Sunday, December 31, 2006

Everyday Pouring Pots of Faïence

Blanchette, p. 59.

The following is my paraphrased summary of pouring pots from thesis: Blanchette, Jean-Francois (Ph.D.: Anthropology, 1979, Brown University) Title: The role of artifacts in the study of foodways in New France, 1720-1760 : two case studies based on the analysis of ceramic artifacts.

"The shapes of ceramic objects are generally divided into two categories: hollowware (creux) and flatware (platerie). Brown faïence hollowware comprises pitchers, coffeepots, chocolate pots, teapots, soup tureens, huguenotes, pâtés, deep platters or saladiers, large bowls, porringers and cups.
PitcherThe pitcher is a pot with a slight pouring lid and a handle. Its neck is long, straight and vertical; its body is globular.

a brown faïence coffeepot suitable for heating all kinds of liquids, Encyclopédie, Recueil de planches . . . Fayancerie, 1765The coffeepot is a pouring pot in which the walls are uniform and slanted toward the bottom and the handle is horizontal and straight “used for heating all type of beverages” (Encyclopédie 1765: Fayancerie, PL I: 4) The author does not make a distinction between the coffeepot,marabout

the marabout (round-bodied hot water jug [Fig. 5])

Coquemartand the coquemart [Fig. 6] (see text of the encyclopedia). Furetière 1970, however, says that the “coffee pot” is a “small coquemart-shaped vessel in which coffee is prepared.”

The teapot is a pouring pot with a bulbous body, narrow opening and long cylindrical and sometimes curved spout. tea pot It has a handle, and the spout is separate from the pot’s opening. The teapot usually stands lower than other pots of normal size. In the Recueil de plances (1765 in Encyclopédie: Fayancerie I:7), it states “A tea pot to be used with a tray (name given to a platter carrying a number of coffee cups), usually made to contain coffee.”Although this pot is used to make coffee, it looks like an 18thC teapot
Today's coffeepot with filtre drip This text is probably another indication that tea was not widely used.

It is only in the text of the Encyclopédie itself that the teapot is described as a pot to be used for tea: “Tea pot (Faïence manufacturer’s terminology), slightly bulbous vessel with handle and spout, in which tea is brewed with boiling water and used as a beverage. Tea pots come in all shapes and sizes, and may hold from one to ten cups; Chinese and Japanese tea pots are perhaps among the most beautiful."

From these texts, it would appear that the function of the pouring pot(s) must have varied according to the needs of the people."

This post links to Feathered Nest Friday

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Porringers in Nouvelle France

Blanchette 1979:64

The following is my paraphrased summary of porringers from thesis: Blanchette, Jean-Francois (Ph.D.: Anthropology, 1979, Brown University) Title: The role of artifacts in the study of foodways in New France, 1720-1760 : two case studies based on the analysis of ceramic artifacts.

“Porringers are: hollow bowls with steep walls; a table utensil; small rimless platter normally used for serving bouillon, or preparing soup for a particular person; vessels for individual consumption. The porringers found in Louisbourg have two long shell-shaped handles and a vertical footring.

Because porringers are considered to be a “wet dish” service item, Blanchette emphasizes the porringer, which in certain areas of France such as La Marche, Le Limousin and Le Maconnais, had a distinct personal character. In these regions, a porringer was bestowed upon each newborn infant to be used solely by that individual until death. When the person died, the porringer was buried alongside the body as a funeral offering. This is a material manifestation of the personality. Encyclopédie, Recueil de planches, Fayancerie III:49 [Today, babies often receive silver porringers with their name engraved.] In the Compagnie franches de la marine stationed at Fort Beauséjour, the brown faïence porringer may have been the symbol of each officer’s individuality, and this aspect would merit examination, along with porringers of other materials. Although Place Royale is the same type of site as Louisbourg, the same shapes of brown faïence are found there with the exceptions of the teapot, the pâté, the small pouring pot and the porringer. The lack of the brown faïence porringer is quite surprising since this was a common shape elsewhere in New France; however, coarse earthenware porringers are found there and may have served the same function. Another point in support in our explanation of the sociotechnic functions of the porringer is the almost total absence of porringers in the public areas such as inns and cabarets in Louisbourg.

It is also noteworthy that military sites revealed only those brown faience shapes relating to liquids and hot wet dishes. This is certainly related to the food customs of military officers at the time, whose main dishes were soup, porridge, stews, bread and beverages. It is believed that these faïence objects were used by the officers. Subalterns to the officers used coarse earthenware, metal, or wooden objects, or ate directly from the cooking pot or a common bowl [trencher].”

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Bread for Sop or Soup

The baker’s shop, engraving, from Paul Jacques Malouin, Description des arts et métiers (Paris, 1967).

