A discussion forum for history enthusiasts everywhere
 
HomeHome  Recent ActivityRecent Activity  FAQFAQ  RegisterRegister  Log inLog in  

Share | 
 

 The spice of life

View previous topic View next topic Go down 
Go to page : 1, 2  Next
AuthorMessage
Tim of Aclea
Consulatus
avatar

Posts : 330
Join date : 2011-12-31

PostSubject: The spice of life   Sun 31 Mar 2013, 15:54

I was not sure where to start a thread concerned with food and cooking but on the grounds that cooking could be considered a pastime I thought I would place it here.

When I was a child at Junior school in the 1950s I remmber being taught about how valuable and valued spices were in the middle ages and later. But the reason we were given for their value was to cover up meat being off. I was wondering whether this was really true. My recollection from the 1950s was that in Britain at least people did not use spices, other than pepper, for cooking. Perhaps people in the past valued spices for the same reason that people cook with spices today, for their flavour. Because in the 50s and earlier people had stopped using them they assumed that they must have been used for other reasons.

Any views on this or on why the British forgot, or never learned, how to cook like say the French and the Italians?

Tim
Back to top Go down
Caro
Censura
avatar

Posts : 1103
Join date : 2012-01-09

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Sun 31 Mar 2013, 21:28

I read recently that it was a myth that spices were used to mask the flavour of rotting meat, but I don't recall where. Possibly in the very interesting little book I had out the library about the etymology and history of the names for spices. It would take quite a bit of flavouring to disguise the taste of rotting meat really.

In the 50s we used, as well as pepper, ginger, cinnamon, mixed spice, all spice, but most of these were for baking. We didn't use cardamon, cumin, coriander or any of those spices used to make curries or Asian (by which I always mean SE Asian, Thai, Chinese etc) dishes. We just used generic curry. But not the mixed ones I like now, like Morrocan spice, or Jamaican spice, or the lovely cajun flavouring.

I do think it is also a myth that the British couldn't cook. I have a book called The Cookery of England by Elisabeth Ayrton which takes and updates recipes and cooking of the past several hundred years, and there are mouth-watering meals amongst them. Just randomly opening it, I see she has a recipe for veal fritters from the 14th C which she says is not changed at all, apart from giving exact quantities. There are dozens of pie recipes, and recipes for all parts of the animals, pates and terrines, recipes for cooking goose, turkey, guinea fowl, and then fish recipes for raost sea bream, pilchard pie, stewed cod, mousse of smoked haddock, not to mention all the wonderful desserts from England.

I do wonder how anyone lived to be over 45 though, with the richness of the diets for wealthy people at least.
Back to top Go down
Meles meles
Censura
avatar

Posts : 2849
Join date : 2011-12-30
Location : Pyrénées-Orientales, France

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Sun 31 Mar 2013, 22:50

It is most assuredly a myth that foods were heavily spiced to cover the taste of less than fresh meat.

Most people, if they were lucky enough to have the means to buy fresh meat would have made very sure they got it freshly-killed. Butchers who sold dodgey meat suffered serious penalties, not only steep fines but also being paraded publicly through the streets and then pilloried for all and any unhappy customers to abuse as they saw fit. In short, if you could afford fresh meat, you would almost certainly get it fresher than you would today, ie killed just a day or so before, and in summer probably even killed and butchered the same day.

There is also the myth that all mediaeval food was heavily spiced. Spices were very expensive and so had considerable status attached to them. And so if you were laying on a banquet it was de rigeur to show how classy you were by making sure the rich spiciness of the food was very much evident. But that is not to say such dishes were over spiced. Before the 17th century recipes rarely give quantities of ingredients: typically they just list the ingredients, often not in the order to be added, and so one might assume they mean to add the same amount of, say ginger as of grated bread etc ... but then such recipes were written by professional cooks as aides memoires for themselves and other professional cooks, so they assumed the reader would know to spice appropriately to taste.

Also remember that most spices had probably been on the road, travelling on a camel's back across deserts, or in a dank ship's hold, for perhaps several years before they finally arrived in the local European spice merchant's shop. Their piquancey and strength were almost certainly not what a modern cook would expect. And also, never forget, they were incredibly expensive, more expensive than the meat or fish of the dish itself, so were not used, or at least never over-used, for day to day cooking. Spices only got used, with reluctant though carefully-considered abandon, when one really needed to impress. And that was of course not the occasion to trot out a dubious fly-blown joint of meat.


Last edited by Meles meles on Sun 31 Mar 2013, 23:34; edited 1 time in total
Back to top Go down
Meles meles
Censura
avatar

Posts : 2849
Join date : 2011-12-30
Location : Pyrénées-Orientales, France

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Sun 31 Mar 2013, 23:23

And regarding 'fabulous' French cuisine .... don't forget that French cooking, at least that as practiced in the mediaeval French royal court, was notoriously bad! So bad in fact that when Catherine de Medici arrived to marry Henri II she insisted on bringing all her Italian cooks with her (she even had this written into the marriage contract). It was the Italians who taught the French how to cook, or at least how to cook in the style that one might now call "à la Française".

