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Adapting Historic Recipes?

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Poll Question: I'm interested in how recipes get adapted.
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AK1 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AK1 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 June 2012 at 20:23
You folks may enjoy this;

How to make Verjus





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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 June 2012 at 19:11

Sorry to have been MIA the past while. Had a large wholesale book order that had to get printed and delivered and have been working on getting that done.

We’ve spent quite some time, justifiably, talking about ingredients. An equally important---perhaps even more important--aspect of understanding historic recipes is language.

It’s bad enough when you have to translate a “foreign” language. Worse is when you think you’re reading English, but the words have different meanings than we’re used to. We saw this, for instance, when we discussed the recipe for mumble found in Elizabeth Smith’s The Complete Housewife. That conversations can be found here: http://www.foodsoftheworld.activeboards.net/chicken-mumble_topic1765.html

Even more familiar words can present a challenge, though. One recipe we often use as an example of this is To Roast A Fowl.

For starters, when adapting it from the 18th century version, we first had to determine what was meant by “roast.” Four or five cooking methods that we still use today were called roasting back then. For example, you could take your fowl (i.e., chicken, duck, turkey, wild bird), clean it, truss it, and tie it to a rope; then hang the rope in front of the fire. Twist up the rope until it’s knotted and let go. The fowl will rotate in front of the fire, and radiant heat will cook it on all sides, just like a rotisserie. That’s one method they would have called “roasting.”

As it turns out, for this recipe “roasting” means to cook directly over hot coals on a gridiron. What we’d call grilling today.

When cooking this way, birds usually were butterflied first. Simple enough. But in the 18th century, and beyond, they called that “spatchcocking.” The first line of the recipe instructs us to “spatchcock a large fowl.” If you don’t know what spatchcock means, however, you’re already lost. What’s more, a hundred years later, when the French codify their cuisine and cast it solidly in concrete, “spatchcock” takes on a subtly different meaning. If that’s the only definition you know, you won’t be preparing the chicken as per the 18th century manner.

And so it goes.

It’s not only techniques that are affected by language. Old time measurements---when used---can be confusing. What, exactly, is a drachm, for instance? What's more, British measurements and American measurements, although using the same words, are often different. A British gill, for example, is not the same thing as an American gill. For the record, one of them is 1/5 cup while the other is ¼ cup. Depending on ingredients being measured that could be a significant difference.

And speaking of measurements, how many of you, without looking it up, know what a scruple is?

So, the long and the short of it is simply that language can be the most important element in understanding old recipes.

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Rod Franklin View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rod Franklin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 June 2012 at 19:40
Maybe off subject, but who better to ask? What's is the oldest recipe ever recorded?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Daikon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 June 2012 at 19:46
Tiger Nut Sweets has to be in the running.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 July 2012 at 04:46
What's is the oldest recipe ever recorded?
 
I couldn't begin to even guess, Rod. And, frankly, given the number of very old extant and extinct cultures in the world, it would, IMO, be a presumptuous claim on anyone's part.
 
Of course, a lot of this depends on what you mean by "recorded" and "recipe."
 
Myself, I don't consider a picture of a finished dish or item to be a recipe. A recipe consists of a list of ingredients and instructions for their use. This can be very complex (i.e., any of our many photo tutorials) to very simple (i.e., "sprinkle with salt and cook till done"). But those two elements must be present to be a recipe.  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rod Franklin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 July 2012 at 05:30
Recorded, "Set down for preservation in writing or other permanent form."
Recipe, "A set of instructions for making or preparing something, especially a food dish."

I guess I should have written my question differently. I should have asked what is the the oldest recorded recipe you are aware of?

I've eaten something very similar to Tiger Nut Sweets many times. Very rich without being too sweet. Easy to eat too many, but something I couldn't eat every day, meaning I can get tired of them quickly, but always enjoy coming back to them.

Sorry for the thread hijack.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 July 2012 at 04:18
No apology necessary, Rod. At least not on my account. It was a legitimate question.
 
I'm aware of recipes dating to pre-biblical Mesopatamia. They're just not of much interest to me, so I couldn't tell you any details.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Karl Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 July 2012 at 16:12
http://articles.latimes.com/1985-05-23/food/fo-8362_1_ancient-recipes

Mesopotamia 1,700BC is the oldest that I could find.  Not a particular area of interest to me either though.  Still I would not mind a copy of the best translation possible of these recipes. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rod Franklin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 July 2012 at 18:28
Thanks for your efforts, the link was interesting. It might be interesting to read the translated text. It doesn't appear to be possible to recreate the recipes even if someone wanted to. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 July 2012 at 20:30
Likely not, Rod, as many of the ingredients are untranslatable and, quite possibly, no longer exist even if we knew what they were. The Roman recipes, however, have been translated and reproduced numerous times.
 
If you're interested in food history, but not ready to do the sort of research Karl and I take for granted, see if you can find a copy of The Horizon Cookbook and Illustrated History of Eating and Drinking Through The Ages.
 
