Quality of spices, Alimentary associations, Spices & social classes, Sauces & Tastes, Sauces & Family Names, Sauces today, Recipe 1
In the past, people thought that digestion was a cooking of food in the stomach. Thus they gave a special nature to each food : hot, temperate or cold, depending on its taste : acrid, bitter, salty, fatty, sweet, bland, sour or acid, harsh or sharp.
Spices were used to help to « cook » food in the stomach.
Quality of spices Spices were chosen depending on their properties and their degrees of heat. Pepper was 4° hot, cardamom 3°, cinnamon 2°. Ordinary spices used the same classification, garlic and mustard 4°, parsley 3°, mint 2°. But people thought that exotic spices were more effective because they were grown under sunnier skies.
Alimentary associations Diets from past centuries were part of a healthy way of life, and food was one of the elements. How to prepare food – how to cook, with which spice to cook – was dependent on exact rules. For example, beef was thought to be dry, so it had to be boiled to become moist. It was also considered coarse and cold, so it had to be eaten with a hot sauce, like a pepper sauce with saffron or a white sauce with garlic, to make it hotter and less coarse. The crane, cold and dry, was « heated » with cloves, salt and pepper, and served on aristocratic tables.
Spices and social classes What dishes contain reveal the social class of the diner, so we don’t find the same spices in the same dishes.
Extremes seemed to be dangerous and some people thought that such spices were only good for peasants. Pepper, for example, 4°, was no longer used by the cooks of the aristocrats of the 14th century. Instead, they used long pepper, 3°, mixed with other spices that were milder.
Sauces and tastes Seasoning in the Middle Ages, for those of « High taste » became, little by little, less sugared and parfumed. By the 17th century, the fashion was, as in the « nouvelle cuisine » of the seventies in France, to find the real taste, the natural taste of food, and people said that spices spoil the taste of food, so they didn’t use as much as before.
Sauces and family names With the development of printing, cookbooks, language dictonairies and then, cooks’ dictionaries were written and circulated. Also the cooks began to give names to their dishes. These names are often the name of the cook himself, or the name of the aristocrat for whom he cooked, or the names of artists or even courtesans. French Sauces are dedicated to Messieurs Béchamel, Chateaubriand, Colbert, Duxelles, Godard, Mornay, Soubise, Villeroy.
Sauces today Today in your kitchen, when you prepare a sauce, do you think how to facilitate the digestion of your guests, how good your kitchen will smell, about the color harmony when you put the dish on the table, how to associate the tastes? Even if you simply open a can, squeeze a tube, or use prepared foods, you can still prepare something delicious if you add these touches. Look around you and appreciate the magic of colors, smell the aromatic herbs, imagine the song of browning onions with cardamom seeds, a tasty thickening of a sauce with almond cream, the last drops of lemon which will give the final touch to your dish. Reread Galen and Hippocrates, the famous doctors of the ancients, and maybe you will find your balance in their works.
Recette 1 – Cameline, « the Gold of Pleasure »
« Know that in Tournay, to make cameline, we crush ginger, cinnamon and saffron, one half of a nutmeg, we mix it with wine, then we remove it from the mortar. Then add some white soft bread, not roasted, in cold water, crush it in the mortar, mix it with the wine and filter it. Boil all of that and at the end, add brown sugar; that’s what we call winter cameline. In summer, we do it the same way, but without boiling. In fact, to my taste, winter cameline is good, but this recipe is much more tasty: crush a little ginger and a lot of cinnamon, remove it from the mortar and add wet roasted bread or use a lot of the bread’s heel, soaked in vinegar and filtered. »
Mesnagier de Paris, France, 1393