But most of the ordinary french populace had of course been competantly turning out economic, tasty peasant dishes for centuries. The same sort of dishes as turned out by their ordinary cousins in England, or indeed ordnary folk throughout the whole of Europe.
Back to top Go down
Triceratops
Censura
avatar

Posts : 3034
Join date : 2012-01-05

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Mon 01 Apr 2013, 09:08

The Swiss have the best cuisine, especially their organically grown pasta;

Back to top Go down
Tim of Aclea
Consulatus
avatar

Posts : 330
Join date : 2011-12-31

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Mon 01 Apr 2013, 14:09

Hi Caro

Quote :
I do think it is also a myth that the British couldn't cook.

I do not.

As part of background reading for the pipeline history book I am writing I read quite a few post war histories of the UK and they agree that cooking, for whatever, reason, was as per the 'myth'. I remember one giving a menu from a restaurant and how it was put together, tins of this and that - very unappetising

The British certainly could cook in the past, Dehlia Smith got a lot of her recipees from books at the British Library but suggested that the British lost their cooking skills because of early industrialisation and that daughters went into the factories before they had learned how to cook from their mothers. And then people did not know any better. i remember Ken Livingstone commenting in reply to a comment from the French president concerning British cooking, this was just before Paris lost the Olympics to London, that sure his mother used to get up before dawn to make sure the vegetables were cooked enough, but things had now changed. My late father in law not only liked vegetables that were cooked to a pulp but he was convinced that that was the proper way to cook them.

Elizabeth David wrote this iof post war British cooking
"There was flour and water soup seasoned solely with pepper; bread and gristle rissoles; dehydrated onions and carrots; corned beef toad in the hole. I need not go on." The food truly was terrible.
A Book of Mediterranean Food written by her published in 1950 and has been said to helped transform British attitudes to cooking

From the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography on her

Quote :
David was the best writer on food and drink this country has ever produced. When she began writing in the 1950s, the British scarcely noticed what was on their plates at all, which was perhaps just as well. Her books and articles persuaded her readers that food was one of life's great pleasures, and that cooking should not be a drudgery but an exciting and creative act. In doing so she inspired a whole generation not only to cook, but to think about food in an entirely different way.
Back to top Go down
Tim of Aclea
Consulatus
avatar

Posts : 330
Join date : 2011-12-31

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Mon 01 Apr 2013, 14:17

This is part of an American's view of the change in British eating habits that I found quite interesting and relevant

Quote :
Maybe the first question is how English cooking got to be so bad in the first place. A good guess is that the country's early industrialization and urbanization was the culprit. Millions of people moved rapidly off the land and away from access to traditional ingredients. Worse, they did so at a time when the technology of urban food supply was still primitive: And so ordinary people, and even the middle classes, were forced into a cuisine based on canned goods ,preserved meats, and root vegetables that didn't need refrigeration.
But why did the food stay so bad after refrigerated railroad cars and ships, frozen foods (better than canned, anyway), and eventually air-freight deliveries of fresh fish and vegetables had become available? The answer is surely that by the time it became possible for urban Britons to eat decently, the no longer knew the difference. The appreciation of good food is, quite literally, an acquired taste--but because your typical Englishman, circa, say, 1975, had never had a really good meal, he didn't demand one. And because consumers didn't demand good food, they didn't get it. Even then there were surely some people who would have liked better, just not enough to provide a critical mass.
And then things changed. Partly this may have been the result of immigration. (Although earlier waves of immigrants simply adapted to English standards--I remember visiting one fairly expensive London Italian restaurant in 1983 that advised diners to call in advance if they wanted their pasta freshly cooked.) Growing affluence and the overseas vacations it made possible may have been more important—how can you keep them eating bangers once they've had foie gras? But at a certain point the process became self-reinforcing: Enough people knew what good food tasted like that stores and restaurants began providing it--and that allowed even more people to acquire civilized taste buds.

Back to top Go down
nordmann
Nobiles Barbariæ
avatar

Posts : 5684
Join date : 2011-12-25

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Mon 01 Apr 2013, 14:18

It should be pointed out too that not all "exotic" spices needed necessarily to be imported. While some were restricted naturally to certain climates and soils, and others were artificially restricted to the Far East in order to maintain commercial monopolies, others had found their way across Europe and by the late Middle Ages had already enjoyed a long tradition both of their use in English cooking and in being conducible to local horticulture, be they grown in kitchen gardens or by local commercial horticulturalists.

Galingale was a popular spice in that respect. Originally from modern-day Laos it seems to have managed to "escape" that area in time to enjoy the benefits of redistribution using trade routes opened and maintained during Roman times. Whether it arrived in Britain at that time is unknown but it had definitely established itself by the 16th century when it was recorded as quite a common ingredient in simple meals. Why it has fallen out of popular use today is a mystery. It was replaced in recipes by ginger but for many centuries both it and ginger were included in certain meals, so the disparity in taste was one that the medieval tongue recognised, if not our own. This could in fact indicate a more educated palate in our ancestry than pertains today.

Caraway is one that is still with us, though not now associated normally with meat and fish dishes. It complemented the native English fennel but had distinct advantages in that it had a tarter taste and was more conducible to dry storage. It too had escaped its native territory, Persia, during Roman times, and unlike galingale is known to have been grown in gardens from that time on in Britain.