It's long out of print, having been published in 1968, but I'm sure it's available on the used book  market. If you can find it, it's a nice introductory volume on various cuisines and dining cultures, from Mesapotamia through the 1920s. And it includes more than 600 recipes to help you experience those cuisines.
 
Many times, books about the foods of ancient times include recipes that are interpretations of the cuisine. While not, strictly speaking, entirely accurate, they can actually make it easier to experience the food, because the recipes use modern ingredients and methods. For example, Miriam Vamosh's Food At The Time of the Bible includes ten pages of recipes based on dishes mentioned in the Bible, even though the Bible, itself, contains no recipes. Each is preceded by a Biblical quote germane to the dish. For example:
 
Jacob's Lentil Soup
"Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew" (Gen. 25:34)
 
1 1/2 cups split red lentils
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 medium onion, cubed
2 sticks chopped celery
1 leek, chopped
1 carrot, cubed
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tbls white wine vinegar
Salt and freshly grund black pepper
1 medium onion, sliced
Olive oil
 
Put the lentils in a pot with the stock and vegetables and bring to a boil. Simmer for 30 minutes, until the lentils have disingegrated. If too thick, add water. Add cumin and vinegar and season to taste. Fry the sliced onion in the olive oil until almost caramelized and add to the soup. Serve hot with croutons.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Karl Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 July 2012 at 23:38
The Jacob's stew recipe is interesting.

These look like fun recipes (even if they do not cite their documentation): http://www.archaeology.org/online/features/food/index.html 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 July 2012 at 04:33
Karl, the link takes me to a site which says the page I'm looking for no longer exists. Cry
 
I don't think documentation is all that important for a group like FotW. If a recipe, or group of recipes, let's them experience the sorts of food eaten in a particular time/place, then that's good enough. Those who enjoy the experience are likely to go on and do further research. That's when documentation becomes important, I reckon.
 
Meanwhile, I got to thinking about how long Chinese culture has been around. Started searching, but, so far, the oldest recipe I've found claims to be 2,400 years old. Still puts Mesopotamia in the lead.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Karl Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 July 2012 at 10:11
Sorry, I am not enough of a techy to figure out why the page is not opening for you(?)  It still works for me.  Here are some of the recipes:

Turnips Stewed in Blood

Adapted from "The Oldest Cuisine in the World," Jean Bottero

[image]

Serves 6

4 turnips, peeled and quartered
1 cup onion, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon rendered chicken or lamb fat, or olive oil
2 bunches arugula
1 1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/4 cup beef blood (available at some butcher shops)
1/2 leek, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced

Place turnips, onions, and fat in stockpot and add water to just to cover. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until turnips are tender - about 40 minutes.

Drain off some of the water until there is half an inch left in the pot. Stir in the arugula and coriander; cook for a minute or so, until the arugula is wilted. Then gradually stir in the blood. The liquid in the pot will thicken. Cook another minute. Stir in minced leek and garlic, and serve.


Lamb Liquor

Adapted from "A Soup for the Qan," Paul Buell & Eugene Anderson

1 750-ml (CK) bottle vodka
1/2 pound bone-in lamb stew meat

Sear the meat on all sides in a hot skillet until well-browned. Place the meat in the bottom of a large pitcher and pour vodka over. Cover and refrigerate 2-3 days. Strain before drinking.

Questions? Visit the board!

[image] [image] [image]


OK, those are probably the two weirdest recipes there.  This one is a little more realistic sounding:

Barley Porridge

Adapted from "The Oldest Cuisine in the World," Jean Bottero

[image]

Serves 6

3 cups chicken broth
1 leek, chopped, plus 1/2 minced
1 onion, chopped, plus 1/2 minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
11/2 to 2 cups barley flour
salt to taste

Add chopped leek and onion and 2/3 of the minced garlic to broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat to moderately low and simmer 10 minutes. Season broth with salt.

Keeping the broth at a low simmer, gradually add barley, stirring all the time to avoid clumps. Cook approximately 15 minutes until the porridge is thick and does not taste of raw flour. Stir often to keep the porridge from scorching. Add more broth or water if necessary.

Combine the minced leek, onion, and the remaining garlic. When ready to serve, ladle porridge into bowls and garnish with the leek-onion-garlic mixture.




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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Karl Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 July 2012 at 10:13
The SCA is big on documentation so I am in the habit of looking for it.  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 July 2012 at 13:43
I understand the need for documentation, Karl. I just don't think it's as important for this group as it would be for a group of living historians. For this group, anything in the manner of will provide a glimpse (and, more importantly, taste) of historic foodways.
 
I'm sure anyone wanting to pursue it further, after that, will ask.  
 
Barley flour isn't all that readily available. But you can adapt pearl barley to the above recipe. Basically it means cooking it a lot longer, so that the grains break down. Or you can pulse the pearl barley in a food processor, first, then use it like the flour to make the porridge.
 
