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Friday, December 28, 2007

Consider the Neats' Tongues

Instead of going to the MLA this year, I appear to have gone directly to the Renaissance – culinarily, at least. I’m in a place (and time) where the eating is right out of Eastcheap. Yes, I’m talking about “puddings,” and about strange meats, and then more strange meats, and more puddings, and generally the richest, heaviest, sauciest food you could possibly imagine. All of which is currently weighing on me in various ways, and has led me to spend some time – with my currently fast ticket for the infotainment superhighway – contemplating Renaissance eating, and specifically the menu offered us by the Mario Batali of the seventeenth century, Charles I’s former chef, Joseph Cooper.

Perhaps we can all while away a few moments while our conference bloggers blog the conferences, by considering a few items culled from Mr. Cooper’s cookbook, handily titled:

The art of cookery refin'd and augmented containing an abstract of some rare and rich unpublished receipts of cookery collected from the practise of that incomparable master of these arts, Mr. Jos. Cooper, chiefe cook to the late king ; with severall other practises by the author ; with an addition of preserves, conserves, &c., offering an infallible delight to all judicious readers (London, 1654)

Indeed. An “infallible delight” randomly chosen by this judicious reader proposes something called “Olave pie,” regarding which Mr. Cooper suggests that we:

Slice the flesh of a leg of Veal into thin slices the breadth of foure fingers, and hack them with the back of a cleaver; then take sixe ounces of Beefe-suet minced small, then take Thyme, Sweet-marjerome, Winter-savory and Capers: mince them small and season it with Mace, Cloves, Nutmeg, Cynamon, Pepper and Salt; then take a quart of great Oysters, drein them from the liquor and roul them in the ingredients, and take the slices of Veal and roule them up with the ingredients in them, with two Oysters in either of the Olaves; then lay them into the Pie with good store of Butter over and under; but before you butter the top, lay in·five or six hard yolks of Eggs, some bits of Bacon and Sausage made up into balls, with sliced Lemmon: the rest of the Oysters and Ingredients on the top of the Pie; then lid it and let it bake; and when the Pie is halfe baked, put in a quarter of a pinte of Claret wine and let it bake; then make a Lear or Sauce for it with Claret wine· one Onion or two, the liquor of Oysters, 2 Anchoves, letting it boyl a little: take out the Onions, and beat it up with the juice of a Lemmon and Butter; when it is baked put in this Leare; shake it well together and serve it up hot to the Table.

I find that amazing -- amazing enough, in fact, to quote to you in its entirety. Veal, beef-suet, oysters, bacon, sausage, and anchovies: six great tastes that ... taste great together?

Another page, telling us “How to make an Oxe Palate pie,” begins:

Boyle the Palates tender, and blanch them as you doe Neates tongues,

-- naturally – and then continues:
lay them in their owne liquor without Salt; then take them out and cut them in pieces, and put to them Sweet breads of Veale or Lamb, squab Pigeons full of Marrow, Lambs stones, Cocks combs and stones, Pine-kernels, Chesnuts, Oysters and some small Capers, with a good quantity of Marrow, with balls of farced meat minced very small ...

Nicely done, Mr. Cooper. Who doesn't like balls of farced meat minced very small? Not to mention the delightful combination of ox palates, sweetbreads, squab, and -- "stones"? Dare I ask...? Oh -- and of course some oysters and some marrow. Just to thicken it up a little, give it some heft.

But Mr. Cooper isn't going to leave it at that: oh no. After a little seasoning, we find ourselves baking the pie in butter and making a sauce for it,

with halfe a pinte of Gravie of Mutton, or more, the yolks of four raw Eggs, some White wine, one or two Anchoves, a little Grape, Verjuice, or juice of Lemmon.

For a moment, I was terrified he was going to leave out the anchovies.

Mr. Cooper’s pancakes aren’t much lighter: that recipe begins, “Take twenty Eggs.” And it culminates with this fine observation:

If you are loose in the body you may make a Pancake of nothing but Eggs and Cynamon, and Salt beat well together; you may put in some Anniseeds (if you please) it will expel wind, and take away the raw taste of the Egs, or strow Carraway-comfits on it, being baked.

Could anyone could eat this stuff and not feel a little “loose in the body”?

  • At 12/29/2007 01:06:00 AM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    Mmm... sounds kind of like the dinner I just had.

    This is effing hilarious, Inkhorn.


  • At 12/29/2007 04:16:00 AM, Blogger Inkhorn wrote…

    You can't leave Chicago without trying the neats' tongue and oyster pizza. It's a local specialty.


  • At 12/29/2007 03:23:00 PM, Blogger Greenwit wrote…

    Wonder if Charles ever just asked for, like, a grilled cheese sandwich or something.

    Of course, Cooper's recipe would probably call for whisking fourteen lark's breasts together with twenty wheels of melted stilton, pour mixture on back of young doe... etc.


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