Cassia was also home-grown and figures in several recipes for "ordinary" meals. It was a form of cinnamon - a spice that did retain a huge retail price until the end of the Spice Island monopolies fought over by Holland and Britain. What is strange is that cassia, again a Roman introduction in Britain, tastes practically the same as cinnamon. Modern day canel in fact is simply cassia renamed, modern production and refinement processes having obviated storage and dispersal problems with regard to retention of flavour.

Coriander was another popular home-grown "spice" (the terms "spice" and "herb" mean nothing botanically and reflect more their place of origin than their nature). It too had arrived in Roman times though we haven't a clue what it was called in England up to the 14th century when it enjoyed a resurgence in popularity as a common flavouring in meals and a variation of the French name for it entered the recipe books.

Perhaps the most honourable mention of all must go to fenugreek, once a hugely popular meal flavouring due to its versatility. It could be added in its vegetable form as leaf, its seed form, or in its powdered or dried form. Each use had a different flavour and a different application, so it figured in a multitide of dishes from the Far East to Fishguard. It was also very ancient - originally from the Indian sub-continent its spread had pre-dated Roman times by several thousand years and it had adapted readily to a huge range of climates, including England, by the middle ages. Exactly what has become of it in English meals (it is still widely popular around the world) is inexplicable.

These are just a small selection of plants cultivated in England and all of which qualify as spices in the culinary sense. Their continued use can be traced in many cases up to the 19th century at which point many simply disappear from recipes. I cannot help but think that the great migration of labour to the cities must have played a role in this, and that their demise (where there is a demise) was down to nothing less mundane than that they did not lend themselves to mass production horticultural techniques on which more and more people found themselves dependent during the period. Without having checked, I imagine their use in the countryside persevered some while longer.

Elizabeth David may just have had the misfortune to have judged English cooking in a hiatus period when such rich and varied culinary practices had died out due to labour migration, and just before another such migration, this time of labour imported from foreign climes, would reintroduce much that had been temporarily lost or abandoned.
Back to top Go down
https://reshistorica.historyboard.net
Tim of Aclea
Consulatus
avatar

Posts : 330
Join date : 2011-12-31

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Mon 01 Apr 2013, 14:26

When Elizabeth David produced her first book, 'A Book of Mediterranean Food' she also had a to provide an appendix of alternative ingrediants as so many of the ingredients in the recipees were not readily available in Britain in 1950. In later additions, however, the appendix was not required.
Back to top Go down
Islanddawn
Censura
avatar

Posts : 2103
Join date : 2012-01-05
Location : Greece

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Mon 01 Apr 2013, 15:07

nordmann wrote:
(the terms "spice" and "herb" mean nothing botanically and reflect more their place of origin than their nature).

Normally a herb is the leafy and green part of a plant whilst spice is the root, stem, bulb, bark or seeds. Their use is the same though, both used either for flavouring or for their medicinal properties.

But you are correct Nordmann, herbs and spices don't automatically have to mean something exotic and imported. There would have been and are many native or introduced over time to Britain that were either picked from the wild or grown in kitchen gardens.
Back to top Go down
nordmann
Nobiles Barbariæ
avatar

Posts : 5684
Join date : 2011-12-25

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Mon 01 Apr 2013, 15:26

Islanddawn wrote:
Normally a herb is the leafy and green part of a plant whilst spice is the root, stem, bulb, bark or seeds.

This is so patently not true in terms of definition that it makes me wonder where it originated as a fallacy and why. It smacks of a retrogressive attempt to explain the presence of both on supermarket shelves by someone ignorant of the history of why the disparity of expression occurred, not in itself a difficult thing to ascertain from elementary sources.

The definition of a herb in most standard dictionaries reveals immediately the flaw in such lazy attribution of a contrived distinction. "Noun: 1.Any plant with leaves, seeds, or flowers used for flavoring, food, medicine, or perfume. 2.A part of such a plant as used in cooking."

Compare this to the definition of spice. "Noun: An aromatic or pungent vegetable substance used to flavor food, e.g., cloves, pepper, or mace."

By these definitions a herb is a spice and vice versa. The only difference in the terms' respective use being one of historical association with their place of origin or with their inflated price, possibly their potential for medicinal application, and nothing else. Nothing whatsoever in any case to do with component parts of any plant - such a distinction invites so many ready contradictions which one can easily recognise just by examining the contents of a standard spice-rack in any typical modern kitchen.


Back to top Go down
https://reshistorica.historyboard.net
nordmann
Nobiles Barbariæ
avatar

Posts : 5684
Join date : 2011-12-25

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Mon 01 Apr 2013, 16:32

Actually I just did a scout around after "spice" and its introduction into English. It had arrived by the 13th century via the French "espice" which in turn had originated from the Late Latin "species" (yes, that species!), and meant little more than goods or wares. However it applied to specific wares by then, namely the four "spice types" of saffron, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg used by apothecaries in preparing certain medicines and which then were expensive imports. So even the specific attachment of "herbs" to a medicinal application is one that was originally shared by the two, it appears, and in fact in the 13th century it was a use much more specifically applicable to spices than herbs, at least if its semantic evolution in English is one's source of historical enquiry.

