SUNDRIES: An eighteenth century newsletter

N° 48 - September 16, 2006

TEXT COLLECTIONS: Open Collections on Immigration


inter cooking 18th CENTURY RECIPE: Three eras compared

fleur de lysFOR READERS OF FRENCHfleur de lys
ON-LINE ARTICLES: Selected articles from French reviews inter text Magasin Pittoresque: No 1 - 1833


TEXT COLLECTIONS: Open Collections on Immigration

Immigration to the United States, 1789-1930

The Open Collections Program is embarking on an exciting new project to digitize a selection of Harvard's library and museum resources on the topic of Immigration to the United States. Covering the period between the American Revolution and the Great Depression, the digital collection will feature hundreds of primary source materials openly accessible for teaching, learning, and research. The first collection materials will become available in the fall of 2006 on this page.
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NEW! The sodomy cases included here have now been collected in the second volume of

The Old Regime Police Blotter II:
Sodomites, Tribads and "Crimes Against Nature"

Available on Kindle only - click below:

This new work expands on several cases here and adds more material on sodomy involving female and heterosexual couples. Notably, it includes most of the surviving transcripts for the Chausson and Deschauffours cases; those for the latter especially are wide-ranging and full of human drama.

Under the Old Regime, sodomy, in common parlance, referred to sex between men. Legally however the term covered a range of actions from masturbation to necrophilia:

Of Sodomy, & other Crimes against nature. 1. The *sin against nature*, is committed principally in three ways:
1: When one falls into the crime called *Softness*, name given it by the Apostle *Epist. 1, cap. 6, n. 10*, & that the Latins calle Masturbatio. The second type is the *Sodomy* which is committed *exercet venerem cum masculo, aut cum muliere, sed non in vase debito*,; or finally when a woman nubit cum alia foemina.
The third type is when a man, or a woman exercet venerem cum animalibus brutis.

S, I.
Of sodomy

2. Sodomy is of all filthiness the most abominable, & which has always been punished by the most severe penalties...
(Note the generous - and atypical - doses of Latin in such passages, indicating a subject too awful to inflict on anyone but an expert) [Why aren't they translated? Because I only approximately understand them myself. All help welcomed.]
11. The crime of women who corrupt each other is regarded as a type of sodomy, si venerum inter se exerceant ad exemplum masculi & foeminae; & it merits the ultimate punishment..

Sex acts between heterosexuals were also included:

The penalty for the crime of sodomy applies not only against those *qui non habent cum masculo*, but also to those *qui accedunt ad mulierem praepostera venere.*... And this penalty applies equally to those who act this way with their own wives... But the woman who is known this way by her husband must not be punished by death; unless it is proven that she gave this action complete and free consent.

Jousse adds a few other points:

1. A person could kill anyone who 'attacked' them in this way (while this might generally refer to some degree of coercion or violence, in one account from the Bastille, 'attack' seems to refer to a simple approach). 2. A wife could legally separate from a man "subject to this vice". 3. According to some, a simple 'attack', consummated or not, could be punished by death, though circumstances and age must be considered. 4. 'Weakness of age' could excuse one who has 'let himself by corrupted, especially if he was the victim of violence.. 5. Neither the testimony of witnesses nor of experts wasrequired as proof, presumptions and/or the testimony of one who claimed to have been attacked could suffice.

The above is from Volume IV, 118-122 of Traite de la Justice Criminelle. The rest of the article also covers bestiality and necrophilia.

The Encyclopedie's article on the subject includes this note:

Clergymen, monks, before [or 'owing'] the example of chastity, of which they have made a solemn vow, must be judged with the greatest severity when they are found guilty of this crime; the least suspicion suffices to have them removed from any function or post which involves the education of youth.

Officially, the standard punishment was death by burning, and Jousse cites several cases where this was applied. But the Bastille archives record many cases where the outcome was far milder (most at the start of the century). Ravaisson, writing in the 19th century, gives one creditable explanation for this:

In granting the honors of the B. to the miserable debauched individuals in question here, the police wanted to avoid the scandal caused by trials before the Tournelle, and by the flames of the stake at which the guilty were burnt alive; it sought as well to remove from the public curiosity the declarations of the accused against their accomplices, and so to preserve the honor of families. These are the real motives of the indulgence of the King for a vice which he regarded with the deepest disgust and regarding which his most cruel enemies were unable to cast the least shadow of a suspicion.
Ravaisson, "Archives de la Bastille", 1702-1710 (2)

(Despite his harsh opening words here, Ravaisson, as will be seen, seemed to look askance at one "investigator" of others' sexual behavior.)

