Tuesday 8 May 2012

'Fricases and quelquechoses' - or, a little bit of what you fancy!

In April the library had a visit from the Hairy Bikers, food and cookery stars on the BBC http://www.hairybikers.com/. It could be thought that the Hairy Bikers and Chawton House Library might be mutually exclusive but they came to see some of our extensive cookery book collection, and film on-site. Their focus was on egg recipes and they made a huge omelette with lobster. Their recipe was from 1842 but a variant of the same recipe is to be found in Gervase Markham's book of 1656, The English Hous-wife, in the section on 'Fricases and quelquechoses'. The 'collops' added to an a 'fricase' of eggs can be of cooked meat or fish - like the lobster added by the Hairy Bikers.

In contrast to modern cookery books none of the early cookery, or 'receipt', books in the collection have sections devoted to egg recipes but eggs are used in quantity throughout: a cake recipe can start with the instruction to take 24 eggs! The recipes I found in researching egg recipes included: fritters, egg 'pye', and Portuguese eggs. It was also noticeable that the name 'omelette' for a dish of this sort came into regular use as the preferred term in the 1820s. From the French, and maybe, once regular travel was established again after the Napoleonic Wars to call it an omelette was far more stylish than fricase.

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