Back to top Go down
https://reshistorica.historyboard.net
nordmann
Nobiles Barbariæ
avatar

Posts : 5684
Join date : 2011-12-25

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Sun 07 Apr 2013, 10:42

To Meles meles in particular, who I know has a great interest in old recipe books and the challenge of recreating their dishes in the modern age, and to anyone else equally enthused - I have come across this little gem on Google Books. It is Elizabeth Raffald's "The Experienced English Housekeeper" - a 10th edition from 1786 - which in its own blurb in the preface is now "consisting of near nine hundred recipes most of which have never before appeared in print" (and the design of a new wonder stove).

Raffald's Recipe Book

It was a recent news story on the BBC that alerted me - the present management of Arley Hall in Cheshire, where Elizabeth was a housekeeper in the 1670s, has recently announced that it will attempt to recreate some of their ex-employee's meals for their restaurant customers. The story itself can be found here:

BBC: Elizabeth Raffald, Arley Hall
Back to top Go down
https://reshistorica.historyboard.net
Islanddawn
Censura
avatar

Posts : 2103
Join date : 2012-01-05
Location : Greece

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Sun 07 Apr 2013, 11:01

Thanks for the link to the recipe book Nordmann, I am quite fascinated by the traveller's soup in particular. The equivalent of the modern day stock cube, and it would have been 10 times tastier, I'm sure.
Back to top Go down
Meles meles
Censura
avatar

Posts : 2849
Join date : 2011-12-30
Location : Pyrénées-Orientales, France

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Sun 07 Apr 2013, 13:11

Thanks Nordmann - I read the same BBC News online article and now have the said book on order.

In the BBC article I noticed how the management of Arley Hall were quick to emphasize that the dishes they would be serving were those like lamb pie, pea soup and rice pudding, ie ordinary and thoroughly acceptable to modern tastes. But on reading that my immediate reaction was: "But what's the point of that? Pea soup and rice pudding then, tasted much like pea soup and rice pudding now (any differences being down to what variety of pea you use - old marrowfat peas, or frozen bright green modern ones - rather than the recipe itself). Surely if you want to recreate past dishes/tastes and encourage people to explore the history and culture of their cuisine, then something that was ordinary in the past but is rather unusual now, would be better. No?
So anyway I'm looking forward to cooking her version of calf's foot pudding ... or whatever which was what the director of Arley Hall was at such pains to say would definitely NOT be on the menu.


Last edited by Meles meles on Sun 07 Apr 2013, 13:22; edited 1 time in total
Back to top Go down
nordmann
Nobiles Barbariæ
avatar

Posts : 5684
Join date : 2011-12-25

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Sun 07 Apr 2013, 13:20

I suppose the manager has to think of appealing to the widest tastes, which are not necessarily the best informed, and I agree that it shows a marked lack of courage of convictions on his part. But fair play to him for at least the bit he is doing in alerting people to the standards and tastes of yesteryear (which were comparable and sometimes even superior to our own, I think).

I have often thought that "medieval banquets" and the like would benefit enormously from introducing customers to resurrected dishes, probably by purposely avoiding telling them the exact ingredients until after they have tasted them. I for one would be more inclined to attend such an event on that basis. Probably illegal these days however, such an approach.
Back to top Go down
https://reshistorica.historyboard.net
Meles meles
Censura
avatar

Posts : 2849
Join date : 2011-12-30
Location : Pyrénées-Orientales, France

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Sun 07 Apr 2013, 13:41

nordmann wrote:
I have often thought that "medieval banquets" and the like would benefit enormously from introducing customers to resurrected dishes, probably by purposely avoiding telling them the exact ingredients until after they have tasted them....

I thoroughly agree with you there .... but then so-called "medieval banquets" are generally an absolute farce anyway.

I was however surprised, given the French pre-supposed belief in the complete supremacy of their own cuisine, and their general reluctance to ever try anything from outside their own, often incredibly limited, gastronomic experience .... that there is a restaurant only 30mins from here that specialises in Roman Cuisine of about the early Imperial period. The dishes are prepared, spiced and cooked as near to authentically as possible for a modern establishment, although I suspect the oven is gas-heated rather than wood-fired, and I'm sure sauces are prepared on a normal hob and even warmed in a microwave rather than using a charcoal-heated chafing dish or bain marée. But also as each dish arrives you get a thorough explanation, not only what it contains, but also an explanation of it's historical, literary provenance, the limitations of ingredients and cooking methods, how you should eat it etc. and with occasional classic anecdotes thrown in as well. And you don't have to dress up in stupid faux-togas or anything like that, nor eat reclining on a couch (unless you really want to). It's a while since I ate there but I found it an absolute delight, not only for the palate but for the mind as well.
Back to top Go down
Tim of Aclea
Consulatus
avatar

Posts : 330
Join date : 2011-12-31

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Sun 07 Apr 2013, 14:28

I was at dinner party last night prepared by someone whoused to be a chef. She commented that Mrs Beaton did not do British cooking any favours as she, in her recipees, used to cook everything to death.
Back to top Go down
ferval
Censura
avatar

Posts : 2550
Join date : 2011-12-27

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Sun 07 Apr 2013, 15:13

Fascinating book indeed, I was surprised to see 'cullis' even if it was referring to a meat stock rather than the ubiquitous squashed rasps. Does she mention 'jus'?