Often, sodomy was treated much like prostitution. Many sodomites were sent to the Hospital; the "public" nature of an offense was often cited; "corrupting" others was an aggravating factor. Otherwise, clergymen were often sent to a diocese in the provinces. Also, far from sharing the modern American opposition to gays in the military, the Old Regime, with admirable pragmatism, viewed many as perfectly serviceable cannon fodder and more than one sodomite was sent off to a regiment.

Probably class and simple favoritism played their part as well. Saint-Simon fulminates frequently against the Duke de Vendome, who seems to have been one of those blatant incompetents who nonetheless has the boss' ear - the boss, in this case, being Louis XIV, who took a long time to realize how disastrous a general Vendome was. This was all the more inconceivable because:

The most wonderful thing to whoever knew the King--so gallant to the ladies during a long part of his life, so devout the other, and often importunate to make others do as he did--was that the said King had always a singular horror of the inhabitants of the Cities of the Plain; and yet M. de Vendome, though most odiously stained with that vice--so publicly that he treated it as an ordinary gallantry--never found his favour diminished on that account. The Court, Anet, the army, knew of these abominations. Valets and subaltern officers soon found the way to promotion. I have already mentioned how publicly he placed himself in the doctor's hands, and how basely the Court acted, imitating the King, who would never have pardoned a legitimate prince what he indulged so strangely in Vendome.
Duc de Saint-Simon, The Memoirs of Louis XIV. And His Court and of The Regency, Volume 5 (Translator not named)

Probably a similar dynamic applied for many more obscure figures as well.

Finally, most of the cases here for which details are given involve elements, such as pimping or approaching schoolboys, beyond sodomy itself. While it may not be that two men living quietly together were completely safe, here, as in so much else in Old Regime law, discretion seems to have counted for a great deal. The Knitting Circle site says that "In 1725 the Paris police compiled a list of 20000 sodomites." If this figure was remotely accurate (making allowances for false denunciations), only a very small percentage seem to have been actively prosecuted. This is not to suggest that homosexuals felt unthreatened under the Old Regims, but possibly most felt no more insecure than under the sodomy laws of succeeding centuries.

For a general discussion of homosexuality during the Enlightenment, see the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender & Queer [did they miss anybody?] Encyclopedia (which I naturally discovered through Rictor Norton's site on Gay History & Literature.)


Jousse gives these (and earlier) examples of executions:

By a... Decision of March 31, 1677, an individual of sixty, guilty of this crime, was condemned to be burned in the New Market of Paris, which was carried out the same day.

Another Decision of 1671, which condemns Antoine Bouquet to be burned alive with his trial for this crime.

Another Judgement, delivered to the sovereign by the Chatelet of Paris, May 24, 1726, which condemns Benjamin Deschauffours, for the same crime, which was carried out.

Another Decision of June 5, 1750, in consequence of which Bruneau, Lenoir, & Jean Diot, guilty of this crime, were burned in the place de Greve, the following Monday, July 6.

(IV, 120)
The gap between 1677 and 1726 may simply reflect his own selection, or it may be due to the 'tolerance' that applied in the early years of the eighteenth century. The fact that the "trial" (probably the transcript) of one defendant was burned with him suggests how much horrible some considered this (then) crime; one of the few other cases where this was done involved bestiality.

Jousse gives no details on these cases, but the glbtq encyclopedia says:

The most famous homosexual condemned to death in this era was undoubtedly Étienne-Benjamin Deschauffours (d. 1726), a pimp for men who sought sex with other men, who was burned at the stake for child abuse and murder.

This case was in fact was one of the more spectacular sodomy cases of the Old Regime. Anyone interested in learning more about it can find numerous (mainly contemporary) references on Google Print. Here is a glimpse at Voltaire's view of the case:

When Voltaire wrote regarding the execution of the foul Etienne Benjamin Deschauffours, burned alive May 24, 1726 on the place de Grève, when he agrees with "suiting the punishment to the crime", he commits a singular gaffe - misinformed? or else he badly dodges the issue while playing the game of power, and playing the fine role, this time, for a bad cause.

