of late times none could please some but Italians and Frenchmen, or at best brought up in the Court, or under London cooks: nor would the old manner of baking, boiling, and roasting please them, but the boiled meats must be after the French fashion, the dishes garnished about with sugar and preserved plums, the meat covered over with orangeade, preserved lemons, and with divers other preserved and conserved stuff fetched from the confectioner’s: more lemons and sugar spent in boiling fish to serve at one meal than might well serve the whole expense of the house in a day.” He goes on to describe and ridicule the new fashion of placing arms and crests on the dishes. It seems that all the refuse was the perquisite of the cook and his subordinates in a regulated proportion, and the same in the bakery and other branches; but, as may be supposed, in these matters gross abuses were committed.
In the “Leisure Hour” for 1884 was printed a series of papers on “English Homes in the Olden Times.” The eleventh deals with service and wages, and is noticed here because it affords a recital of the orders made for his household by John Harington the elder in 1566, and renewed by John Harington the younger, his son and High Sheriff of Somersetshire, in 1592.
This code of domestic discipline for an Elizabethan establishment comprises the observance of decorum and duty at table, and is at least as valuable and curious as those metrical canons and precepts which form the volume (Babees’ Book) edited for the Early English Text Society, etc.
There is rather too general a dislike on the part of antiquaries to take cognisance of matter inserted in popular periodicals upon subjects of an archaeological character; but of course the loose and flimsy treatment which this class of topics as a rule receives in the light literature of the day makes it perilous to use information so forthcoming in evidence or quotation. Articles must be rendered palatable to the general reader, and thus become worthless for all readers alike.
Most of the early descriptions and handbooks of instruction turn, naturally enough, on the demands and enjoyments of the great. There is in the treatise of Walter de Bibblesworth (14th century) a very interesting and edifying account of the arrangement of courses for some important banquet. The boar’s head holds the place of honour in the list, and venison follows, and various dishes of roast. Among the birds to be served up we see cranes, peacocks, swans, and wild geese; and of the smaller varieties, fieldfares, plovers, and larks. There were wines; but the writer only particularises them as white and red. The haunch of venison was then an ordinary dish, as well as kid. They seem to have sometimes roasted and sometimes boiled them. Not only the pheasant and partridge appear, but the quail,–which is at present scarcer in this country, though so plentiful abroad,–the duck, and the mallard.
In connection with venison, it is worth while to draw attention to a passage in the “Privy Purse Expenses of Henry VII” where, under date of August 8, 1505, a woman receives 3s. _d_. for clarifying deer suet for the King. This was not for culinary but for medicinal purposes, as it was then, and much later, employed as an ointment.
Both William I. and his son the Red King maintained, as Warner shews us, a splendid table; and we have particulars of the princely scale on which an Abbot of Canterbury celebrated his installation in 1309. The archbishops of those times, if they exercised inordinate authority, at any rate dispensed in a magnificent manner among the poor and infirm a large portion of their revenues. They stood in the place of corporations and Poor Law Guardians. Their very vices were not without a certain fascinating grandeur; and the pleasures of the table in which our Plantagenet rulers outstripped even their precursors, the earlier sovereigns of that line, were enhanced and multiplied by the Crusades, by the commencing spirit of discovery, and by the foreign intermarriages, which became so frequent.
A far more thorough conquest than that which the day of Hastings signalised was accomplished by an army of a more pacific kind, which crossed the Channel piecemeal, bringing in their hands, not bows and swords, but new dishes and new wines. These invaders of our soil were doubtless welcomed as benefactors by the proud nobles of the Courts of Edward II. and Richard II., as well as by Royalty itself; and the descriptions which have been preserved of the banquets held on special occasions in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and even of the ordinary style of living of some, make our City feasts of to-day shrink into insignificance. But we must always remember that the extravagant luxury and hospitality of the old time were germane and proper to it, component parts of the social framework.
It is to be remarked that some of the most disturbed and disastrous epochs in our annals are those to which we have to go for records of the greatest exploits in gastronomy and lavish expenditure of public money on comparatively unprofitable objects. During the period from the accession of Rufus to the death of Henry III., and again under the rule of Richard II., the taste for magnificent parade and sumptuous entertainments almost reached its climax. The notion of improving the condition of the poor had not yet dawned on the mind of the governing class; to make the artizan and the operative self-supporting and self-respectful was a movement not merely unformulated, but a conception beyond the parturient faculty of a member of the Jacquerie. The king, prince, bishop, noble, of unawakened England met their constituents at dinner in a fashion once or twice in a lifetime, and when the guests below the salt had seen the ways of greatness, they departed to fulfil their several callings. These were political demonstrations with a clear and (for the age) not irrational object; but for the modern public dinner, over which I should be happy to preach the funeral sermon, there is not often this or any other plea.
The redistribution of wealth and its diversion into more fruitful channels has already done something for the people; and in the future that lies before some of us they will do vastly more. All Augaea will be flushed out.
In some of these superb feasts, such as that at the marriage of Henry IV. in 1403, there were two series of courses, three of meat, and three of fish and sweets; in which we see our present fashion to a certain extent reversed. But at the coronation of Henry V. in 1421, only three courses were served, and those mixed. The taste for what were termed “subtleties,” had come in, and among the dishes at this latter entertainment occur, “A pelican sitting on her nest with her young,” and “an image of St. Catherine holding a book and disputing with the doctors.” These vagaries became so common, that few dinners of importance were accounted complete without one or more.
One of the minor “subtleties” was a peacock in full panoply. The bird was first skinned, and the feathers, tail, head and neck having been laid on a table, and sprinkled with cummin, the body was roasted, glazed with raw egg-yolk, and after being left to cool, was sewn back again into the skin and so brought to table as the last course. In 1466, at the enthronement of Archbishop Nevile, no fewer than 104 peacocks were dressed.
The most extraordinary display of fish at table on a single occasion took place at the enthronement feast of Archbishop Warham in 1504; it occurred on a fast day; and consequently no meat, poultry or game was included in the _menu_, but ample compensation was found in the lavish assortment of confectionery, spices, beer and wine. Of wine of various vintages there were upwards of 12 pipes, and of ale and beer, thirty tuns, including four of London and six of Kentish ale.
The narratives which have descended to us of the prodigious banquets given on special occasions by our early kings, prelates and nobles, are apt to inspire the general reader with an admiration of the splendid hospitality of bygone times. But, as I have already suggested, these festivities were occasional and at long intervals, and during the intervening space the great ones and the small ones of mediaeval and early England did not indulge in this riotous sort of living, but “kept secret house,” as it was called, both after their own fashion. The extremes of prodigality and squalor were more strongly marked among the poorer classes while this country was in a semi-barbarous condition, and even the aristocracy by no means maintained the same domestic state throughout the year as their modern representatives. There are not those ostentatious displays of wealth and generosity, which used to signalise certain political events, such as the coronation of a monarch or the enthronement of a primate; the mode of living has grown more uniform and consistent, since between the vilain and his lord has interposed himself the middle-class Englishman, with a hand held out to either.
A few may not spend so much, but as a people we spend more on our table. A good dinner to a shepherd or a porter was formerly more than a nine days’ wonder; it was like a beacon seen through a mist. But now he is better fed, clothed and housed than the bold baron, whose serf he would have been in the good old days; and the bold baron, on his part, no longer keeps secret house unless he chooses, and observes, if a more monotonous, a more secure and comfortable tenor of life. This change is of course due to a cause which lies very near the surface–to the gradual effacement of the deeply-cut separating lines between the orders of society, and the stealthy uprise of the class, which is fast gathering all power into its own hands.
