Strange things to put in your mouth
This afternoon I was on BBC Radio 4 interviewing Bob Flowerdew about Roman hangover cures. Apparently cabbage was used for the simple reason that cabbages do not like to grow in the same plot as vines... and vice versa. Therefore if wine causes hangovers surely cabbages will banish them as sure as the plants will cancel each other...
I also got to speak to The Z List Dead List quack doctor expert Caroline Rance again... and I found out about a hideous hangover cure involving drinking cold clam water. I'm towards the end of the episode but it is well worth a listen. Next week I'll be talking to Naomi Paxton about Jiu Jitsu suffragettes.
If that doesn’t make your guts churn (the clam water, not Naomi), I’ve been researching other historic recipes. Mainly because having a wicked step mother who is Muslim means I was stuck in an Xmas queue at the local Halal butchers, where I spied a cabinet of offal that peaked my curiosity. So a combination of a then upcoming New Years dinner party, some new knowledge and a daft impulse buy, it resulted in a bit of experimental cookery... There is a rather excellent website called medievalcookery.com where I found the best named recipe in history. Ladies and Gentlemen and small furry creatures: I give you Garbage!
In truth it tasted rather fine. A bit earthy maybe. Like a concentrated chicken soup. The roasted feet tasted exactly like your sunday roast chicken skin, and were salted and very addictive once you got over having someone's finger in your mouth. The boiled chicken feet were more gruesome, falling to bits and leaving you with bones on your tongue. They were very intense in flavour, not rubbery, tough or chewy. The bits of offal didn't melt in your mouth but were perfectly edible, with a bit of bite. Some of the other recipes for the same dish on the site include sage, cinnamon and ginger... which might liven things up a little. I had made a beef stew (Bokenade) too, from a similar time period (15th century) which had ginger and cinnamon and raisins and those mixed a little lifted it. Perhaps cider vinegar is not as good as sour grape juice...
The whole thing was not only fun to do was but also a tiny way to imagine how our ancestors lived... I mean not so much the cooking - but the taste. It is strange making stews without dashing a bit of Worcester Sauce or tomato paste... and eating them without potatoes... so familiar yet so alien.
It is also worth remembering that this recipe, despite its jokey name... is also a rich recipe. A pinch of saffron is rather an expensive ingredient today. In 15th Century England it would have been reserved for the rich, just as most spice including salt and pepper. I shall endeavour to make more homely meals in the upcoming weeks as well as put out a couple of Z List Dead List episodes and a Membercast lecture all about Gods... and living with them.
If you have any suggestions for recipes to try, or indeed to challenge me with - let me know by writing a comment below!