[Sca-cooks] Intent or Interpretation

Robin Carroll-Mann rcarrollmann at gmail.com
Thu Mar 3 20:57:44 PST 2011

On Thu, Mar 3, 2011 at 11:39 PM, Deborah Hammons
<mistressaldyth at gmail.com> wrote:
> The dilemma is:  A vegetable dish calls for animal fat
> frying as the method.  If you substitute oil for a vegan version, or butter
> for those a who don't care...can you still represent it as a period dish?

I suppose it depends on the specific recipe and the culture.  In the
period cuisine I know best -- Spanish -- many vegetable recipes
suggest olive oil as a substitution for pork fat.  Olive oil is the
default for Lenten versions of Spanish recipes, and Lenten recipes
from other Christian countries use various kinds of oil.

"Although the foods that you can make for meat days are infinite, many
of them can be made in Lent, because in the chapters on those foods
where I say to blend them with meat broth, those sauces or pottages
can be thinned with salt, and oil, and water, but first you have to
give it a boil; and in this manner, it is as good as meat broth if it
is well-tempered with salt, and if the oil is very fine.  And in this
manner, many foods which are served  for meat days can be made in
Lent, and this is nothing but the custom of men to alter foods from
one thing to another."
Ruperto de Nola, Libro de Guisados (Spain, 1529)
Translation copyright Robin Carroll-Mann

Now let's look at his recipe for chopped spinach, which calls for the
vegetable to be fried in bacon fat.

"You must take spinach and clean it, and wash it very well, and give
it a brief boil with water and salt; then press it very well between
two chopping-blocks, then chop it very small.  And then gently fry it
in bacon fat; and when it is gently fried, put it in a pot on the
fire, and cook it; and cast in the pot: good broth of mutton, and of
bacon which is very fatty and good, only the flower of the pot; and if
by chance you wish it, in place of the broth, cast upon it milk of
goats or sheep, and if not, of almonds; and take the bacon, and cut it
into pieces the size of fingers, and cast them in the pot with the
spinach; and depending on what the season it is, if you wish, cast in
fresh cheese; you may do it likewise, like the abovementioned slices
of bacon; and if you put in a great deal, do not put it in until the
spinach is entirely cooked, and cast this in a little before dishing
it out; and if you wish also to cast in tender raisins which are
cooked, you can do it all around the spinach; and if you do not wish
to put in these things, neither bacon nor grated cheese of Aragon,
cast parsley and mint with it likewise; and the spinach will be

There are a lot of possible variations on this recipe: broth or milk
(animal or almond milk), pieces of bacon or not, cheese or not, etc.
There is NO mention of using oil to fry the spinach, but I believe
that the first passage I quoted gives me "permission" to do so.  I
believe I can make a Lenten version of this recipe with olive oil and
consider it period.

Brighid ni Chiarain

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