The first attempt to illustrate this branch of the art must have been made by Alexander Neckam in the twelfth century; at least I am not aware of any older treatise in which the furniture and apparatus of a kitchen are set forth.
But it is needless to say that Neckam merely dealt with a theme, which had been familiar many centuries before his time, and compiled his treatise, “De Utensilibus,” as Bishop Alfric had his earlier “Colloquy,” with an educational, not a culinary, object, and with a view to facilitate the knowledge of Latin among his scholars. It is rather interesting to know that he was a native of St. Albans, where he was born in 1157. He died in 1217, so that the composition of this work of his (one of many) may be referred to the close of the twelfth century. Its value is, in a certain sense, impaired by the almost complete absence of English terms; Latin and (so called) Norman-French being the languages almost exclusively employed in it. But we have good reason indeed to be grateful for such a legacy in any shape, and when we consider the tendency of ways of life to pass unchanged from one generation to another, and when we think how many archaic and (to our apprehension) almost barbarous fashions and forms in domestic management lingered within living recollection, it will not be hazarding much after all to presume that the particulars so casually supplied to us by Neckam have an application alike before and after.
A student should also bear in mind that, from the strong Anglo-Gallic complexion of our society and manners in early days, the accounts collected by Lacroix are largely applicable to this country, and the same facilities for administering to the comfort and luxuries of the table, which he furnishes as illustrative of the gradual outgrowth from the wood fire and the pot-au-feu among his own countrymen, or certain classes of them, may be received as something like counterparts of what we possessed in England at or about the same period. We keep the phrase _pot luck_; but, for most of those who use it, it has parted with all its meaning. This said production of Neckam of St. Albans purports to be a guide to young housekeepers. It instructs them what they will require, if they desire to see their establishment well-ordered; but we soon perceive that the author has in view the arrangements indispensable for a family of high rank and pretensions; and it may be once for all observed that this kind of literature seldom proves of much service to us in an investigation of the state of the poor, until we come to the fifteenth or even sixteenth century, when the artists of Germany and the Low Countries began to delineate those scenes in industrial and servile life, which time and change have rendered so valuable.
Where their superiors in rank regarded them as little more than mechanical instruments for carrying on the business of life, the poor have left behind them few records of their mode of sustenance and of the food which enabled them to follow their daily toil. The anecdotes, whatever they may be worth, of Alfred and the burnt cakes, and of Tom Thumb’s mamma and her Christmas pudding, made in a bowl, of which the principal material was pork, stand almost alone; for we get, wherever we look, nothing but descriptions by learned and educated men of their equals or betters, how they fed and what they ate–their houses, their furniture, their weapons, and their dress. Even in the passage of the old fabliau of the “King and the Hermit” the latter, instead of admitting us to a cottage interior, has a servant to wait on him, brings out a tablecloth, lights two candles, and lays before his disguised guest venison and wine. In most of our own romances, and in the epics of antiquity, we have to be satisfied with vague and splendid generalisations. We do not learn much of the dishes which were on the tables, how they were cooked, and how [Greek: oi polloi] cooked theirs.
The _Liber_, or rather _Codex, Princeps_ in the very long and extensive catalogue of works on English Cookery, is a vellum roll called the Form of Cury, and is supposed to have been written about the beginning of the fifteenth century by the master-cook of Richard II who reigned from 1377 to 1399, and spent the public money in eating and drinking, instead of wasting it, as his grandfather had done, in foreign wars. This singular relic was once in the Harleian collection, but did not pass with the rest of the MSS. to the British Museum; it is now however, Additional MS. 5016, having been presented to the Library by Mr. Gustavus Brander. It was edited by Dr. Pegge in 1780, and included by Warner in his “Antiquitates Culinariae,” 1791. The Roll comprises 196 receipts, and commences with a sort of preamble and a Table of Contents. In the former it is worth noting that the enterprise was undertaken “by the assent and avisement of masters of physic and of philosophy, that dwelled in his (Richard II.’s) court,” which illustrates the ancient alliance between medicine and cookery, which has not till lately been dissolved. The directions were to enable a man “to make common pottages and common meats for the household, as they should be made, craftily and wholesomely;” so that this body of cookery was not prepared exclusively for the use of the royal kitchen, but for those who had not the taste or wish for what are termed, in contra-distinction, in the next sentence, “curious pottages, and meats, and subtleties.” It is to be conjectured that copies of such a MS. were multiplied, and from time to time reproduced with suitable changes; but with the exception of two different, though nearly coeval, collections, embracing 31 and 162 receipts or nyms, and also successively printed by Pegge and Warner, there is no apparent trace of any systematic compilation of this nature at so remote a date.
The “Form of Cury” was in the 28 Eliz., in the possession of the Stafford family, and was in that year presented to the Queen by Edward, Lord Stafford, as is to be gathered from a Latin memorandum at the end, in his lordship’s hand, preserved by Pegge and Warner in their editions. The fellowship between the arts of healing and cooking is brought to our recollection by a leonine verse at the end of one of the shorter separate collections above described:–
“Explicit de Coquina
Quae est optima Medicina.”
The “Form of Cury” will amply remunerate a study. It presents the earliest mention, so far as I can discern, of olive oil, cloves, mace, and gourds. In the receipts for making Aigredouce and Bardolf, sugar, that indispensable feature in the _cuisine_, makes its appearance; but it does so, I should add, in such a way as to lead to the belief that the use of sugar was at this time becoming more general. The difficulty, at first, seems to have been in refining it. We encounter here, too, onions under the name borrowed from the French instead of the Anglo-Saxon form “ynne leac”; and the prescriptions for making messes of almonds, pork, peas, and beans are numerous. There is “Saracen sauce,” moreover, possibly as old as the Crusades, and pig with sage stuffing (from which it was but one step to duck). More than one species of “galantine” was already known; and I observe the distinction, in one of the smaller collections printed by Warner, between the tartlet formed of meat and the tartlet _de fritures_, of which the latter approaches more nearly our notion. The imperfect comprehension of harmonies, which is illustrated by the prehistoric bag-pudding of King Arthur, still continued in the unnatural union of flesh with sweets. It is now confined to the cottage, whence Arthur may have himself introduced it at Court and to the Knights of the Round Table.
In this authority, several of the dishes were to be cooked in _white grease_, which Warner interprets into _lard_; others demanded olive oil; but there is no allusion to butter. Among the receipts are some for dishes “in gravy”; rabbits and chickens were to be treated similarly; and the gravy appears to have consisted merely of the broth in which they were boiled, and which was flavoured with pounded almonds, powdered ginger, and sugar.
The “Liber Cure Cocorum,” which is apparently extant only in a fifteenth century MS., is a metrical treatise, instructing its readers how to prepare certain dishes, condiments and accessories; and presents, for the most part, a repetition of what has already occurred in earlier and more comprehensive undertakings. It is a curious aid to our knowledge of the manner in which the table of the well-to-do Englishman was furnished in the time of Henry VI., and it is so far special, that it deals with the subject more from a middle-class point of view than the “Regulations for the Royal Household,” and other similar compilations, which I have to bring under notice. The names, as usual, are often misleading, as in _blanc manger_, which is very different from our _blanc-mange_; and the receipt for “goose in a hog pot” leaves one in doubt as to its adaptability to the modern palate. The poetical ambition of the author has proved a source of embarrassment here and there; and in the receipt “for a service on a fish-day” the practitioner is prayed within four lines to cover his white herring for God’s sake, and lay mustard over his red for God’s love, because _sake_ and _love_ rhyme with _take_ and _above_.
