[Sca-cooks] Obleys and Wafers

Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius adamantius1 at verizon.net
Fri Jun 15 22:37:14 PDT 2007

On Jun 15, 2007, at 10:46 PM, Suey wrote:

>> Adamantius wrote:
>> Generally speaking, they're similar. It can become confusing when
>> either term is borrowed from one language into another, or when a
>> translator decides for whatever reason to use one term or the other.
> Right oh, the Spanish translation of obleys today would be  
> "barquillos"
> in my book. People are surprised at that as they are round when I tell
> them that. I explain,  no they are no more than rolled "obleas". They
> reply ok like if say so. . . but then I have never met a Spanish
> authority in cookery.

It is sometimes very easy to fall into a logical trap which says that  
when two things have certain common characteristics, they are the  
same thing. Remember our  ...animated... discussion of hamburgers,  
where I was trying to explain that two different foods can have some  
characteristics in common, and a translator can even assign the same  
name to the two items even if it was not originally intended they be  
identified as the same thing: this is often a matter of convenience  
for the translator or author, and to be honest, not all manuscript  
scholars know very much about food, so it's easy to fall into these  
little traps. I don't know enough about oubleys to say if they're a  
type of wafer; maybe wafers are a type of oubley, or tey are two  
different types of some unidentified third item.

>>  . . .sometimes obleys/oubleys refers to a
>> form of offertory or sacrificial cake (I think this is from a Greek
>> word denoting exactly such a cake), that could be offered to a god on
>> an altar (presumably burnt) or to the god's priests to eat.
> Ok sounds logical does anyone happen to have the Greek around my  
> little
> Websters does not even have the word? Nor can I find the etymology for
> it online.

Heh. You're going to laugh. At the moment the best I can do is give  
you what The Larousse Gastronomique says. Not the best information,  
perhaps, but a start, maybe:

> Oublie
> A small flat or cornet‑shaped wafer, wide ly enjoyed in France in  
> the Middle Ages, but whose origins go even further back in time.  
> Oublies, which were perhaps the first cakes in the history of  
> cooking, are the ancestors of waffles. They were usual ly made from  
> a rather thick waffle batter and were cooked in flat round finely  
> pat terned iron moulds. Some authorities consider that the name  
> comes from the Greek obelios, meaning a cake cooked be tween two  
> iron plates and sold for an obol; others that it comes from the  
> Latin oblata  (offering), which also means an unconsecrated host.
> In the Middle Ages, oublies were made by the oubloyeurs (or  
> oublieux), whose guild was incorporated in 1270. They made and sold  
> their wares in the open street, setting up stalls at fairs and in  
> the open space in front of churches on feast days. It was said that  
> the most celebrated oublies were those from Lyon, where ap parently  
> they were rolled into cornets af ter being cooked. The oubloyeurs  
> would put them one inside the other and sell them in fives, called  
> a main d'oublies. Often they would play dice for them with their  
> customers or draw lots for them on a 'Wheel of Fortune', which was  
> in fact the cover of the large pannier ‑ or coffin – in which  
> they carried their wares. By the 16th century most of the Parisian  
> pas trycooks were established in the Rue des Oubloyers in the Cité;  
> by night and day the apprentices would set out laden with their  
> panniers full of nieules  (round flat  cakes), échaudés (a sort of  
> brioche). oublies, and other small cakes, crying "Voila le plaisir,  
> mesdames!'' (“Here's pleasure, ladies!''), which led to oublies  
> being given the popular name of plaisirs. The last of these pedlars  
> disappeared after World War I.
> oublies a la parisienne
> Put 250 g (9 oz, 2 1/4 cups) sifted flour, 150 g (5 oz, 2/3 cup)  
> sugar, 2 eggs, and a little orange flower water or lemon juice into  
> a bowl. Work together until everything is well mixed, then  
> gradually add 6‑7 dl (1 pint, 2 cups) milk, 65 g (2 1/2 oz, 5  
> tablespoons) melted butter, and the grated rind of a lemon. Heat  
> the oublie iron and grease it evenly; pour in 1 tablespoon batter  
> and cook over a high heat, turning the iron over halfway through.  
> Peel the wafer off the iron and either roll it into a cornet around  
> a wooden cone or leave it flat.
Again, I can't vouch for the accuracy of any of this, I can only  
report what it says. This is the 1985 American edition, edited by  
Jennifer Harvey Lang.