Because it is not a question of another Calas, or Sirven, or La Barre case. Deschauffours, a character who prefigures the heros of Sade, was convicted of kidnapping, pandering, child rapes, attack on corporal integrity (castration), and murder... But the commission constituted by the King's order, judging in last resort (the process thus not allowing an appeal to Parlement) only retained the crime of sodomy. Condemnation equals example and, renewing a usage long fallen into disfavor, the Lieutenant General of Police had it announced and posted in the streets of Paris.
Gérald Hervé
from Hervé Baudry, LA NUIT DES OLYMPICA-Essai sur le national-cartésianisme, PAGES CHOISIES (IV) Collection Ouverture Philosophique, L'Harmattan, 1999

[The last comment on posting the execution is questionable - this "usage" was continued in several other cases at least]


In Vidocq's dictionary of thieves' slang (Voleurs, Physiologie de Leur Moeurs et Leur Langage(1837)) he says that a Point de côté is an "enemy of pederasts" (27). Though Vidocq began his criminal career before the Revolution, he did not write about it until the nineteenth century, and so one can only guess which of the terms he recorded in 1837 were already in use under the Old Regime. But, as many are still used today, this one may have applied in our era.

The literal term today means two very different things: in jogging, a side stitch and in knitting, a rib stitch. (;; To complicate matters, Vidocq says a 'point' was also slang for a franc, so the term may have meant nothing more than someone who got money on the side (as an informer).

For now I will opt for "side stitch", meaning a pain in the side, a concept which no doubt existed before jogging, and which has obvious application here. The two men described below can then both be described as "side stitches" (which rhymes nicely with "snitches", creating a kind of inadvertent cross-lingual rhyming slang.)

The first man seems to have been a good old fashioned informer, who may well have been in it for the money:

DENOUNCER - I am assured that a certain de la Javière has given very good information against notorious sodomites who have been put in the Bastille or the Hospital. I therefore think that a compensation of one hundred pounds could not be put to better use.
[Pontchartrain responded: "Good. Once."]
d'Argenson (318)

The Abbé Théru, on the other hand, seems to have been a kind of shadow Savanarola, determined to root out (sexual) transgression in all its forms. Though he only seems to be mentioned (twice) in connection with the lengthy and complicated case of the Abbé Desfontaines (to be visited later), Ravaisson apparently knew (and did not like) far more about him than he set down:

This abbé Théru is a terrible man; he gave himself the mission of tracking down debauchery of every sort and among every rank; the number of people he had locked up is amazing; his zeal seems to have been disinterested, never does he speak of money; it is he to the contrary that, on occasion sends his game to the lieutenant general of police's table.
Archives de la Bastille, 1709-1772 (n. 121)

He earned himself the tiniest of footnotes in history by insinuating - in the fullest sense of the word - that Voltaire, who had defended Desfontaines, was gay. Though Voltaire did defend Desfontaines, he claimed not to know him well (which, in fairness, is not necessarily convincing.) Ravaisson also says that no one else mentions his connection with the college of Grassins.

Whatever the exact truth on either point, it is clear that Théru has no substantial evidence here and is masterfully weaving a circumstantial case from presumed associations - bearing in mind that under the Old Regime presumptions could be definitive in cases of sodomy. Voltaire escaped the mercury strands of this man's net, but it is chilling to think how many others - of any sexual inclination - did not:

The abbé Théru to d'Ombreval
[May 1725]

It is said that sir Arouet de Voltaire is inclined to request the release of his dear and intimate friend, the abbé Guyot Desfontaines, and that, if he does not dare to do it openly, he will use the credit of some people of prestige and authority; but if one wants to look into the life which this poet has led since he left the Jesuits' college, and if one looks into the people he has frequented, one will pay no attention to his wisdom, nor to those of his friends as very suspect.

In leaving the said college, he was a pensioner at the college of Grassins, and he was there in commerce with several depraved persons, among others with the chevalier Ferrand, old and notorious corrupter, living on the rue de Bievre, and if one wanted to have him examined, one would find that he has an illness one does not get from writing verse, and the abbé Desfontaines is worthy of being counted among his friends.

{NOTE: For those who enjoy the resonance of names, the name of Théru's correspondant, Ombreval, suggests "Shadow Valley" in French.)


This is, among other things, an unusual mention of a Jacobite (many of whom settled in France and some of whose descendants played key parts in French history), and includes a casual slur of the Irish. The question of class and family relations is in the forefront here, especially in the different dispositions of each man's case, as is the explicit desire not to try these cases publicly.

The reference to "an order of the King" is to a lettre de cachet, which here was requested, as often was true, to spare a family's reputation. Though Neel himself ended up in Vincennes, it is worth remarking the chilling note that he is to be sent to the Bastille "and forgotten there". This annotation confirms the worst popular fantasy of the Bastille as an abyss into which prisoners disappeared forever. In rare cases, that is exactly what was intended.