At a quick peruse, there's really quite a lot of what resemble currently fashionable dishes (mostly in the very trendy, pricey places) these days. Have you seen the price of ox cheeks in Waitrose nowadays? Using offal and heads and feet may be 'sustainable' and 'respectful to the animal', as the Michelin starred chefs proclaim but they also give them one hell of a margin on their ingredients.
OK, the quantities of lard and butter might be a bit generous and I haven't seen a turtle in Morrison's for ages but the dishes are not really that very removed from ours today, at least in taste terms. The Olive pie with veal fillet sounds yummy.
Back to top Go down
Meles meles
Censura
avatar

Posts : 2849
Join date : 2011-12-30
Location : Pyrénées-Orientales, France

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Sun 07 Apr 2013, 15:21

Tim of Aclea wrote:
I was at dinner party last night prepared by someone whoused to be a chef. She commented that Mrs Beaton did not do British cooking any favours as she, in her recipees, used to cook everything to death.

I think that is probably very true .... I find her cooking times are often extremely long compared to how I would do things, although I accept that she didn't have the benefit of a fan-assisted oven etc. Even so I suspect Mrs B has a lot to answer for regarding the 20th century reputation of English cuisine and especially the much-mocked, boiled-to-death vegetables. Mrs Beeton was well before the days of the celebrity chef but did nevertheless have an enormous influence on British cuisine, which persisted well into the second half of the 20th century. My mother was taught to cook, quite well I think given the meals she routinely produced, from her mother, but she was still given a copy of Mrs Beeton as a wedding present when she married in 1948. (I don't know who gave it to her, perhaps it was her own mother, but I can't think of many more insulting wedding presents than a cook book, can you?). I still have both mum's 1948 (austerity) Beeton as well as granny's 1912 (lavish empire) edition ... and they are remarkably consistent, especially for the long cooking times!
Back to top Go down
Temperance
Virgo Vestalis Maxima
avatar

Posts : 5296
Join date : 2011-12-30

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Sun 07 Apr 2013, 15:58

What about Birds Eye Boil in the Bag Cod With Parsley? What will future generations make of *that*, I wonder?

EDIT: That should read "Birds Eye Boil in the Bag With Parsley *Sauce*.
Back to top Go down
ferval
Censura
avatar

Posts : 2550
Join date : 2011-12-27

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Sun 07 Apr 2013, 16:19

Or that taste of the mysterious east - a Vesta curry?What was most mysterious was, what relationship did it possibly have with Indian cookery? Or the everyday miracle of the Fray Bentos pie? Remove the lid, pop in oven and out comes a golden puffy pastry lid covering god alone knows what.
Back to top Go down
nordmann
Nobiles Barbariæ
avatar

Posts : 5684
Join date : 2011-12-25

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Sun 07 Apr 2013, 17:21

Never eat meals pre-prepared by matchstick manufacturers.

Friday night's dinner:





Incendiary device:




Back to top Go down
https://reshistorica.historyboard.net
Meles meles
Censura
avatar

Posts : 2849
Join date : 2011-12-30
Location : Pyrénées-Orientales, France

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Sun 07 Apr 2013, 18:56

ferval wrote:
Or the everyday miracle of the Fray Bentos pie? Remove the lid, pop in oven and out comes a golden puffy pastry lid covering god alone knows what.

Funny you should say that but I am reliably told that Frey Bentos pies are one of the best selling lines in the "etrangère" section of Ceret's Carrefore supermaket here in Southern France. So frankly whoever is buying them must be quite keen, since they retail at about 4€ (£3.50) a pie! Not cheap even if you are a glamourous ex-pat!

Personally I love pies, proper meaty pies ... and that is one of the things I miss from England. But I do hate puff pastry (work of the devil Twisted Evil ) and have always been brought up with home-made, short-crust pastry pies .... So instead of buying Frey Bentos I always make my own .... after all it's not that difficult.
Back to top Go down
ferval
Censura
avatar

Posts : 2550
Join date : 2011-12-27

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Sun 07 Apr 2013, 19:32

What's wrong with puff pastry? I love it on a proper Scottish steak pie, just on the top and no pastry underneath, but it's usually too much of a faff to make my own so it's the ready made for me.

We had one of the fully illustrated Mrs B's at home too, the napkin folding and fancy multi coloured blancmanges were eye popping but I suspect that the napkins had more flavour.





Back to top Go down
nordmann
Nobiles Barbariæ
avatar

Posts : 5684
Join date : 2011-12-25

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Sun 07 Apr 2013, 19:47

Fray Bentos, in the guise of its manufacturer Baxters, sponsors the Loch Ness Marathon every year. It's Scottish, so it's run in the rain.

Not a soggy pastry in sight though, puff or short and straight.

Back to top Go down
https://reshistorica.historyboard.net
Islanddawn
Censura
avatar

Posts : 2103
Join date : 2012-01-05
Location : Greece

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Sun 07 Apr 2013, 19:49

Does the meat come from Nessy though?
Back to top Go down
nordmann
Nobiles Barbariæ
avatar

Posts : 5684
Join date : 2011-12-25

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Sun 07 Apr 2013, 19:51

Meat? You've never eaten Fray Bentos then ...