The next collection of receipts, which exists in a complete and homogeneous shape, is the “Noble Book of Cookery,” of which an early MS. copy at Holkham was edited in 1882 by Mrs. Napier, but which had already been printed by Pynson in 1500, and subsequently by his successor, John Byddell. This interesting and important volume commences with a series of descriptions of certain royal and noble entertainments given on various occasions from the time of Henry IV. to that of Edward IV., and then proceeds to furnish a series of directions for the cook of a king’s or prince’s household; for, although both at the outset and the conclusion we are told that these dishes were calculated for all estates, it is abundantly obvious that they were such as never then, or very long subsequently, reached much lower than the court or the aristocracy. There is a less complete copy here of the feast at the enthronement of Archbishop Nevile. I regret that neither of the old printed copies is at present accessible. That of 1500 was formerly in the library at Bulstrode, and I was given by the late Mr. Bradshaw to understand that the same copy (no other being known) is probably at Longleat. By referring to Herbert’s “Typographical Antiquities,” anyone may see that, if his account (so far as it goes) is to be trusted, the printed copy varies from the Holkham MS. in many verbal particulars, and gives the date of Nevile’s Feast as 1465.
The compilation usually known as the “Book of St. Albans,” 1486, is, perhaps, next to the “Noble Book of Cookery,” the oldest receptacle for information on the subject in hand. The former, however, deals with cookery only in an incidental and special way. Like Arnold’s Chronicle, the St. Albans volume is a miscellany comprehending nearly all the matters that were apt to interest the few educated persons who were qualified to peruse its pages; and amid a variety of allied topics we come here across a catalogue of terms used in speaking of certain dishes of that day. The reference is to the prevailing methods of dressing and carving. A deer was said to be broken, a cony unlaced, a pheasant, partridge, or quail winged, a pigeon or a woodcock thighed, a plover minced, a mallard unbraced. They spoke of a salmon or a gurnard as chined, a sole as loined, a haddock as sided, an eel as trousoned, a pike as splatted, and a trout as gobbeted.
It must, I think, be predicated of Tusser’s “Husbandry,” of which the last edition published in the writer’s lifetime is that of 1580, that it seems rather to reproduce precepts which occur elsewhere than to supply the reader with the fruits of his own direct observation. But there are certain points in it which are curious and original. He tells the ploughman that, after confession on Shrove Tuesday, he may go and thresh the fat hen, and if he is blindfold, kill her, and then dine on fritters and pancakes. At other times, seed-cakes, wafers, and other light confections.
It appears to have been usual for the farmer at that date to allow his hinds roast meat twice a week, on Sundays and on Thursday nights; but perhaps this was a generous extreme, as Tusser is unusually liberal in his ideas.
Tobias Venner, a Somersetshire man, brought out in 1620 his “Via Recta ad Vitam Longam.” He was evidently a very intelligent person, and affords us the result of his professional experience and personal observation. He considered two meals a day sufficient for all ordinary people,–breakfast at eleven and supper at six (as at the universities); but he thought that children and the aged or infirm could not be tied by any rule. He condemns “bull’s beef” as rank, unpleasant, and indigestible, and holds it best for the labourer; which seems to indicate more than anything else the low state of knowledge in the grazier, when Venner wrote: but there is something beyond friendly counsel where our author dissuades the poor from eating partridges, because they are calculated to promote asthma. “Wherefore,” he ingenuously says, “when they shall chance to meet with a covey of young partridges, they were much better to bestow them upon such, for whom they are convenient!”
Salmon, turbot, and sturgeon he also reckoned hard of digestion, and injurious, if taken to excess; nor does he approve of herrings and sprats; and anchovies he characterises as the meat of drunkards. It is the first that we have heard of them.
He was not a bad judge of what was palatable, and prescribes as an agreeable and wholesome meal a couple of poached eggs with a little salt and vinegar, and a few corns of pepper, some bread and butter, and a draught of pure claret. He gives a receipt–the earliest I have seen in print–for making metheglin or hydromel. He does not object to furmety or junket, or indeed to custards, if they are eaten at the proper seasons, and in the middle or at the end of meals. But he dislikes mushrooms, and advises you to wash out your mouth, and rub your teeth and gums with a dry cloth, after drinking milk.
The potato, however, he praises as nutritious and pleasant to the taste, yet, as Gerarde the herbalist also says, flatulent. Venner refers to a mode of sopping them in wine as existing in his time. They were sometimes roasted in the embers, and there were other ways of dressing them. John Forster, of Hanlop, in Bucks, wrote a pamphlet in 1664 to shew that the more extended cultivation of this root would be a great national benefit.
Venner, who practised in the spring and autumn at Bath as a physician, had no relish for the poorer classes, who did not fare well at the hands of their superiors in any sense in the excellent old days. But he liked the Quality, in which he embraced the Universities, and he tenders them, among other little hints, the information that green ginger was good for the memory, and conserve of roses (not the salad of roses immortalised by Apuleius) was a capital posset against bed-time. “A conserve of rosemary and sage,” says he, “to be often used by students, especially mornings fasting, doth greatly delight the brain.”
The military ascendency of Spain did not fail to influence the culinary civilisation of those countries to which it temporarily extended its rule; and in a Venetian work entitled “Epulario, or the Italian Banquet,” printed in 1549, we recognise the Spanish tone which had in the sixteenth century communicated itself to the cookery of the Peninsula, shewing that Charles V. and his son carried at least one art with them as an indemnity for the havoc which they committed.
The nursery rhyme of “Sing a song of sixpence” receives a singular and diverting illustration from the pages of this “Epulario,” where occurs a receipt “to make Pies that the Birds may be alive in them, and fly out when it is cut up.” Some of the other more salient beads relate to the mode of dressing sundry dishes in the Roman and Catalonian fashion, and teach us how to seethe gourds, as they did in Spain, and to make mustard after the manner of Padua.
I propose here to register certain contributions to our acquaintance with early culinary ideas and practices, which I have not specifically described:–
1. The Book of Carving. W. de Worde. 4to, 1508, 1513. Reprinted down to 1613.
2. A Proper New Book of Cookery. 12mo, 1546. Often reprinted. It is a recension of the “Book of Cookery,” 1500.
3. The Treasury of Commodious Conceits and Hidden Secrets. By John Partridge. 12mo, 1580, 1586; and under the title of “Treasury of Hidden Secrets,” 4to, 1596, 1600, 1637, 1653.
4. A Book of Cookery. Gathered by A.W. 12mo, 1584, 1591, etc.
5. The Good Housewife’s Jewel. By Thomas Dawson. In two Parts, 12mo, 1585. A copy of Part 2 of this date is in the British Museum.
6. The Good Housewife’s Treasury. 12 mo, 1588.
7. Cookery for all manner of Dutch Victual. Licensed in 1590, but not otherwise known.
8. The Good Housewife’s Handmaid for the Kitchen. 8vo, 1594.
9. The Ladies’ Practice; or, a plain and easy direction for ladies and gentlewomen. By John Murrell. Licensed in 1617. Printed in 1621, and with additions in 1638, 1641, and 1650.