CORRUPTER OF YOUNG MEN - August 30, 1701. - I have for a long time known Neel as a libertine, and sir de la Guillaumie for a debauched person, but I did not think that their behavior had reached this excess of corruption which I have just discovered.

Several young men of seventeen or eighteen... having obliged me to have houses watched where I was told they were seen, this research has left me no doubt that sir Neel had seduced them, and that after having used them in the most criminal way, for himself, he sold them to sir de la Guillaumie, his friend, and to some other scoundrels who have long conducted this foul traffic. Among them has been named to me sir du Mas de Saint-Venois, brother of the counselor of Parlement who has been so much spoken of, and I will try to come to a complete knowledge of this cabal of abomination which cannot be pursued with too much zeal.

I have had sirs Neel and la Guillaumie arrested, but the third has escaped me; the two prisoners could not help but admit their crime, and the young men were found following directions they gave me.

I have learned, since their imprisonment, that Neel is from Ireland and that his father died in the service of King James, who gives a small pension to his mother. He was himself an officer in the Albigeois regiment, but his debauchery got him kicked out and his mother solicited another employment for him. He has often been accused of theft, and several commissioners have received complaints for it. He has even often been heard to say that he was Irish, and could not help stealing. But his petty thefts could not support him, and his disorderly temperament could not stop at one vice; there is none that has not been familiar to him, even impiety.

Sir de la Guillaumie, though of a calmer nature, and of a more austere humour, is not of a less irregular conduct, but since he seems to have only attached himself to one type of excess, the public avowal he makes of it makes it that much more scandalous: you remember no doubt, that I had him imprisoned, last year, for having sung licentious songs under the windows of the college of the Jesuit fathers, and if, then, I had examined his behavior more closely, it would have been easy for me to convict him of the same crimes of which he has declared himself guilty, on this last occasion.

You know that it was no less inconvenient to deliver these three defendants to the rules of the ordinary procedure than to hide their disorder; thus I think that Neel deserves to be transferred to the Bastille, to be forgotten there; that it is a kindness to sir du Mas de Saint-Venois to exile him to Tulle for a few years. Regarding sir de la Guillaumie, monsieur the first president of Rouen, his brother-in-law, and his brother, counselor in Parlement, ask as a favor that he be locked up, by order of the King, in the house of the brothers of Charity at Charenton, and they promise to leave him there a long time." Pontchartrain agreed in all cases, but had Neel sent to the Chateau of Vincennes.


D'Argenson does not say why this man was originally exiled from Paris, but the 'shameful sodomy' of his youth would have been reason enough. Class and the accused's prospects of an income seem to be major considerations here.

ARREST OF A DEBAUCHEE. [June-July 1703] I have also had arrested sir de la Parizière, another exile who, after spending his youth in a shameful sodomy, prostituted young men or sent [them] along the promenades. The officer who took him into custody told me this morning, that he had told him frankly that having, back home, a very bad and very boring wife, he preferred staying in Paris, at the risk of being taken to Fort l'Evesque and that after some very incoherent speeches, he made others which showed clearly that his mind was disturbed. He has, he says, the principal lands of Poitou and of Touraine. Nonetheless his father's whole fortune consists in being the captain of the Guards of M. the duke of Roannez. Further, he has infinite claims against all the lords of the Court; he even has a considerable suit against madame de Maintenon and, despite his enemies' cabal, he will enjoy fifty thousand pounds of income, before May of next years.
Pontchartrain's note: "To the Hospital".


D'Argenson's gracious application of his superior's "suggestion" was probably a tactful way of following orders. The fact that Pontchartrain forwarded an order to send the priest to the Hospital, then had second thoughts, suggests some behind the scenes intervention, or at least due, if delayed, consideration of the Church's authority.

DISGRACEFUL PRIEST. - [May 29, 1705?] I am to receive new information concerning the sodomite priest who calls himself the abbé de Rochefort, and to be given some other letters which he has written to a young wheelwright of Vaugirard, by whom he was charmed, as by the lackey he loves so strongly. The one and the other state that he has made them the most disgraceful propositions, but they do not admit to having accepted them.

