[Sca-cooks] Cubebs

Huette von Ahrens ahrenshav at yahoo.com
Sat Aug 26 03:07:31 PDT 2006

This is what Cindy Renfrow has in her online culinary glossary:

Duke's Powder, POLUORA DE DUQUE , pouldre de duc = A spice mixture. 

    "Barbara Santich suggests that this recipe title is a misnomer, and an indication of Italian
influence on Catalan cooking. A very similar blend of spices minus the sugar -- is found in an
anonymous Venetian cookbook of the late 15th century. It is called specie dolce, "sweet spices".
Several recipes in that cookbook call for dishes to be topped with sugar and unspecified spices
before serving. Santich theorizes that specie dolce was the spice blend which was sprinkled with
the sugar. The Italian name specie dolce, "sweet spices", may have been mangled in translation to
become the Catalan polvora de duch, "powder of the duke". The Libre del Coch has a second recipe
for this spice mix, De altra polvora de duch, which contains 2 oz. ginger, 1/2 drachm galingale, 1
oz. cinnamon, 1 oz. long pepper, 1 oz. grains of paradise, 1 oz. nutmeg, 1/4 oz. fine sugar. The
Libre de Sent Sovi gives yet another recipe: 1 pound sugar; 1/2 oz. cinnamon; 3/4 oz. ginger; 1/4
oz. total of cloves, nutmeg, galingale, and cardamon.  Santich's point is that the recipe in the
1529 Nola is closer to the Italian tradition than to its Catalan predecessors.  She does not
mean... that the anonymous Venetian is the first appearance of this recipe. Santich goes on to
discuss other similarities in Nola to Italian recipes.  So, if I dare summarize her reasoning:
this spice blend is similar to the Italian version; its name may be a corruption of the Italian
    Perhaps *all* such blends were originally "sweet powder", or perhaps there were two different
blends (duc/dolce), each with its many variations.  To confuse matters further, the Menagier's
blend is for making Hypocras.  Nola has a different blend entirely for that purpose, and uses
"Duke's Powder" in cooking." (Carroll-Mann) 

    "Nicole Crosley-Holland in Living and Dining in Medieval Paris which is an examination of Le
Menagier de Paris says that "pouldre de duc" "comes from the Catalan treatise Sent Sovi; polvora
de duch, or powder of sweetness according to Thibaut-Comelade (262, 121) who gives the components:
fine sugar, ginger, cinnamon, pepper, clove, mace, nutmeg and saffron. ...The Menagier probably
heard of this powder when he served in Languedoc and transcribed as duc the sound duch."
[pages159-160] (Holloway) 

