[Sca-cooks] Blancmange

Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius adamantius1 at verizon.net
Tue Jul 3 15:16:04 PDT 2007

On Jul 3, 2007, at 5:04 PM, Suey wrote:

>     Constance Hieatt and Sharon Butler in their edition of Curye on
> Inglysch state in their Index and Glossary that: . . medieval English
> dishes which bears some resemblance to a recipe of Apicius - Cibrium
> Album mentioned in the Cibria Alba recipe of HV. . .     Does anyone
> know what Apicius recipe they are talking about?

Off the top of my head, it doesn't sound familiar, but I doubt any  
strong claim is being made that one is a direct linear descendant of  
the other.

>     Then they go on to state that they believe blancmange is of Arab,
> possibly of Syrian origin but left it open for experts in that  
> field to
> explain that one.

Actually, I'm not sure they're saying that at all. What they are  
doing is lumping together all dishes whose names begin with "blank",  
and addressing the question of what that might man in the various  
usages. Their allusion to being of Arabic origin is perhaps partially  
due to the fact that appearances of white almond-and-rice-based  
dishes seem to really take off after the First Crusade. The reference  
to a possible Syrian origin is, as I recall, just an attempt to  
explain the name of one of the dishes, Blanc Desyre.

Certainly almonds and rice are more closely associated with the  
cuisines of the MidEast and Spain (these being more native to those  
parts of the world) than with that of England, unless some agent like  
opening trade routes or wholesale travel (such as the Crusades)  
changes that.

> Perry devotes an entire chapter to: Isfidhabaj (which
> is Persian), Blancmanger and Almonds in the Medieval Arab Cookery. He
> finds no evidence that blancmange is a descendant of Isfidhabaj.

It may simply be an attempt on the part of non-cooks to recreate some  
of the flavors they encountered in the Middle East, with perhaps an  
incomplete understanding of those cuisines. Think of some of the  
dishes produced in 19th and early 20th-century England under the name  
of "curry". Not much like what these guys ate in India, but to them,  
it was evocative. Perhaps blankmanger is an earlier example of a  
similar phenomenon.

>     Has anyone traced blancmange back to an Arab dish? Ana L.  
> Valdes in
> Stefan's blancmange msg:
> http://www.florilegium.org/files/FOOD/blancmange-msg.html states  
> she has
> traced it to the Arabs. Then it came to Spain and after that to other
> countries. How so?
>         Is this in reference to mehallaiyyah or mehalabeya? I do not
> think of medieval blancmange as a pudding but as a pottage and I don't
> see it becoming a dessert until the 17th Century.

Well, what _does_ become a dessert prior to the 17th century, unless  
perhaps you mean wafers, confits and hippocras? ;-)

>     Further there is a statement at:
> http://european.hetto.org/european-food/25.html that Catalan recipe
> similar to blancmange in the 8th C. Is there any validity to that?  
> Or is
> Sent Sovi older than we think?
> Suey

It may be simply be the natural result of the "natural history" of  
the region. If things like sugar and almonds appear more commonly  
earlier than they do in the rest of Western Europe, it's not that  
much of a stretch. It's conceivable that the exposure of the people  
of that region to foods that we normally associate with the Mideast  
and North Africa might come a lot earlier than it would have to  
England, Northern France and Germany, who did not experience that  
great wave of Islamic influence at that time.


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