10. A Book of Cookery. By George Crewe. Licensed in 1623, but not known.
11. A Closet for Ladies and Gentlewomen. 12mo, 1630.
12. The Ladies’ Cabinet Opened. By Patrick, Lord Ruthven. 4to, 1639; 8vo, 1655.
13. A Curious Treasury of Twenty Rare Secrets. Published by La Fountaine, an expert Operator. 4to, 1649.
14. A New Dispensatory of Fourty Physical Receipts. Published by Salvatore Winter of Naples, an expert Operator. 4to, 1649. Second edition, enlarged: same date.
The three last are rather in the class of miscellanies.
15. Health’s Improvement; or, Rules comprising the discovering the Nature, Method, and Manner of preparing all sorts of Food used in this Nation. By Thomas Muffet (or Moffat), M.D. Corrected and enlarged by Christopher Bennett, M.D. 4to, 1655.
16. The Queen’s Closet opened. Incomparable secrets in physick, chirurgery, Preserving, Candying, and Cookery…. Transcribed from the true copies of her Majesties own Receipt Books. By W.M., one of her late Servants…. London, 1655, 8vo. The same, corrected and revised, with many new and large Additions. 8vo, 1683.
17. The Perfect Cook: being the most exact directions for the making all kinds of pastes, with the perfect way teaching how to raise, season, and make all sorts of pies…. As also the Perfect English Cook…. To which is added the way of dressing all manner of Flesh. By M. Marmette. London, 1686, 12mo.
The writer of the “French Gardener,” of which I have had occasion to say a good deal in my small volume on that subject, also produced, “Les Delices de la Campagne,” which Evelyn excused himself from translating because, whatever experience he had in the garden, he had none, he says, in the shambles; and it was for those who affected such matters to get it done, but not by him who did the “French Cook” [Footnote: I have not seen this book, nor is it under that title in the catalogue of the British Museum]. He seems to imply that the latter, though an excellent work in its way, had not only been marred in the translation, but was not so practically advantageous to us as it might have been, “for want of skill in the kitchen”–in other words, an evil, which still prevails, was then appreciated by intelligent observers–the English cook did not understand her business, and the English mistress, as a rule, was equally ignorant.
One of the engravings in the “French Gardener” represents women rolling out paste, preparing vegetables, and boiling conserves.
There is a rather quaint and attractive class of miscellaneous receipt-books, not made so on account of any particular merit in their contents, but by reason of their association with some person of quality. MS. Sloane 1367, is a narrow octavo volume, for instance, containing “My Lady Rennelagh’s choice Receipts: as also some of Capt. Gvilt’s, who valued them above gold.” The value for us, however, is solely in the link with a noble family and the little touch about the Captain. There are many more such in public and private libraries, and they are often mere transcripts from printed works–select assemblages of directions for dressing food and curing diseases, formed for domestic reference before the advent of Dr. Buchan, and Mrs. Glasse, and Mrs. Rundell.
Among a valuable and extensive assemblage of English and foreign cookery books in the Patent Office Library, Mr. Ordish has obligingly pointed out to me a curious 4to MS., on the cover of which occurs, “Mrs. Mary Dacres her booke, 1666.”
Even in the latter part of the seventeenth century the old-fashioned dishes, better suited to the country than to the Court taste, remained in fashion, and are included in receipt-books, even in that published by Joseph Cooper, who had been head-cook to Charles I, and who styles his 1654 volume “The Art of Cookery Refined and Augmented.” He gives us two varieties of oatmeal pudding, French barley pudding, and hasty pudding in a bag. There is a direction for frying mushrooms, which were growing more into favour at the table than in the days when Castelvetri, whom I cite in my monograph on Gardening, was among us. Another dainty is an ox-palate pie.
Cooper’s Preface is quaint, and surely modest enough. “Though the cheats,” says he, “of some preceding pieces that treated on this subject (whose Title-pages, like the contents of a weekly Pamphlet, promised much more than the Books performed) may have provided this but a cold intertainment at its first coming abroad; yet I know it will not stay long in the world, before every rational reader will clear it of all alliance to those false pretenders. Ladies, forgive my confidence, if I tell you, that I know this piece will prove your favourite.”
Yet Cooper’s performance, in spite of its droll, self-complacent vein in the address to the Reader, is a judicious and useful selection, and was, in fact, far more serviceable to the middle-class gentry than some of those which had gone before. It adapted itself to sundry conditions of men; but it kept in view those whose purses were not richly lined enough to pay for dainties and “subtleties.” It is pleasant to see that, after the countless centuries which had run out since Arthur, the bag-pudding and hot-pot maintained their ground–good, wholesome, country fare.
After the fall of the Monarchy in 1648, the _chef de cuisine_ probably found his occupation gone, like a greater man before him; and the world may owe to enforced repose this condescension to the pen by the deposed minister of a king.
Soon after the Restoration it was that some Royalist brought out a small volume called “The Court and Kitchen of Elizabeth, commonly called Joan Cromwell, the wife of the late Usurper, truly described and represented,” 12mo, 1664. Its design was to throw ridicule on the parsimony of the Protectoral household. But he recites some excellent dishes which made their appearance at Oliver’s table: Dutch puddings, Scotch collops of veal, marrow puddings, sack posset, boiled woodcocks, and warden pies. He seems to have understood that eight stone of beef were cooked every morning for the establishment, and all scraps were diligently collected, and given alternately to the poor of St. Margaret’s, Westminster, and St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields. The writer acquaints us that, when the Protector entertained the French ambassador and the Parliament, after the Sindercome affair, he only spent L1,000 over the banquet, of which the Lady Protectress managed to save L200. Cromwell and his wife, we are told, did not care for suppers, but contented themselves with eggs and slops.
A story is told here of Cromwell and his wife sitting down to a loin of veal, and his calling for an orange, which was the sauce he preferred to that joint, and her highness telling him that he could not have one, for they were not to be had under a groat.
The Mansion House still retains the ancient usage of distributing the relics of a great feast afterwards among the poor, as Cromwell is said just above to have made a rule of his household. It was a practice highly essential in the absence of any organised system of relief.
The reign of Charles II., which witnessed a relationship with France of a very different character from that which the English maintained during the Plantagenet and earlier Tudor rule, was favourable to the naturalisation of the Parisian school of cookery, and numerous works were published at and about that time, in which the development of knowledge in this direction is shown to have taken place _pari passu_ with the advance in gardening and arboriculture under the auspices of Evelyn.
In 1683 we come to a little volume entitled “The Young Cook’s Monitor,” by M.H., who made it public for the benefit of his (or her) scholars; a really valuable and comprehensive manual, wherein, without any attempt at arrangement, there is an ample assemblage of directions for preparing for the table all kinds of joints, made dishes, soups and broths, _frigacies_, puddings, pies, tarts, tansies, and jellies. Receipts for pickling are included, and two ways are shown how we should treat turnips after this wise. Some of the ingredients proposed for sauces seem to our ears rather prodigious. In one place a contemporary peruser has inserted an ironical calculation in MS. to the effect that, whereas a cod’s head could be bought for fourpence, the condiments recommended for it were not to be had for less than nine shillings. The book teaches us to make Scotch collops, to pickle lemons and quinces, to make French bread, to collar beef, pork, or eels, to make gooseberry fool, to dry beef after the Dutch fashion, to make sack posset two ways, to candy flowers (violets, roses, etc.) for salads, to pickle walnuts like mangoes, to make flummery, to make a carp pie, to pickle French beans and cucumbers, to make damson and quince wines, to make a French pudding (called a Pomeroy pudding), to make a leg of pork like a Westphalia ham, to make mutton as beef, and to pot beef to eat like venison.