“‘Soup, in fact, derives from ‘sop’ or ‘sup,’ meaning the slice of bread on which broth was poured. Until bread was invented, the only kind of thick soup was a concoction of grains, or of plants or meat cooked in a pot. Gruel or porridge was thus a basic food, a staple form of nourishment, and long held that place in Western countries, for in practice bread was a luxury eaten only in towns.’” p. 177

“‘. . . soup which was to become a staple item of the European diet from the Dark Ages onwards: a slice of bread at the bottom of a bowl, with broth or soup made in a pot poured on to it. The word suppa, from Frankish, was used in Low Latin and has kept its original sense in Dutch sopen, to soak, cognate with English ‘sop.’ Soup poured over pieces of bread is popular in France: garbure, made of cabbage, bacon and preserved goose is one such example, so is French onion soup.’” p. 229. Quotations from History of Food, Toussaint-Samat, Maguelonne, translated by Anthea Bell. . Blackwell Publishers, 1992.

 Detail from "the bread shop." The girl at the right is chipping the crusts from rolls; the chippings were sold "to the poor and country people" to put in their soup.
 Detail from "the bread shop." The baker's wife behind the counter is working on her accounts; at her left is a bread-slicer similar to those still used in neighborhood restaurants in Paris. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Archaeology of Brown Faïence
Ceramics in Nouvelle France

The Pâté, Jean-Baptiste Oudry, 1738

The following is my paraphrased summary through chapter one of thesis: Blanchette, Jean-Francois (Ph.D.: Anthropology, 1979, Brown University) Title: The role of artifacts in the study of foodways in New France, 1720-1760 : two case studies based on the analysis of ceramic artifacts.

The study of brown faïence is a well-defined ethnic type, being manufactured only in France. Its presence or absence on any site occupied by the French during the French regime should reveal preferences for culinary equipment and, undoubtedly, particular alimentary orientations related to status. In fact, the beginning of the 18thC was a period when the ceramic arts, particularly faïence, flourished. At this time Louis XIV ordered the silver and gold table services to be sent to the mint to pay for the excessive expenses incurred by foreign wars. These table services were replaced by faïence.

Although brown faïence was invented during a period of liberalism in the industry, the limited supply of wood fuel for kilns caused stipulations that production must be for either white or brown faïence. The exclusive production of brown faïence, or brown with white interior, made it possible for numerous Rouen factories to exist until well after 1786, even though cheaper, prettier English pottery which had the appeal of a foreign product was preferred, brown faïence continued to persist as both kitchen- and tableware.

For many centuries, meals had been composed of either potages or stews, made thick by the addition of bread. Meals, in which meats, spices, and other rare products could be found, were for well-to-do people—the common people were eating plain and frugal fare, which seldom included meats, except for special social or religious activities. Meals of the lower class tended to remain the same, but meals of the upper class went through a revolutionary change as evidenced by their cookbooks (Bonnefons 1651; L.S.R. 1674; La Varenne 1699; Liger 1700, 1755; La Chapelle 1735; Lemery 1745; Marin 1775). The change in haute cuisine was that of cooking food slowly, in its own juices: meats were cooked individually, spices selected and vegetables prepared separately, to say nothing of the diversity of pastries and desserts. Ceramic vessels became the preference for slow cooking, metallic ones when a fiercer fire was needed. The variety of brown faïence vessels corresponds to the needs of the new cuisine. Marin summarizes numerous details about the ways of preparing meals, the quantities for necessary ingredients, cooking time, necessary vessels for preparation—glazed earthenware pots, terrines, tripode huguenote, form also seen as a copper tourtiere huguenotes (tripod cooking pot), earthenware or copper pans and kettles, water kettles, silver and faïence platters. In fact, the first book addressing itself to the bourgeoisie in addition to the nobility and the clergy was Menon’s La cuisinière bourgeoise published in 1746.

It was toward a refinement and a tasting of individual food that the kitchen of the French nobility was aiming. A significant element of Bonnefons’ Les délices de la campagne concerned the cooking and preparation of root vegetables, such as carrots, parsnips, white salsify, beets, rapes, turnips and Jerusalem artichokes. Usually considered food in times of famine and bad harvests, Bonnefons brought these foods to the table of the leisure class. Sugar now played an important role and was used for many things, including decoration. Sauce was thickened with flour and heat rather than with soddened bread. Three elements of this cuisine are: wet dishes—stews, potages and sauces; dry dishes—cooking in undercrusts, the use of waxed paper for cooking, the practice of multiple cooking using two different techniques; and liquids—coffee, tea and chocolate.

Wet dishes include creams, eggs, and other side dishes which were partially or totally prepared in hollow platters or on dishes over a gentle fire. Cooking was slow and meat was often left to cook on a gentle fire to extract its juice. Braising was another technique.

