[Sca-cooks] weird question - honey fast???

Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius adamantius1 at verizon.net
Mon Aug 11 20:21:22 PDT 2008

On Aug 11, 2008, at 10:44 PM, Antonia Calvo wrote:

> Laura C. Minnick wrote:
>> Terry Decker wrote:
>>> Aristotle, Pliny and Dioscorides refer to bees as animals, IIRC.   
>>> Their works contain a number of very solid observations and a  
>>> number of errors of interpretation.  The probability that Medieval  
>>> Europeans did not consider bees animals is rather low in my opinion.
>> I found that in most of the bestiaries, bees are grouped with  
>> birds. The bestiaries are not known for accuracy, however. ;-)
> OK, next question.  Has anyone seen any recipes or instructions in  
> period books that suggest that honey should _not_ be used in Lent?   
> I can't remember ever having seen any mention of it.

Well, that was to a great extent the gist of my original question. I'd  
been looking at the new Brears book, "Cooking and Dining In medieval  
England," and he doesn't really quote many original recipes.

So, for a very vague, general example (and one which may not be  
perfectly accurate but which still might illustrate my point), he'll  
give a modern adaptation of a recipe for Blanc Desyr, with no  
original, but which is apparently a synthesis of the many available  
period recipes for the dish (another reason why people should go out  
and get the Concordance of English Recipes). What he gives may not  
represent  a specific Blanc Desyr recipe, but it might be typical of  
the ingredients and processes of eight or nine out of the ten recipes.

He then goes on to provide, as modern cookbooks often do, variations,  
such as adding green herb juice to make Vert Desyr, or some yellow  
coloring to make anisere, etc. I question the wisdom of this approach,  
because we're now getting into the thinking of cooks like Escoffier,  
but not _necessarily_ that of cooks like Taillevent. Certainly it  
makes it very easy to learn to make several dishes, but not  
necessarily an accurate way to learn how medieval cooks thought and  
worked. Or maybe he's right and I'm wrong.

However, he lists in at least two cases dishes for which a Lenten  
variation would include sugar instead of the honey in the main recipe.  
He doesn't specifically state that honey is a Lenten no-no, but he  
does make the switch in such a way that it is implicitly associated  
with Lent.

As I believe I mentioned last evening, I had found on my own at least  
one other pair of recipes for similar dishes, with the meat-day  
version calling for honey and the other, for a fish day in the Yule  
Season (maybe a Friday during the twelve days of Christmas?), calling  
for fish and with sugar used instead of honey. Maybe the sugar is  
there because honey is forbidden (the recipe doesn't mention this  
possibility, or provide any explanation at all, in fact), or maybe  
since we're being austere in using fish instead of meat, we're  
splurging and using sugar. Who knows?

All I could do is note that there appears to be this difference in  
multiple cases, and speculate on why it is there. Inquiring minds want  
to know...

(Yes, that last cliche is probably a meaningless one to non-Americans,  
but you probably get the idea.)


"Most men worry about their own bellies, and other people's souls,  
when we all ought to worry about our own souls, and other people's  
			-- Rabbi Israel Salanter

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