These and many other precepts has M.H. left behind him; and a sort of companion volume, printed a little before, goes mainly over the same ground, to wit, “Rare and Excellent Receipts Experienced and Taught by Mrs. Mary Tillinghast, and now printed for the use of her scholars only,” 1678. The lady appealed to a limited constituency, like M.H.; but her pages, such as they are (for there are but thirty), are now _publici juris_. The lesson to be drawn from Mistress Tillinghast’s printed labours is that, among our ancestors in 1678, pies and pasties of all sorts, and sweet pastry, were in increased vogue. Her slender volume is filled with elucidations on the proper manufacture of paste of various sorts; and in addition to the pies designated by M.H. we encounter a Lombard pie, a Battalia pie, an artichoke pie, a potato (or secret) pie, a chadron [Footnote: A pie chiefly composed of a calf’s chadroa] pie, and a herring pie. The fair author takes care to instruct us as to the sauces or dressings which are to accompany certain of her dishes.
“The Book of Cookery,” 1500, of which there was a reprint by John Byddell about 1530 was often republished, with certain modifications, down to 1650, under the titles of “A Proper New Book of Cookery,” or “The Book of Cookery.” Notwithstanding the presence of many competitors, it continued to be a public favourite, and perhaps answered the wants of those who did not desire to see on their tables the foreign novelties introduced by travellers, or advertised in collections of receipts borrowed from other languages.
In fact, the first half of the seventeenth century did not witness many accessions to the store of literature on this subject. But from the time of the Commonwealth, the supply of works of reference for the housekeeper and the cook became much more regular and extensive. In 1653, Selden’s friend, the Countess of Kent, brought out her “Choice Manual of Physic and Chirurgery,” annexing to it receipts for preserving and candying; and there were a few others, about the same time, of whose works I shall add here a short list:–
1. The Accomplished Cook. By Robert May. 8vo, 1660. Fifth edition, 8vo, 1685.
2. The Whole Body of Cookery Dissected. By Will. Rabisha. 8vo, 1661.
3. The Queen-like Closet: a Rich Cabinet, stored with all manner of rare receipts. By Hannah Wolley. 8vo, 1670.
4. The True Way of Preserving and Candying, and making several sorts of Sweetmeats. Anon. 8vo, 1681.
5. The Complete Servant-Maid. 12 mo, 1682-3.
6. A Choice Collection of Select Remedies…. Together with excellent Directions for Cooking, and also for Preserving and Conserving. By G. Hartman [a Chemist]. 8vo, 1684.
7. A Treatise of Cleanness in Meats and Drinks, of the Preparation of Food, etc. By Thomas Tryon. 4to, 1682.
8. The Genteel Housekeeper’s Pastime; or, The mode of Carving at the Table represented in a Pack of Playing Cards. 8vo, 1693.
9. A New Art of Brewing Beer, Ale, and other sorts of Liquors. By T. Tryon. 12mo, 1690-91.
10. The Way to get Wealth; or, A New and Ready Way to make twenty-three sorts of Wines, equal to that of France … also to make Cyder…. By the same. 12mo, 1702.
11. A Treatise of Foods in General. By Louis Lemery. Translated into English. 8vo, 1704.
12. England’s Newest Way in all sorts of Cookery. By Henry Howard, Free Cook of London. Second edition, 8vo, 1708.
13. Royal Cookery; or, the Complete Court-Cook. By Patrick Lamb, Esq., near 50 years Master-Cook to their late Majesties King Charles II., King James II., King William, Mary, and to her present Majesty, Queen Anne. 8vo, 1710. Third edition, 8vo, 1726.
14. The Queen’s Royal Cookery. By J. Hall, Free Cook of London. 12mo, 1713-15.
15. Mrs. Mary Eales’ Receipts, Confectioner to her late Majesty, Queen Anne. 8vo, 1718.
16. A Collection of three hundred Receipts in Cookery, Physic, and Surgery. In two parts, 8vo, 1729.
17. The Complete City and Country Cook. By Charles Carter. 8vo, 1732.
18. The Complete Housewife. Seventh edition, 8vo, 1736.
19. The Complete Family Piece: A very choice Collection of Receipts. Second edition, 8vo, 1737.
20. The Modern Cook. By Vincent La Chapelle, Cook to the Prince of Orange. Third edition. 8vo, 1744.
21. A Treatise of all sorts of Foods. By L. Lemery. Translated by D. Hay, M.D. 8vo, 1745.
This completes the list of books, so far as they have fallen in my way, or been pointed out by the kindness of friends, down to the middle of the last century.
It was probably Charles, Duke of Bolton (1698-1722), who was at one time Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, and who in the beginning of his ducal career, at all events, resided in St. James’s Street, that possessed successively as head-cooks John Nott and John Middleton. To each of these artists we owe a volume of considerable pretensions, and the “Cook’s and Confectioner’s Dictionary,” 1723, by the former, is positively a very entertaining and cyclopedic publication. Nott inscribes his book “To all Good Housewives,” and declares that he placed an Introduction before it merely because fashion had made it as strange for a book to appear without one as for a man to be seen in church without a neckcloth or a lady without a hoop-petticoat. He congratulates himself and his readers on living in a land flowing with milk and honey, quotes the saw about God sending meat and somebody else sending cooks, and accounts for his omission of pigments by saying, like a gallant man, that his countrywomen little needed such things. Nott opens with _Some Divertisements in Cookery, us’d at Festival-Times, as Twelfth-Day, etc._, which are highly curious, and his dictionary itself presents the novelty of being arranged, lexicon-wise, alphabetically. He seems to have been a fairly-read and intelligent man, and cites, in the course of his work, many celebrated names and receipts. Thus we have:–To brew ale Sir Jonas Moore’s way; to make Dr. Butler’s purging ale; ale of health and strength, by the Viscount St. Albans; almond butter the Cambridge way; to dress a leg of mutton _a la Dauphine_; to dress mutton the Turkish way; to stew a pike the City way. Dr. Twin’s, Dr. Blacksmith’s, and Dr. Atkin’s almond butter; an amber pudding, according to the Lord Conway’s receipt; the Countess of Rutland’s Banbury cake; to make Oxford cake; to make Portugal cakes; and so on. Nott embraces every branch of his subject, and furnishes us with bills of fare for every month of the year, terms and rules of carving, and the manner of setting out a dessert of fruits and sweetmeats. There is a singular process explained for making China broth, into which an ounce of china is to enter. Many new ways had been gradually found of utilising the materials for food, and vegetables were growing more plentiful. The carrot was used in soups, puddings, and tarts. Asparagus and spinach, which are wanting in all the earlier authorities, were common, and the barberry had come into favour. We now begin to notice more frequent mention of marmalades, blanc-manges, creams, biscuits, and sweet cakes. There is a receipt for a carraway cake, for a cabbage pudding, and for a chocolate tart.