Pâtés were dry dishes, meats cooked in undercrusts which were either puffed pastries made of wheat flour for fine dishes, or a combination (bise) of wheat and rye flour for large cuts of meat. These undercrusts were sometimes decorated with fleurs-de-lis made of paste (Liger 1755). No vessel was needed to cook the pâté because the solid crust replaced it. The pâtés could also be cooked directly on the sole, (oven floor) or on a piece of waxed paper in the oven, as was the case for meat preparations that held their shape. This method of cooking was expensive because the paste hardens during cooking and was later discarded. Numerous meats, fishes and other dishes were often cooked twice. They were first cooked on a spit or cooked slowly in a pan or platter. The second time they were arranged on a serving platter of silver or faïence and covered with grated cheese, cream or other decorations and set in the oven or on weak embers, thus producing a glaze. This method of cooking was a new refinement not found in recipe books from the preceding century. Blanchette 1979:120Brown faïence dishes, called pâtés after the food, made it possible to cook these dishes without undercrusts which were expensive for those who did not have large quantities of grains for flour in storage. The food was put in pottery pâtés and placed in a bain-marie so that the water in the bain-marie would replace the humidity otherwise supplied by the undercrust containing the pâté. Detail from The Pâté  Blanchette suggests using brown faïence pâtés to eliminate the need for undercrusts was very economical and the pâtés were decorated with fleurs-de-lis, like the undercrusts. The tops of the faïence pâtés were often decorated with rabbits and feathered game to suggest the type of meat used.

a brown faïence coffeepot suitable for heating all kinds of liquids, Encyclopédie, Recueil de planches . . . Fayancerie, 1765Liquids, like wine, were often suggested to prepare meats and fishes. Wine was also used for the preparation of hot and cold drinks. Tea, coffee and chocolate were not mentioned in recipe books before the 18thC. Liger (1755) specifies that coffee grains are roasted in glazed earthenware vessels so that they won’t burn and all their taste is preserved. He also says that water for tea boils in a cafétière (coffeepot).Glass of Water and a Coffee Pot, Chardin 1760 In fact, authors of cookbooks never use the term théière (teapot) in any of the books analyzed, although the teapot shape is found archaeologically in 18thC sites and mentioned in documents at mid-century. The pitcher, coffeepot, chocolate pot, teapot, small pouring pot, globular cup and straight-sided cups are all brown faïence shapes related to beverages and relative consumption seems to correspond to relative occurrence in New France archaeological sites.

Development of the new cuisine in France coincided with the development of brown faïence, and the shapes of this ceramic type correspond well to the preparation-service-consumption of the foods previously noted. Thus it would seem that brown faïence was manufactured for the preparation and service of dishes found in the new recipe books, since the diverse specialized shapes correspond so well to the foods. In effect, the development of foodways follows the general progress of French society as seen in standards of living, demography, the bourgeoisie and colonial commercial activity. This general frame of reference should be kept in mind in understanding the role and position of brown faïence in culinary innovations of the 18thC.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Serving and Eating Foie Gras

My foie gras cooking trials are over and it's time to enjoy the results.

My first recipe is from Emeril, Foie Gras Terrine, in which I used my own Vin Noix or green walnut wine instead of port. I served this terrine with cornichons, toast and onion marmalade and a glass of vin noix. Results--earthy, unctious and rich.

Another terrine involved the use of spices, and I turned again to my favorite blend, menues espices, which today is known as quatre-épices. Because of the richness of the spices, I served this terrine with a sweet white wine and plain toast--the flavor on the top of the tongue reminds me of the best smells in a deli.

During my discussions on foie gras several of my readers have offered tips for serving this delicious treat.
  • Jean-Luc Odeyer of Grenoble, France, "I prepare the green nut chutney, it is a delight! It is good with the raclette, the foie gras, the grills and the skewers, cheese, the cold meats and the charcuterie, on toasts…"
  • Don wrote "The pan juices and lemon are what truly makes foie gras with ham superb. Very delicious with a squeeze of lemon."
  • David Lebovitz recommends serving très bon Sauternes
  • One offered another recipe with ways to serve the terrine in a casual or more fancy manner.
  • and Pascal has a lovely picture of a simple foie gras presentation

Elsewhere on the net are sites for tasting, preparation and cooking.

Foie gras is a holiday food, a simple food. It lends itself to many styles of serving and eating. Whether you use some of my 18thC recipes or these modern ones, do enjoy your liver--it can be a harbinger of good things to come.

 Enjoy Foie Gras, Enjoy Life! Foie gras and
other French delicacies from Mirepoix, USA

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Herbes 101

Plain food can be enhanced by any number of herbes, which are the leaves and stems of plants [usually roots and fruits and nuts of plants are considered spices]. Fresh herbes should be bruised or twisted before being added to cooking foods, the exception being herbe bundles or bouquet garni which is often tied together and suspended from the handle of the cooking pot to aid in its removal prior to serving.

Some herbes, bay [laurel] leaves in particular, benefit from being bruised and "fried" in a little oil, graisse or butter, which releases the oils of the herbe and intensifies its flavor. There may be times when you do not want to intensify the herbe--adding it at later stages in cooking may give a more elusive flavor.

Dried herbes should be crushed in the hand before adding to the pot. This will release more flavor, as will toasting in a dry pan or frying in the oils and fats at the beginning of the preparation of the dish.

Adding herbes at the very end of the cooking process is necessary when using herbes like basils, which darken with cooking and can spoil the looks of the dish.

National cuisines use different combinations of herbes--begin to experiment with not only local herbes, but be sure and lay in a supply of unusual herbes from your traveling merchants when given the chance. Bon appétit!
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