I’m not particularly “adventurous” in the kitchen, which is the unfortunate consequence of my inability to cook. To clarify, I’m not terrible at cooking, I have survived thus far (I’m 24), and I have even hosted a few successful Thanksgiving dinners in my day, but it hasn’t been easy! However, I have also prepared countless meals that have tasted so horrendous and have smelt so awful that I have had to quickly dispose of them and seek refuge at various, nearby take-out joints.
Understandably, when I was approached to participate in The Historical Cooking Project I was slightly apprehensive (mainly for the wellbeing of my fellow bloggers), but because I enjoy history and writing (and eating other people’s delicious-tasting food) I figured that I would give it a shot. Besides, practice makes perfect!
For my first contribution to the blog, I decided to take it slow and make some 1649-styled sauce for pigeons and other fowl. Unable to muster up the ferocity required to kill and pluck the innocent pigeons of Montreal, I opted to purchase pre-slaughtered chicken (definitely the more “humane” option, right?).
The recipe called for a combination of standard ingredients that were already available at my home: vinegar, mustard, onion, water, pepper, and butter.
Vinegar and mustard in the 1600s was obviously much different than the condiments we spray on our McDonalds fries today. Making vinegar, according to the author of The English Housewife, required a number heating and cooling processes, in addition to various ingredients, like ale, rye-leaven, beans, and elder flowers. For the complete set of instructions I have attached a clipping from the cookbook.
Mustard is one of the oldest condiment known. Ancient Romans used mustard seeds in some of their crude sauces. Mustard seeds have even been found in the tombs of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs. Modern day mustard – a condiment sauce made from the seed of the mustard plant in combination with water, wine, and beer – dates back to the 14th century and perhaps even earlier. The earliest reference to mustard in the Dijon region of France dates back to 1336.
In England mustard did not generate commercial activity until the 17th century. In the mid-1600’s, the town of Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire became famous for its thick horseradish mustard. Even Shakespeare referenced this famous mustard: “His wit’s as thick as Tewkesbury mustard!” (Henry IV, Part II). Brief History of Mustard
Although I heated modern day mustard and vinegar together as an experimental sauce, it wasn’t too tasty. The more conventional instruction, however, proved to be a little easier on the taste buds. Sautéed onion in water with pepper and butter was not too bad. If you are getting tired of traditional gravy packets, I actually recommend that you give this recipe a shot.
Next month I’m going to try to shake things up a bit and get out of my comfort zone with more complicated recipes. Luckily, I will have an expert to consult –- my mom! She will be visiting Montreal this April, so I will likely suck her into lending me a hand. Stay tuned as we both attempt to get our historical cooking on!
(this post was written by Lauren Degabriele)