The production by his Grace of Bolton’s other _chef_, John Middleton, is “Five Hundred New Receipts in Cookery, Confectionary, Pastry, Preserving, Conserving, Pickling,” and the date is 1734. Middleton doubtless borrowed a good deal from his predecessor; but he also appears to have made some improvements in the science. We have here the methods, to dress pikes _a la sauce Robert_, to make blackcaps (apples baked in their skins); to make a Wood Street cake; to make Shrewsbury cakes; to dress a leg of mutton like a gammon of bacon; to dress eggs _a la Augemotte_; to make a dish of quaking pudding of several colours; to make an Italian pudding, and to make an Olio. The eye seems to meet for the first time with hasty pudding, plum-porridge (an experiment toward the solidification of the older plum-broth), rolled beef-steaks, samphire, hedgehog cream (so called from its shape, currants being used for the eyes, and cut almonds for the bristles), cocks’-combs, orange, spinach and bean tarts, custards in cups (the 1723 book talks of jellies served on china plates), and lastly, jam–the real jam of these days, made to last, as we are told, the whole year. There is an excellent prescription for making elderberry wine, besides, in which Malaga raisins are to be largely used. “In one year,” says our _chef_, “it will be as good and as pleasant as French wine.”
Let us extract the way “to make Black-caps”:–“Take a dozen of good pippins, cut them in halves, and take out the cores; then place them on a right Mazarine dish with the skins on, the cut side downwards; put to them a very little water, scrape on them some loaf sugar, put them in a hot oven till the skins are burnt black, and your apples tender; serve them on Plates strew’d over with sugar.”
Of these books, I select the preface to “The Complete Housewife,” by E. Smith, 1736, because it appears to be a somewhat more ambitious endeavour in an introductory way than the authors of such undertakings usually hazard. From the last paragraph we collect that the writer was a woman, and throughout she makes us aware that she was a person of long practical experience. Indeed, as the volume comprehends a variety of topics, including medicines, Mrs. or Miss Smith must have been unusually observant, and have had remarkable opportunities of making herself conversant with matters beyond the ordinary range of culinary specialists. I propose presently to print a few samples of her workmanship, and a list of her principal receipts in that section of the book with which I am just now concerned. First of all, here is the Preface, which begins, as we see, by a little piece of plagiarism from Nott’s exordium:–
“It being grown as unfashionable for a book now to appear in publick without a preface, as for a lady to appear at a ball without a hoop-petticoat, I shall conform to custom for fashion-sake, and not through any necessity. The subject being both common and universal, needs no arguments to introduce it, and being so necessary for the gratification of the appetite, stands in need of no encomiums to allure persons to the practice of it; since there are but few now-a-days who love not good eating and drinking. Therefore I entirely quit those two topicks; but having three or four pages to be filled up previous to the subject it self, I shall employ them on a subject I think new, and not yet handled by any of the pretenders to the art of cookery; and that is, the antiquity of it; which if it either instruct or divert, I shall be satisfied, if you are so.
“Cookrey, confectionary, &c., like all other sciences and arts, had their infancy, and did not arrive at a state of maturity but by slow degrees, various experiments, and a long tract of time: for in the infant-age of the world, when the new inhabitants contented themselves with the simple provision of nature, viz. the vegetable diet, the fruits and production of the teeming ground, as they succeeded one another in their several peculiar seasons, the art of cookery was unknown; apples, nuts, and herbs, were both meat and sauce, and mankind stood in no need of any additional sauces, ragoes, &c., but a good appetite; which a healthful and vigorous constitution, a clear, wholesome, odoriferous air, moderate exercise, and an exemption from anxious cares, always supplied them with.
“We read of no palled appetites, but such as proceeded from the decays of nature by reason of an advanced old age; but on the contrary a craving stomach, even upon a death-bed, as in Isaac: nor no sicknesses but those that were both the first and the last, which proceeded from the struggles of nature, which abhorred the dissolution of soul and body; no physicians to prescribe for the sick, nor no apothecaries to compound medicines for two thousand years and upwards. Food and physick were then one and the same thing.
“But when men began to pass from a vegetable to an animal diet, and feed on flesh, fowls, and fish, then seasonings grew necessary, both to render it more palatable and savoury, and also to preserve that part which was not immediately spent from stinking and corruption: and probably salt was the first seasoning discover’d; for of salt we read, Gen. xiv.
“And this seems to be necessary, especially for those who were advanced in age, whose palates, with their bodies, had lost their vigour as to taste, whose digestive faculty grew weak and impotent; and thence proceeded the use of soops and savoury messes; so that cookery then began to become a science, though luxury had not brought it to the height of an art. Thus we read, that Jacob made such palatable pottage, that Esau purchased a mess of it at the extravagant price of his birthright. And Isaac, before by his last will and testament he bequeathed his blessing to his son Esau, required him to make some savoury meat, such as his soul loved, i.e., such as was relishable to his blunted palate.
“So that seasonings of some sort were then in use; though whether they were salt, savoury herbs, or roots only; or spices, the fruits of trees, such as pepper, cloves, nutmeg; bark, as cinnamon; roots, as ginger, &c., I shall not determine.
“As for the methods of the cookery of those times, boiling or stewing seems to have been the principal; broiling or roasting the next; besides which, I presume scarce any other were used for two thousand years and more; for I remember no other in the history of Genesis.
“That Esau was the first cook, I shall not presume to assert; for Abraham gave order to dress a fatted calf; but Esau is the first person mentioned that made any advances beyond plain dressing, as boiling, roasting, &c. For though we find indeed, that Rebecca his mother was accomplished with the skill of making savoury meat as well as he, yet whether he learned it from her, or she from him, is a question too knotty for me to determine.
“But cookery did not long remain a simple science, or a bare piece of housewifry or family ceconomy, but in process of time, when luxury entered the world, it grew to an art, nay a trade; for in I Sam. viii. 13. when the Israelites grew fashionists, and would have a king, that they might be like the rest of their neighbours, we read of cooks, confectioners, &c.
“This art being of universal use, and in constant practice, has been ever since upon the improvement; and we may, I think, with good reason believe, is arrived at its greatest height and perfection, if it is not got beyond it, even to its declension; for whatsoever new, upstart, out-of-the-way messes some humourists have invented, such as stuffing a roasted leg of mutton with pickled herring, and the like, are only the sallies of a capricious appetite, and debauching rather than improving the art itself.
“The art of cookery, &c., is indeed diversified according to the diversity of nations or countries; and to treat of it in that latitude would fill an unportable volume; and rather confound than improve those that would accomplish themselves with it. I shall therefore confine what I have to communicate within the limits of practicalness and usefulness, and so within the compass of a manual, that shall neither burthen the hands to hold, the eyes in reading, nor the mind in conceiving.
“What you will find in the following sheets, are directions generally for dressing after the best, most natural, and wholesome manner, such provisions as are the product of our own country, and in such a manner as is most agreeable to English palates: saving that I have so far temporized, as, since we have to our disgrace so fondly admired the French tongue, French modes, and also French messes, to present you now and then with such receipts of French cookery, as I think may not be disagreeable to English palates.
“There are indeed already in the world various books that treat on this subject, and which bear great names, as cooks to kings, princes, and noblemen, and from which one might justly expect something more than many, if not most of these I have read, perform, but found my self deceived in my expectations; for many of them to us are impracticable, others whimsical, others unpalatable, unless to depraved palates; some unwholesome, many things copied from old authors, and recommended without (as I am persuaded) the copiers ever having had any experience of the palatableness, or had any regard to the wholesomness of them; which two things ought to be the standing rules, that no pretenders to cookery ought to deviate from. And I cannot but believe, that those celebrated performers, notwithstanding all their professions of having ingenuously communicated their art, industriously concealed their best receipts from the publick.