(Le Menagier de Paris, c. 1393, found in Goodman of Paris, E. Power, tr., 1928) - Hippocras..."And
note that the powder and the sugar mixed together is [hight] the Duke's powder."  Pichon's edition
says: "...Et nota que la pouldre et le succre meslés ensemble, font pouldre de duc." Le Menagier's
spice mixture calls for 1 quarter of very fine cinnamon, 1/2 quarter fine flour of cinnamon, 1
ounce fine white string ginger (gingembre de mesche), 1 ounce grains of paradise, 1/6 [ounce?]
nutmegs and galingale mixed together. His Duke's Powder consists of 1/2 ounce of this mixture
added to 2 quarters of sugar. 
The Brereton and Ferrier translation of Le Menagier de Paris contains the following notes: 
"au gros pois i.e. the Parisian weight as distinct from that of Beziers, Carcassonne, and
Montpellier. The pound in the south of France was equivalent to 
only 13 ounces.  (NOTES p.329 ) 
RE Pouldre fine ... et faictes pouldre. They also question the Pichon suggestion that 4
[superscript 0] means un quarteron is weakened by the fact that the usual abbreviation is iiii
[supercript on]. "(NOTES p. 329) (Holloway) 
(de Nola, 1525 edition) - "POLUORA DE DUQUE -- Duke's Powder - Cinnamon, half an ounce; ginger,
half an ounce; cloves, one eighth; sugar, one pound; all this well ground and strained through a
hair sieve so that it should be quite delicate and subtle, or at least just like the one for the
(de Nola, 1525 edition) - "POLUORA DE DUQUE DE OTRA MANERA - Duke's Powder in another manner -
White ginger, two ounces; galangal, one eighth of an ounce; cinnamon, one ounce; long pepper, one
ounce; grains of paradise, one ounce; nutmeg, one ounce; fine sugar, one pound; all this should be
well ground and strained through a delicate hair sieve." 
(de Nola1529 edition) -"POLVORA DE DUQUE - Duke's Powder - Half an ounce of cinnamon; an eighth of
cloves; and for the lords cast in nothing but cinnamon, and a pound of sugar; if you wish to make
it sharp in flavor and [good] for pains in the stomach, cast in a little ginger." (Carroll-Mann) 
Slightly different translation: (de Nola,  1529 edition) - "Polvora Duque (Duke's Powder) Cinnamon
half an ounce; cloves half a quarter; and for lords only add cinnamon ["y para los senores, no se
echa sino sola canela"], and a pound of sugar; if you wish it to have a sharp taste and make it
good for passions of the stomach add a little ginger." 
ANALYSIS of de Nola's phrase: "y para los senores, no se echa sino sola canela" 
"This appears in the Logrono editions (Castillian translations), but not in the first edition of
Nola (1520, published in Catalan). Neither recipe in the first edition gives an instruction like
this, just the measure of the ingredients and brief instructions on mixing them up. So, this class
distinction is something introduced by the Aragonese mayor of Logrono, in his translation. Where
he got it, I don't know. I suspect the wide variation in recipes for this powder is at least as
much a matter of preference as it is a matter of economics. I would caution against
over-interpreting this through the filter of political power. Yes, it was conspicuous consumption,
but I think it was food, first. For REALLY conspicuous consumption, look at the recipes for Fine
Spice powder (Salsa ffina), which called for a half-pound of saffron in a pound of powder... 

The earliest reference to Duke's Powder I have found in the Iberian cuisine is the Barcelona copy
of the Libre de Sent Sovi (Biblioteca Universitat de Barcelona MS 68, ca. 1450). It also gives no
indication of a class distinction in the composition of the powder. That recipe follows. I am not
as convinced as Dr. Santich that this powder is of Italian origin. The Aragonese/Catalan empire
had tremendous influence on the Italian cuisine of the 15th century, and the culinary influences
flowed both ways. The Italian influence may be over-rated, and as much a product of academic bias
as of fact. 

(Libre de Sent Sovi , ca. 1450) - "Si vols ffer polvora de duch que sa ffina se ffa axi per una
liura Primerament tu pendras una liura de sucre blanch Canella mige hunsa que sia ffina Gingebre
que sia bo un quart e mig Giroffle nous noscades garangal cardemom entre tot un quart E tot aso
picaras E pessar ho as per sadas."

Translation (the punctuation is mine): If you wish to make Duke's Powder that will be fine, it is
made in this way for one pound. First you will take one pound of white sugar, Cinnamon half ounce
that will be fine, Ginger that will be good one quarter [ounce] and a half [so, three quarters of
an ounce], Cloves, nutmeg, galingale, cardamom between all one quarter [I interpret this as "of
each" because a 16th of an ounce of any of these spices in a pound of powder would hardly be
detectable and thus would serve neither palate nor politics]. And all this you will pound. And you
have to pass it through [a] sieve." (McDonald)


--- Volker Bach <carlton_bach at yahoo.de> wrote:

> Am Samstag, 26. August 2006 03:50 schrieb Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius:
> >
> > Duke's Powder is a phrase used in somebody's (Powers'?) translation
> > of Le Menagier, in a translated hippocras recipe. As I recall, it
> > refers to the weighed-out spice mixture being mixed with a specific
> > amount of sugar and then with wine to make the hippocras, but it also
> > says, according to the translator, that the spice-and-sugar mixture
> > is called The Duke's Powder.
> >
> > Of course, some have argued that this should be translated as Powder
> > Douce, or simply Sweetened Powder, and that it really has no relation
> > to anyone of Ducal rank.
> I wonder. IIRC the spelling is 'pouldre de duc', and Jeanne Bourin (admittedly 
> not a noted authority on linguistics, but a native speaker with some 
> experience in reading medieval texts) also believes that this refers to a 
> duke, not to sweetness. 
> Does anyone know how other recipes for poudre douce compare?
> Giano
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