[Sca-cooks] Blancmange

Terry Decker t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net
Tue Jul 3 16:22:39 PDT 2007

>    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?

Literally, cibrium album is "food white," so "white food" or "white dish." 
To my knowledge, Apicius doesn't use the term, but I think you will find it 
used in Platina and that it is Platina, who references Apicius.  The closest 
thing I've found in Apicius to blancmange is Apothermum sic facies (Apicius 
II. II. 10) which is a gruel/porridge/pudding of spelt grits that is 
bleached white in the preparation.  It is not a traditional blancmange, 
which use rice and sugar (or, in the case of the French, gelatin and almond 
milk), but it might be an interesting precursor.

>    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. 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.
>    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?

The basic ingredients, rice and sugar, were being cultivated in the Middle 
East by 400 BCE, so there is a strong probability that the ancestor of 
blancmange came West with rice and sugar.  The evidence of the lineage of 
blancmange is inconclusive.

>        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.

As a grain dish, blancmange can be served from near liquid to almost solid, 
thus gruel/porridge/pudding.  The version made with almond milk and gelatin 
was probably served as a soft solid like Jello, while Martino's Blancmange 
in the Catalan Style was a thick liquid intended to be served as a sweet 

>    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

I couldn't locate the quote, however; the recipes in the Sent Sovi were 
collected at the time the manuscript was written.  The recipes were most 
likely being used before they were collected, but we have no way to 
determine how much earlier they were being used.  In this case, the recipe 
is probably being casually tied to the Arab invasion of Iberia in 711 and 
the commonly accepted opinion that they brought rice and sugar to the 


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