“But what I here present the world with is the product of my own experience, and that for the space of thirty years and upwards; during which time I have been constantly employed in fashionable and noble families, in which the provisions ordered according to the following directions, have had the general approbation of such as have been at many noble entertainments.
“These receipts are all suitable to English constitutions and English palates, wholesome, toothsome, all practicable and easy to be performed. Here are those proper for a frugal, and also for a sumptuous table, and if rightly observed, will prevent the spoiling of many a good dish of meat, the waste of many good materials, the vexation that frequently attends such mismanagements, and the curses not unfrequently bestowed on cooks with the usual reflection, that whereas God sends good meat, the devil sends cooks.
“As to those parts that treat of confectionary, pickles, cordials, English wines, &c., what I have said in relation to cookery is equally applicable to them also.
“It is true, I have not been so numerous in receipts as some who have gone before me, but I think I have made amends in giving none but what are approved and practicable, and fit either for a genteel or a noble Table; and altho’ I have omitted odd and fantastical messes, yet I have set down a considerable number of receipts.
“The treatise is divided into ten parts: cookery contains above an hundred receipts, pickles fifty, puddings above fifty, pastry above forty, cakes forty, creams and jellies above forty, preserving an hundred, made wines forty, cordial waters and powders above seventy, medicines and salves above two hundred; in all near eight hundred.
“I have likewise presented you with schemes engraven on copper-plates for the regular disposition or placing the dishes of provision on the table according to the best manner, both for summer and winter, first and second courses, &c.
“As for the receipts for medicines, salves, ointments, good in several diseases, wounds, hurts, bruises, aches, pains, &c., which amount to above two hundred, they are generally family receipts, that have never been made publick; excellent in their kind, and approved remedies, which have not been obtained by me without much difficulty; and of such efficacy in distempers, &c., to which they are appropriated, that they have cured when all other means have failed; and a few of them which I have communicated to a friend, have procured a very handsome livelihood.
“They are very proper for those generous, charitable, and Christian gentlewomen that have a disposition to be serviceable to their poor country neighbours, labouring under any of the afflicted circumstances mentioned; who by making the medicines, and generously contributing as occasions offer, may help the poor in their afflictions, gain their good-will and wishes, entitle themselves to their blessings and prayers, and also have the pleasure of seeing the good they do in this world, and have good reason to hope for a reward (though not by way of merit) in the world to come.
“As the whole of this collection has cost me much pains and a thirty years’ diligent application, and I have had experience of their use and efficacy, I hope they will be as kindly accepted, as by me they are generously offered to the publick: and if they prove to the advantage of many, the end will be answered that is proposed by her that is ready to serve the publick in what she may.”
SELECT EXTRACTS FROM AN EARLY RECEIPT-BOOK.
The earliest school of English Cookery, which had such a marked Anglo-Norman complexion, has been familiarised to us by the publication of Warner’s _Antiquitates Culinaricae_, 1791, and more recently by the appearance of the “Noble Book of Cookery” in Mrs. Napier’s edition, not to mention other aids in the same way, which are accessible; and it seemed to be doing a better service, when it became a question of selecting a few specimens of old receipts, to resort to the representative of a type of culinary philosophy and sentiment somewhere midway between those which have been rendered easy of reference and our own. I have therefore given in the few following pages, in a classified shape, some of the highly curious contents of E. Smith’s “Compleat Housewife,” 1736, which maybe securely taken to exhibit the state of knowledge in England upon this subject in the last quarter of the seventeenth century and first quarter of the succeeding one. In the work itself no attempt at arrangement is offered.
I.–MEAT, POULTRY, ETC.
_To make Dutch-beef_:–Take the lean part of a buttock of beef raw; rub it well with brown sugar all over, and let it lie in a pan or tray two or three hours, turning it three or four times; then salt it well with common salt and salt-petre, and let it lie a fortnight, turning it every day; then roll it very strait in a coarse cloth, and put it in a cheese-press a day and a night, and hang it to dry in a chimney. When you boil it, you must put it in a cloth: when ’tis cold, it will cut out into shivers as Dutch-beef.
_To dry Mutton to cut out in Shivers as Dutch-Beef_:–Take a middling leg of mutton, then take half a pound of brown sugar, and rub it hard all over your mutton, and let it lie twenty-four hours; then take an ounce and half of saltpetre, and mix it with a pound of common salt, and rub that all over the mutton every other day, till ’tis all on, and let it lie nine days longer; keep the place free from brine, then hang it up to dry three days, then smoke it in a chimney where wood is burnt; the fire must not be too hot; a fortnight will dry it. Boil it like other hams, and when ’tis cold, cut it out in shivers like Dutch-beef.
_To stuff a Shoulder or Leg of Mutton with Oysters_:–Take a little grated bread, some beef-suet, yolks of hard eggs, three anchovies, a bit of an onion, salt and pepper, thyme and winter-savoury, twelve oysters, some nutmeg grated; mix all these together, and shred them very fine, and work them up with raw eggs like a paste, and stuff your mutton under the skin in the thickest place, or where you please, and roast it; and for sauce take some of the oyster-liquor, some claret, two or three anchovies, a little nutmeg, a bit of an onion, the rest of the oysters: stew all these together, then take out the onion, and put it under the mutton.
_To marinade a Leg of Lamb_:–Take a leg of lamb, cut it in pieces the bigness of a half-crown; hack them with the back of a knife; then take an eschalot, three or four anchovies, some cloves, mace, nutmeg, all beaten; put your meat in a dish, and strew the seasoning over it, and put it in a stew-pan, with as much white-wine as will cover it, and let it be two hours; then put it all together in a frying-pan, and let it be half enough; then take it out and drain it through a colander, saving the liquor, and put to your liquor a little pepper and salt, and half a pint of gravy; dip your meat in yolks of eggs, and fry it brown in butter; thicken up your sauce with yolks of eggs and butter, and pour it in the dish with your meat: lay sweet-breads and forc’d-meat balls over your meat; dip them in eggs, and fry them. Garnish with lemon.
_A Leg of Mutton a-la-Daube_:–Lard your meat with bacon through, but slant-way; half roast it; take it off the spit, and put it in a small pot as will boil it; two quarts of strong broth, a pint of white-wine, some vinegar, whole spice, bay-leaves, green onions, savoury, sweet-marjoram; when ’tis stew’d enough, make sauce of some of the liquor, mushrooms, lemon cut like dice, two or three anchovies: thicken it with browned butter. Garnish with lemon.
_To fry Cucumbers for Mutton Sauce_:–You must brown some butter in a pan, and cut the cucumbers in thin slices; drain them from the water, then fling them into the pan, and when they are fried brown, put in a little pepper and salt, a bit of an onion and gravy, and let them stew together, and squeeze in some juice of lemon; shake them well, and put them under your mutton.
_To make Pockets_:–Cut three slices out of a leg of veal, the length of a finger, the breadth of three fingers, the thickness of a thumb, with a sharp penknife; give it a slit through the middle, leaving the bottom and each side whole, the thickness of a straw; then lard the top with small fine lards of bacon; then make a forc’d-meat of marrow, sweet-breads, and lamb-stones just boiled, and make it up after ’tis seasoned and beaten together with the yolks of two eggs, and put it into your pockets as if you were filling a pincushion; then sew up the top with fine thread, flour them, and put melted butter on them, and bake them; roast three sweet-breads to put between, and serve them with gravy-sauce.