It's brown though, I'll grant you that.
Back to top Go down
https://reshistorica.historyboard.net
ferval
Censura
avatar

Posts : 2550
Join date : 2011-12-27

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Sun 07 Apr 2013, 20:05

Talking of Nessie, did you see this week's (!) British Library blog. (sorry - going miles off topic but......) http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2013/03/loch-ness-monster-found-at-british-library.html
Back to top Go down
Islanddawn
Censura
avatar

Posts : 2103
Join date : 2012-01-05
Location : Greece

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Sun 07 Apr 2013, 20:05

Can't say I have Nordmann, they weren't in Aus. but nothing could be worse than Australian meat pies anyway. Can't get meat pies in Greece either, so I have always made my own.

Edit. That pic of Nessie looks more like a bear ferval. Was he disturbed whilst fishing for salmon?
Back to top Go down
ferval
Censura
avatar

Posts : 2550
Join date : 2011-12-27

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Sun 07 Apr 2013, 20:48

Quote :
Was he disturbed whilst fishing for salmon?

Only by the first April shower ID.

Blomey, there'a whole range of FB pies now, even admittedly vegetarian ones, unlike the original which didn't have anything recognisably meat in it but claimed to be beef.
Back to top Go down
Vizzer
Censura
avatar

Posts : 815
Join date : 2012-05-12

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Mon 08 Apr 2013, 20:32

nordmann wrote:
the terms "spice" and "herb" mean nothing botanically and reflect more their place of origin than their nature
Yes. If it can grow in a garden in Europe then it's a 'herb'. If it comes from the tropics then it's a 'spice'. I suppose tropical herbs tend to have been dried before they reach the kitchens of cooler climes. This is probably why they are then distinguished as 'spices' as opposed to temperate herbs which can appear in kitchens in either fresh or dried form.
Back to top Go down
Tim of Aclea
Consulatus
avatar

Posts : 330
Join date : 2011-12-31

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Wed 17 Apr 2013, 15:10

Quote :
Yes. If it can grow in a garden in Europe then it's a 'herb'. If it comes from the tropics then it's a 'spice'.

I do not think it is quite as straightforward as that, Saffron was grown in Greece, for example. Coriander is native to southern Europe, coriander seeds are a spice.

Quote :
Islanddawn wrote:
Normally a herb is the leafy and green part of a plant whilst spice is the root, stem, bulb, bark or seeds.


This is so patently not true in terms of definition that it makes me wonder where it originated as a fallacy and why. It smacks of a retrogressive attempt to explain the presence of both on supermarket shelves by someone ignorant of the history of why the disparity of expression occurred, not in itself a difficult thing to ascertain from elementary sources.

Surely it is true that a it is the leaves of certain plant that are used as a herb while it is other parts (such as for example the seeds), normally of different plants, that are used as a spice. Coriander leaves are used as a herb and the seeds, either whole or ground as a spice.

Tim

Back to top Go down
Islanddawn
Censura
avatar

Posts : 2103
Join date : 2012-01-05
Location : Greece

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Wed 17 Apr 2013, 17:55

Co-incidentally I was just reading an article yesterday on the saffron production in Greece. And wondering if it would grow down here in the warmer south, at 2,000 euro a kilo it may be worth trying to plant some crocus bulbs and see how they go. Although, rather a lot is needed unfortunately, 150,000 flowers just to produce 1kg of saffron.

http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/saffron-farming-cooperative-thrives-in-greece-despite-crisis-a-893527.html
Back to top Go down
nordmann
Nobiles Barbariæ
avatar

Posts : 5684
Join date : 2011-12-25

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Thu 18 Apr 2013, 08:33

Quote :
Surely it is true that a it is the leaves of certain plant that are used as a herb while it is other parts (such as for example the seeds), normally of different plants, that are used as a spice. Coriander leaves are used as a herb and the seeds, either whole or ground as a spice.


This may well be an acceptable definition today, though subject to exception I would have imagined (remembering chemistry lessons many years ago and the extraction of trimyristin for experiments). However it does not reflect the historical use of either term and definitely does not reflect their respective meanings when the word "spice" was introduced into the English language from French.
Back to top Go down
https://reshistorica.historyboard.net
Tim of Aclea
Consulatus
avatar

Posts : 330
Join date : 2011-12-31

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Mon 22 Apr 2013, 11:54

Quote :
However it does not reflect the historical use of either term and definitely does not reflect their respective meanings when the word "spice" was introduced into the English language from French.

I am sure that is true, but that could equally apply to many words in the English language.
Back to top Go down
nordmann
Nobiles Barbariæ
avatar

Posts : 5684
Join date : 2011-12-25

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Mon 22 Apr 2013, 12:18

Correct - and of relevance on a history discussion forum in these other cases too.
Back to top Go down
https://reshistorica.historyboard.net
Tim of Aclea
Consulatus
avatar

Posts : 330
Join date : 2011-12-31

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Mon 22 Apr 2013, 16:25

Quote :
This may well be an acceptable definition today, though subject to exception I would have imagined (remembering chemistry lessons many years ago and the extraction of trimyristin for experiments).

