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In last week's article I wrote about the English and their food as it existed through the ages. There are those, particularly the French, who scoff and snigger at the mere mention of English cuisine.
Boring, insipid and bland are only a few of the unkind adjectives levelled against English fare. Let's not forget that it was English food that fueled the British to defeat Napoleon.
However, that was in the past and anyone with working taste buds who has travelled around Britain usually talks about the delicious fare served in pubs and country inns, not to mention some of  the finer restaurants.
But, back in the middle ages the common folk, including the French, were no strangers to the gnawing pains of hunger.
As usual, Royalty and the aristocracy in both camps ate exceedingly well. Not much has changed in that respect over the centuries.
Don't believe for a moment that snails and frogs were an instant gourmet triumph, because they weren't. Acute hunger motivates man to sink his teeth into any creature that moves.  As frogs and snails don't bite back they were easy prey and when drowned in a robust garlic butter they taste pretty good. Good enough to feature on the best and most expensive menus in the modern world.

The French began to eat frog legs during the Hundred Years War with England as ordinary people simply had nothing to eat except frogs, snails and onion soup. It was only in the 16th century that frog legs became a delicacy. 


It is worthy of note that Frogs Legs and the Invention of the battery play hand in hand. I place this here to amuse you and provide some interesting background. 

The connection between frogs' legs and the invention of the battery lies in the work of Luigi Galvani, an Italian physician and physicist, and Alessandro Volta, an Italian physicist. In the late 18th century, Galvani conducted experiments involving the stimulation of frog muscles with electric currents, which led to the discovery of bioelectrical phenomena.

Galvani observed that when he touched the muscles of dissected frog legs with different metals, such as brass or iron, the legs twitched as if they had been stimulated by an electrical impulse. He concluded that this phenomenon, known as "animal electricity," was intrinsic to living organisms.

Volta, on the other hand, disagreed with Galvani's interpretation. He believed that the electricity was not generated by the frog tissue itself but rather by the contact between two different metals and the frog tissue, creating an electrical circuit. To test his hypothesis, Volta developed the voltaic pile, commonly known as the voltaic battery, in 1800.

The voltaic pile consisted of alternating discs of two different metals, such as zinc and copper, separated by pieces of cardboard soaked in an electrolyte solution, such as saltwater or sulfuric acid. When connected by a conductive wire, the voltaic pile produced a continuous electrical current. This invention marked the birth of the modern battery.

Volta's voltaic pile demonstrated that electricity could be produced through chemical reactions, rather than solely by living organisms. Although Volta's work refuted Galvani's theory of animal electricity, their collaborative efforts contributed significantly to the understanding of electricity and the development of electrochemical cells, laying the foundation for modern battery technology.


While  European cooks of the 1500s were busy inventing rich sauces, Elizabeth l was trying to con the English into eating more fish. Elizabeth was in dire need of more ships and sailors to fight her wars and thought that raising the consumption of fish by legislating Wednesdays and Saturdays in addition to Fridays as official fish eating days her goals would be met. Of course, it didn't fly. 
Art, food, love and language are not matters to be legislated. 
As France discovered when they tried to legislate the use of French. 

Those who mixed English words with French, called “Franglaise" in print or radio or television copped a fine of $5,000. That was not in the distant past but in the 1980s. Languages that refuse to absorb foreign words go the way of the DoDo. Latin, for example.
Referring to food, oddly enough, so many of the spices used in modern day cooking that we love so much were utilised in medieval times. The main difference of application was the type of spice and the quantity used in various dishes. Powdered ginger, cinnamon and cloves were used extensively, particularly in meat dishes. Apples were boiled with saffron until soft and served with pork. 
You could not afford the price of Safran today. Almond milk was used in a majority of dishes as was verjuice, a tart liquid from unripe grapes, apples and gooseberries. Without almond milk and verjuice medieval cooking can't begin to inform the partaker of the flavours of  the period. You can buy verjuice in specialty shops.
In 1629 kitchen gardens were all  the rage. 
John Parkinson 224x300 
Apothecary, John Parkinson, wrote a book on how to grow vegetables such as: beetroot, endive, asparagus, carrots, parsnips, turnips, cabbage, radishes, spinach, peas,  potatoes, beans, artichokes, cucumbers, pumpkins and various melons. As you can see, nothing much has changed in the way of vegetables since those times. 
Covent  Garden was built in 1630 as a marketplace to sell such produce.

1960's documentary 

Meanwhile, for a taste of antiquity you might like to try your hand at this recipe which was standard fare on a middle-class dining table of the 1790s.


Cheshire Pork Pie
750grs. boneless pork
2 granny smith apples
1 tbs. brown sugar
1 1/2 cups white wine
2 tbs butter
pinch nutmeg, salt and pepper
500grs. prepared pastry
Slice pork thinly. Peel, core and slice apples. In a baking dish layer pork and apples while sprinkling sugar, nutmeg, pepper and salt in between. Dot with butter,  cover with rolled pastry,  brush with milk and bake at 180°c about 50 mins. 
Wash the lot down with cheap plonk.
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