_To make a Florendine of Veal_:–Take the kidney of a loin of veal, fat and all, and mince it very fine; then chop a few herbs, and put to it, and add a few currants; season it with cloves, mace, nutmeg, and a little salt; and put in some yolks of eggs, and a handful of grated bread, a pippin or two chopt, some candied lemon-peel minced small, some sack, sugar, and orange-flower-water. Put a sheet of puff-paste at the bottom of your dish; put this in, and cover it with another; close it up, and when ’tis baked, scrape sugar on it; and serve it hot.
_To make a Tureiner_:–Take a china pot or bowl, and fill it as follows: at the bottom lay some fresh butter; then put in three or four beef-steaks larded with bacon; then cut some veal-steaks from the leg; hack them, and wash them over with the yolk of an egg, and afterwards lay it over with forc’d-meat, and roll it up, and lay it in with young chickens, pigeons and rabbets, some in quarters, some in halves; sweet-breads, lamb-stones, cocks-combs, palates after they are boiled, peeled, and cut in slices: tongues, either hogs or calves, sliced, and some larded with bacon: whole yolks of hard eggs, pistachia-nuts peeled, forced balls, some round, some like an olive, lemon sliced, some with the rind on, barberries and oysters: season all these with pepper, salt, nutmeg, and sweet-herbs, mix’d together after they are cut very small, and strew it on every thing as you put it in your pot: then put in a quart of gravy, and some butter on the top, and cover it close with a lid of puff-paste, pretty thick. Eight hours will bake it.
_To make Hams of Pork like Westphalia_:–To two large hams, or three small ones, take three pounds of common salt, and two pounds and half of brown coarse sugar; mix both together, and rub it well into the hams, and let them lie seven days, turning them every day, and rub the salt in them, when you turn them; then take four ounces of salt-petre beat small, and mix with two handfuls of common salt, and rub that well in your hams, and let them lie a fortnight longer: then hang them up high in a chimney to smoke.
_To make a Ragoo of Pigs-Ears_:–Take a quantity of pigs-ears, and boil them in one half wine and the other water; cut them in small pieces, then brown a little butter, and put them in, and a pretty deal of gravy, two anchovies, an eschalot or two, a little mustard, and some slices of lemon, some salt, and nutmeg; stew all these together, and shake it up thick. Garnish the dish with barberries.
_To collar a Pig_:–Cut off the head of your pig; then cut the body asunder; bone it, and cut two collars off each side; then lay it in water to take out the blood; then take sage and parsley, and shred them very small, and mix them with pepper, salt, and nutmeg, and strew some on every side, or collar, and roll it up, and tye it with coarse tape; so boil them in fair water and salt, till they are very tender: put two or three blades of mace in the kettle, and when they are enough, take them up, and lay them in something to cool; strain out some of the liquor, and add to it some vinegar and salt, a little white-wine, and three or four bay-leaves; give it a boil up, and when ’tis cold put it to the collars, and keep them for use.
_A Fricasy of Double Tripe_:–Cut your tripe in slices, two inches long, and put it into a stew-pan; put to it a quarter of a pound of capers, as much samphire shred, half a pint of strong broth, as much white-wine, a bunch of sweet-herbs, a lemon shred small; stew all these together till ’tis tender; then take it off the fire, and thicken up the liquor with the yolks of three or four eggs, a little parsley boiled green and chopp’d, some grated nutmeg and salt; shake it well together. Serve it on sippets. Garnish with lemon.
_To pot a Swan_:–Bone and skin your swan, and beat the flesh in a mortar, taking out the strings as you beat it; then take some clear fat bacon, and beat with the swan, and when ’tis of a light flesh colour, there is bacon enough in it; and when ’tis beaten till ’tis like dough, ’tis enough; then season it with pepper, salt, cloves, mace, and nutmeg, all beaten fine; mix it well with your flesh, and give it a beat or two all together; then put it in an earthen pot, with a little claret and fair water, and at the top two pounds of fresh butter spread over it; cover it with coarse paste, and bake it with bread; then turn it out into a dish, and squeeze it gently to get out the moisture; then put it in a pot fit for it; and when ’tis cold, cover it over with clarified butter, and next day paper it up. In this manner you may do goose, duck, or beef, or hare’s flesh.
_To make a Poloe_:–Take a pint of rice, boil it in as much water as will cover it; when your rice is half boiled, put in your fowl, with a small onion, a blade or two of mace, some whole pepper, and some salt; when ’tis enough, put the fowl in the dish, and pour the rice over it.
_To make a Pulpatoon of Pigeons_:–Take mushrooms, palates, oysters, sweet-breads, and fry them in butter; then put all these into a strong gravy; give them a heat over the fire, and thicken up with an egg and a bit of butter; then half roast six or eight pigeons, and lay them in a crust of forc’d-meat as follows: scrape a pound of veal, and two pounds of marrow, and beat it together in a stone mortar, after ’tis shred very fine; then season it with salt, pepper, spice, and put in hard eggs, anchovies and oysters; beat all together, and make the lid and sides of your pye of it; first lay a thin crust into your pattipan, then put on your forc’d-meat; then lay an exceeding thin crust over them; then put in your pigeons and other ingredients, with a little butter on the top. Bake it two hours.
_To keep Green Peas till Christmas_:–Shell what quantity you please of young peas; put them in the pot when the water boils; let them have four or five warms; then first pour them into a colander, and then spread a cloth on a table, and put them on that, and dry them well in it: have bottles ready dry’d, and fill them to the necks, and pour over them melted mutton-fat, and cork them down very close, that no air come to them: set them in your cellar, and when you use them, put them into boiling water, with a spoonful of fine sugar, and a good piece of butter: and when they are enough, drain and butter them.
II.–MEAT PIES AND PUDDINGS.
_A Battalia Pye_:–Take four small chickens, four squab pigeons, four sucking rabbets; cut them in pieces, season them with savoury spice, and lay ’em in the pye, with four sweet-breads sliced, and as many sheep’s-tongues, two shiver’d palates, two pair of lamb-stones, twenty or thirty coxcombs, with savoury-balls and oysters. Lay on butter, and close the pye. A lear.
_To make an Olio Pye_:–Make your pye ready; then take the thin collops of the but-end of a leg of veal; as many as you think will fill your pye; hack them with the back of a knife, and season them with pepper, salt, cloves, and mace; wash over your collops with a bunch of feathers dipped in eggs, and have in readiness a good hand-full of sweet-herbs shred small; the herbs must be thyme, parsley, and spinage; and the yolks of eight hard eggs, minced, and a few oysters parboiled and chopt; some beef-suet shred very fine. Mix these together, and strew them over your collops, and sprinkle a little orange-flower-water on them, and roll the collops up very close, and lay them in your pye, strewing the seasoning that is left over them; put butter on the top, and close up your pye; when ’tis drawn, put in gravy, and one anchovy dissolved in it, and pour it in very hot: and you may put in artichoke-bottoms and chesnuts, if you please, or sliced lemon, or grapes scalded, or what else is in season; but if you will make it a right savoury pye leave them out.
_To make a Lumber Pye_:–Take a pound and a half of veal, parboil it, and when ’tis cold chop it very small, with two pound of beef-suet, and some candied orange-peel; some sweet-herbs, as thyme, sweet-marjoram, and an handful of spinage; mince the herbs small before you put them to the other; so chop all together, and a pippin or two; then add a handful or two of grated bread, a pound and a half