I cannot remember extracting this ester from nutmeg either during A level organic chemistry or at Uni. Not clear how it reflects on the definiation spice.

Back to top Go down
nordmann
Nobiles Barbariæ
avatar

Posts : 5684
Join date : 2011-12-25

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Mon 22 Apr 2013, 16:36

Ah, the comparative worth of an Irish and English secondary education. Now there's a topic! The etymology of "snipe", by the way, is interesting also in the context of edibles. Can't think what drew me to looking it up ...

Another thing about ancient diffrences between spices and herbs is one aspect so historically important that it figured in several wars that shaped modern civilisation but now is hardly a consideration at all.

One attribute of spice, and this goes back to the word "specie" in Latin (as in trading commodity of notable worth), was its use as a preservative. In an age before refrigeration, controlling the manufacture and distribution of anything that helped prolong meat's shelf life meant that such control lent the product in question a value which was more than its weight in gold, much much more. Saffron was probably the world's first "super commodity", though by Roman times experimentation had broadened the field. We know that when the Goths "sacked" Rome under Alaric (in inverted commas because nothing of note was taken or damaged) an important part of the ransom was a quantity of peppercorns. This was not because Alaric necessarily liked his food on the zesty side but because it was scarce, readily tradeable for a huge mark-up, and also - best of all - by acquiring the Roman reserves he effectively cornered the market for the next decade.

But Alaric was by no means the first to place a spice food preservative on his list of "wannas" after a victory. Alexander the Great also, when deciding the administration of his freshly acquired territories that included the traditional spice routes of the day, gave the responsibility for military and civic command over various trouble-spots to a mishmash of home-grown and recruited generals on his sojourn eastwards, but reserved command and administration of that route for his relatives.

The last great belligerent spice was nutmeg - a commodity that brought England and Holland to war on several occasions and which, in the end, fell under the control of the Dutch - for which privilege they bartered with England control of a certain North American island called Manhattan.

However it does make one wonder - especially given now that we only think of both as food flavourings - why we never had any great herb routes, or indeed herb wars. It seems that difficulty to procure was what was, for many millennia, the defining difference, regardless of which part of the plant might be used. An Englishman in this picture might be bemused to survey any of our spice racks at home these days:


English prisoners of the Dutch 1660s in The Spice Islands. The guys here apparently ended up being decapitated after a prisoner exchange went belly-up.
Back to top Go down
https://reshistorica.historyboard.net
Tim of Aclea
Consulatus
avatar

Posts : 330
Join date : 2011-12-31

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Mon 22 Apr 2013, 16:41

One of my cook books, of British cooking, gives what it says is a medieval recipee. It was originally for rabbit but adapted here for chicken. The chicken is marinated and cooked in red wine, red wine vinegar, raisens, dried apricts, ground ginger, cinemon, root ginger, cloves, juniper berries.

The above seems to reflect the way that British cooking at one time used spices and herbs but then seemed to lose its taste following the industrial revolution.

However, it also strikes me that only a very small % of the population would have been able to have afforded the above ingrediants.
Back to top Go down
nordmann
Nobiles Barbariæ
avatar

Posts : 5684
Join date : 2011-12-25

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Mon 22 Apr 2013, 16:47

My grandmother had a chicken dish in which the plucked chicken was quite literally hung in the safe (remember them?) for two or three days with as many cloves as the household budget allowed embedded in it. The cloves were then extracted for future use in apple tarts or whatever and the chicken roasted. It was beautiful!

But I wonder how much recycling of spices also happened. Marination for example would lend itself to the sauce being re-used time and time again in food preparation before it itself was eventually consumed.
Back to top Go down
https://reshistorica.historyboard.net
Tim of Aclea
Consulatus
avatar

Posts : 330
Join date : 2011-12-31

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Mon 22 Apr 2013, 18:58

Quote :
The last great belligerent spice was nutmeg

I have heard of people being nutmegged but never of the 'Nutmeg wars'!


Back to top Go down
nordmann
Nobiles Barbariæ
avatar

Posts : 5684
Join date : 2011-12-25

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Tue 23 Apr 2013, 09:58

In Britain that is not surprising - the war for control of the Maluccans between Britain and Holland was won quite emphatically by the Dutch and British history tends traditionally to downplay or spin such setbacks in a manner that places the country in as good a light as possible. In this conflict there was little good light at all so it became a footnote, rather than the enormous blow to capitalist expansion in Britain's favour that it was at the time. In the aftermath Britain then resorted to piracy and smuggling in the region - nutmeg was known to have been transplanted from Run Island to Ceylon in this period, though Britain then faced a problem with how to market their ill-gotten gains in a manner that would not invite Dutch reprisals which could seriously disrupt the ongoing takeover of the Indian sub-continent, Britain's "grand project" in that part of the world which was being financed privately by the same company that had had its fingers so badly burned at Dutch hands already.