Whether documented or not, that recipe certainly has the feel of common food during the feudal periods. Porridges of all sorts were mainstays for the peasant population. The old nursary rhyme refers to that: Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold, pease porridge in the pot nine days old.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote africanmeat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 July 2012 at 14:12
Originally posted by HistoricFoodie HistoricFoodie wrote:

Karl, the link takes me to a site which says the page I'm looking for no longer exists. Cry
 
I don't think documentation is all that important for a group like FotW. If a recipe, or group of recipes, let's them experience the sorts of food eaten in a particular time/place, then that's good enough. Those who enjoy the experience are likely to go on and do further research. That's when documentation becomes important, I reckon.
 
Meanwhile, I got to thinking about how long Chinese culture has been around. Started searching, but, so far, the oldest recipe I've found claims to be 2,400 years old. Still puts Mesopotamia in the lead.
 
Try: right clik and open in a new tab it will open.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 July 2012 at 14:23

Speaking of pease porridge, here is a versions from the Custis-Lee cookery manuscript later  published as Martha Washington’s Book of Cookery.

It is a pre-1645 recipe, and demonstrates the way peasant food, even then, was turned into a more sophisticated, up-scale dish.

To Make Pease Porrage of Old Pease

Take 2 quarts of white pease, pick and wash ym cleane, yn set them on in 3 gallons of water. Keepe ym boyling & as ye water wastes, fill it up wth cold water to break ye husks, & as ye husks rise [after] it is filled up wth cold water, scum them of into a cullender into a dish to save ye liquor & pease to put into ye pot againe, then take up all ye pease & posh y wth a spoone; yn put yj in again, & when they have boyled a while, put in 2 cloves of garlic, halfe an ounce of coriander seeds beaten, some sifted pepper & some salt, an ounce of poder of dryed spearment. All these must  be ut in at ye second  boyling. Shread in 2 onions & a handful of parsley very small, & put in half a pound of fresh butter. KYn let all boyle together for a quarter of an houre. Yn serve ym up with bread & bits of fresh butter put in ym. & If you love it, put in a little elder vinegar.

There are several interesting points for anyone wishing to make this dish.

First, the typographically use of a Y followed by superscript letters is considered, by many modern calligraphers, to be an error. Be that as it may, it’s quite common, and should be read as the dipthong “th” followed by the superscript letters. Thus Yem for example should be pronounced “them.”

Authorities differ as to the meaning of white pease. Some maintain it merely refers to old, dry peas, while others insist it refers to a different strain which are white or gray when mature. There’s something to be said for that argument, as both the Dutch and English were great pea breeders, and produced varieties that were yellow, gray, and even blue.

You can use split yellow or green peas for this, and not worry about having to clear the husks.

Next, note the rather heavy use of butter rather than the more usual fat pork or salt pork. This is typical of how upscale Colonial kitchens turned plebian foods into gourmet dishes.

The same cookery manuscript includes a recipe to Make Green Pease Porrage, that is, a porrage made from fresh peas. It’s interesting in that it uses flour as a binding agent, which is a holdover from medieval days.

I’ll post that recipe if anyone’s interested.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 July 2012 at 04:58
Thanks for the tip, Ahron.
 
Unfortunately, it didn't work. The same thing happened: I go to the Archeology Magazine website, where an error message appears saying the page I'm looking for has been discontinued or is missing.
 
Alas.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 July 2012 at 05:02
Question for those who've been participating:
 
Karl and I have been discussing documentation, as you know. For us it's an important aspect of what we do. I've said that I don't believe it to be a priority with this group, however, that what's important is introducing y'all to the flavors and techniques of historic foodways.
 
What I'm wondering is this: Am I right? Or am I presuming too much? I'd appreciate hearing just how deeply everyone's interest goes.
 
Thanks!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rod Franklin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 July 2012 at 09:00
Well, I'm not sure how to respond. I don't want to make this an open policy meeting, and I believe these issues should be brought to the founders via private messaging. But, I'm sure they have seen this thread and know what is happening in it.

This site is by definition about the Foods of the World series of books, and therefore, originally, limits itself.

I am as guilty as any of breaking out of that limitation. In my opinion, in many positive ways, this forum has gone beyond that original limitation. It has evolved into what it is today and will change as it progresses into the future.
 
On one hand, I want to see input from those people out there with real experience in very regional foods, and lots of pictures. Smile

On the other hand, I am an information oriented kind of guy, so details are always good, and adding the level of background detail to certain parts of this site can only make it a more rounded place for anyone stopping by to experience, and I'm all for it. I believe, if the kind of information HistoricFoodie and Karl and others can provide is placed here in the forum, then as people who are interested in such things search the internet for this type of information they will end up here and maybe stay awhile and ultimately make this a better, more comprehensive place.

So, I don't think it's about how much I care about your research and your sharing it here, than it is about whether the founders want to take a part of the forum in that direction to expand and enrich it.




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