>> obley also refers to the Christian communion bread, which is also
>> often, but not always, a wafer.. .I'm not certain that obleys are
>> always cooked between two irons, while wafers pretty much are
>     I was waiting for you to answer that one cause I read your article
> on internet! I found another definition which says obleys "are a  
> type of
> wafer" because it goes on to say they can be baked instead of  
> cooked in
> irons. Nola bakes his. Sent Sovi does not explain it just includes  
> them
> in a couple of recipes calling for them.
>     Assuming that is a more precise way to explain this item I am
> researching wafers as best I can. Now I can't find details on the
> English waferys but good castles and palaces had them in the Middle  
> Ages
> had them which consisted of a department of wafers as staff and a room
> apart from the kitchen.  I think it was in Westiminster Palace  
> where the
> wafery was on the other side of the hall from the kitchen. Would that
> indicate that there was no chimney there so irons had to be used? How
> English were waffers cooked? We certainly have so many tons of  
> wafers in
> Westminster and on the London streets in Edward IV's time that they  
> are
> supposed to be the blame of Edward IV's weight gain during his second
> term as king.

As far as I can tell, there are some early French and English  
references to both oubleys and wafers (I think there are wafer  
recipes in either Taillevent or Le Menagier, but I'm not in a  
position to check that right now), and there's a reference to wafers  
in both The Forme of Cury (and also Chiquart's Du Fait de Cuisine) as  
an ingredient in other dishes: FoC calls for them (or wide pasta  
losenges) as a substrate for a hare stew, and Chiquart as an  
ingredient in his tourtes parmerienne, to separate the layers of pie  
filling. I _believe_ the first written English recipe may be this one  
from Harleian 279, later published in Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery- 

> .xxiiij. Waffres.--Take þe Wombe of A luce, & seþe here wyl, & do  
> it on a morter, & tender chese þer-to, grynde hem y-fere; þan take  
> flowre an whyte of Eyroun & bete to-gedere, þen take Sugre an  
> pouder of Gyngere, & do al to-gederys, & loke þat þin Eyroun ben  
> hote, & ley þer-on of þin paste, & þan make þin waffrys, & serue  
> yn.
You're taking some not-well-specified internal organ of a pike,  
probably the stomach or swim bladder, I suspect, rather than the hard  
roe or ovaries of the female, boiling and pounding them -- I suspect  
for the gelatin content -- adding soft cheese, flour, egg whites,  
sugar and powdered ginger, and making a thick batter, which you then  
bake between hot irons. Note that the spelling of eyroun, meaning  
eggs, and eyroun, meaning irons, is identical here. I don't recall  
seeing that elsewhere.

Incidentally, folks, on a tangential note: since I've once or twice  
been asked the question, "what exactly is that Concordance of English  
Recipes by Constance Hieatt, Johnna Holloway, et al, good for," I can  
state that this is what it's good for: finding out where (as in what  
source) recipes for various English medieval dishes come from. It is,  
in part, an index to every English medieval cookbook we know about.  
You still need the sources, but it's an extremely valuable  
navigational tool.

Suey, if you read an article by me on wafers (did I write an article  
on wafers???), I'm guessing you saw mention of my favorite English  
period wafer recipe, which is from Gervase Markham's The English Hus- 
Wife. It's somewhat later in period than some others, but still quite  
recognizably a wafer.

Well, a little disorganized, but hopefully, this helps.


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