In the end it was to be the post-Napoleonic War settlement that ended the issue. Britain acquired titular ownership of Dutch holdings in the East Indies for long enough to "legally" transplant nutmeg to its Asian an African colonies before relinquishing control of Dutch territories back to Holland. Overnight nutmeg lost its previously inflated economic stature and became what it is now - just another food flavouring.
Back to top Go down
https://reshistorica.historyboard.net
Tim of Aclea
Consulatus
avatar

Posts : 330
Join date : 2011-12-31

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Tue 23 Apr 2013, 13:28

Quote :
I have heard of people being nutmegged but never of the 'Nutmeg wars'!

Quote :
In Britain that is not surprising

I should explain that I am quite familier with the various Anglo-Dutch wars, but they are definately not named the 'Nutmeg wars' in Britian. How they are named in the Netherlands, Ireland or Norway I cannot say. After all I doubt if your old 'mythical' friend Hannibal Barca referred to the previous war with Rome as 'The First Punic War'.

I had an interesting debate with Paul Ryckier (apologies if I have mispelt his name) con the BBC pages oncerning which side won what is referred to here as 'The First Dutch War' .

I was amused to read, by the way, that some traders would, it is claimed, 'whittle' nutmeg out of wood!


Back to top Go down
Temperance
Virgo Vestalis Maxima
avatar

Posts : 5296
Join date : 2011-12-30

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Wed 24 Apr 2013, 06:46

What about the spice of death? Weren't spices traditionally used as part of the embalming process? Given how expensive spices were, this must have been a real luxury, affordable only if you were a very posh corpse?
Back to top Go down
Gran
Consulatus
avatar

Posts : 193
Join date : 2012-03-27
Location : Auckland New Zealand

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Wed 24 Apr 2013, 08:05

My Grandmother taught me to take a spoonful of nutmeg in a glass of water for diarrhoea it works too.

We have a problem, diarrhoea runs in the family!!!! I'll get my coat.
Back to top Go down
Temperance
Virgo Vestalis Maxima
avatar

Posts : 5296
Join date : 2011-12-30

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Wed 24 Apr 2013, 08:40

This is from a Guardian article. Not recommended - stick to rice pudding (see below):

Even without the addition of an illegal substance many foods have psychotropic qualities, some more frequently exploited than others. In 1946, prior to his conversion to Islam, Malcolm X was serving time in Charlestown prison. In the early years of his incarceration, Malcolm X, like so many other convicts of the time, found escape in the most apparently unlikely place - a penny matchbox full of nutmeg. In The Autobiography of Malcolm X he wrote: "I first got high in Charlestown on nutmeg. My cellmate … bought from kitchen worker inmates penny matchboxes full of stolen nutmeg … stirred into a glass of cold water, a penny matchbox full of nutmeg had the kick of three or four reefers."
Malcolm X isn't the only influential figure to have experimented with the spice, either. William S Burroughs, renowned writer and "psychonaut", included nutmeg in his Afterthoughts on a Deposition, making reference to its less desirable side-effects: "results are vaguely similar to marijuana with side effects of headache and nausea … I have only taken nutmeg once." Richard Rudgley, in his Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Substances, also makes reference to jazz saxophonist Charlie "Bird" Parker with relation to the spice, quoting a session musician: "Bird introduced this nutmeg to the guys. It was a cheap and legal high. You can take it in milk or Coca-Cola."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2011/sep/06/hallucinogenic-foods

It's much more sensible to use nutmeg on rice pudding - makes for a lovely brown speckled skin. Here is Delia's rice pud, a recipe which uses a *whole* nutmeg. No nasty side effects (other than the usual from excessive calorie intake) have been noted.




You can use a vanilla pod for a very creamy rice pudding, but I have no idea how such a pod should be classified.
Back to top Go down
Temperance
Virgo Vestalis Maxima
avatar

Posts : 5296
Join date : 2011-12-30

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Wed 24 Apr 2013, 18:12

I have just started a re-reading of Ann Wroe's superb book about Perkin Warbeck ("The Perfect Prince") and by sheer coincidence have come across this in chapter one. Wroe is talking about a globe made in Nuremberg in 1492 by one Martin Behaim (Martin the Bohemian), a protégé of the Emperor Maximilian. This globe showed the world as far as it was known and, Wroe tells us, "In the islands near Java and Sumatra, instead of John Mandeville's yellow-striped snakes and dog-headed men, there were neat notes on cinnamon and nutmeg."

I don't suppose anyone knows what these "neat notes" said? Wroe gives no further information.
Back to top Go down
Gran
Consulatus
avatar

Posts : 193
Join date : 2012-03-27
Location : Auckland New Zealand

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Wed 24 Apr 2013, 21:03

OMG. so that was what Granny was doing, funny, I never noticed any effects like that.
Back to top Go down
Caro
Censura
avatar

Posts : 1103
Join date : 2012-01-09

PostSubject: Re: The spice of life   Wed 24 Apr 2013, 21:12

When I was at university it was common for students to take milk with nutmeg on the understanding that it gave some sort of high. I don't suppose I ever tried it, not liking milk. But I do often think of it when I use nutmeg on anything uncooked.
Back to top Go down
 

The spice of life

View previous topic View next topic Back to top 
Page 1 of 2Go to page : 1, 2  Next

Permissions in this forum:You cannot reply to topics in this forum
Res Historica History Forum :: The history of people ... :: Sport and Pastimes-