Old Cookery Books and Ancient Cuisine eBook

William Carew Hazlitt
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 170 pages of information about Old Cookery Books and Ancient Cuisine.

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

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Old Cookery Books and Ancient Cuisine from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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