Priests at Saint-Sulpice regard him, finally, as a monster of impiety, but since there is no question of a State crime the judicious consideration which you have done me the honor of suggesting persuades me that it would be enough to return him to the diocese of Mans, which is his, and to alert his bishop, so that he may observe his conduct; thus I will not execute the order which you have done me the honor of sending me for shutting him up in the Hospital, and will return it to you when you like."
Pontchartrain's annotation: "To M. the cardinal of Noailles, his opinion".
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From CHEZ JIM Books:
and a history of the CROISSANT:

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18th CENTURY RECIPE: Three eras compared

For some months now, I have translated a number of French eighteenth century recipes. Before that, I translated Taillevent's Le Viandier (as "How To Cook a Peacock"), a medieval French work that was one of the earliest French cookbooks. Naturally enough, I have begun to notice differences and similarities between medieval, eighteenth century and modern cooking. What follows is hardly comprehensive, but does give some idea of the key observations I have made.


The most striking element to a modern reader in medieval cooking is the frequent use of large game birds: heron, peacock, stork, swan. Smaller game birds like pheasant are also standard fare. Chicken is not absent, but blends in with these other birds, rather than being a dominant dish. While veal is common, beef otherwise is not mentioned in the Viandier at all and rarely elswhere (which may suggest why the French nicknamed the British, who seem to have always eaten it, "roast beefs".).

Other game, like rabbit and boar, is also used.

By the eighteenth century, chicken, fowl and pigeon are far more standard fare, and beef appears frequently. Game is still popular - as was hunting in the period - but stork, heron and swan are absent. Turkey begins to appear.

Potatoes and tomatoes are completely absent, even if the potato was being introduced (as an alternative for the poor) towards the end of the century.

Imagine French cuisine without potatoes today? The tomato is more associated with Italian food, but certainly has its place in French cooking. The French still eat slightly more game - such as venison and wild boar - than Americans, but in general chicken is by far the most common bird eaten. If anything, I would say the French now eat less turkey than in the eighteenth century. Beef is even more of a staple than it was in the eighteenth century.

American cooking (a newcomer relative to the previous periods) tends to be conservative in its ingredients, and, when it comes to meat, chicken and beef rule.


In medieval French cooking, the dominant spices were like those Americans more typically use in holiday or dessert dishes: ginger, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, and paradise seed (closely related to cardamom). A standard mixture of these was also kept on hand (much like the Five Spice mix still to be found in Chinatown markets). Pepper was used on an equal footing with these, even slightly less. All these were frequently moistened with verjuice, or vinegar.

Onion was used often, garlic infrequently (though it flavors one common sauce). Marjoram and parsley were both used, but little more than herbs like hyssop, pennyroyal and costmary. Saffron was sometimes added, but more for color than taste.

To modern tastes, many dishes from this period taste very much alike, using the same distinctive spices with little variation.

The eighteenth century kept some of these spices, notably clove and nutmeg, but used others far more rarely or not at all. Also, clove and nutmeg were now integrated with other, dissimilar flavorings, while pepper took on a separate role, as simple salt and pepper became more common (and to some degree replaced the dominant "holiday spices" of earlier centuries with a simpler tonality, almost as if a black and white palette replaced that of a rainbow.)

The range of flavorings became broader, more subtle and more varied.

Parsley became ubiquitous, along with spring onion and shallots (clove was often used stuck through a clove of onion or, far less frequently, garlic). Tarragon became a standard ingredient. Some others, like laurel, thyme and rosemary, were used enough to be standard, without in any way distinguishing flavors of the period. Fines herbes, as a mixture, replaced the powdered mix frequently mentioned in medieval recipes. Capers and anchovies begin to appear as sharp notes.

Basil appears infrequently, and then in a less dominant role than one often finds now (and in less familiar combinations, as with nutmeg or clove). Oregano is never mentioned, and in general all that makes a meal distinctly Italian (at least to American palates) was used less or not at all. (Whether similar flavors were already established in Italy itself I can't say, though in general the tomato, for instance, was a late arrival in Europe.)

Garlic was used intermittently, but was in no way characteristic of French cuisine.

The herbs used in salads were noticeably different from modern assortments, and even from any herb mentioned in the Viandier (which however has no recipes for salads, nor even mention of them on some attached menus.) Here are similar lists from two works 56 years apart:

..balm, tarragon, glasswort, garden cress, buckhorn plantain, salad burnet, and stonecrop
Liger, Le Menage de la Ville et des Champs, 1712 (387)
..chervil, tarragon, balm, or domestic mint, salad burnet, buckhorn plantain, spring onion, garden cress & stonecrop..
Gillier, Le Cannameliste 1768 (90)

Verjuice - the use of which persisted far longer than some modern works on medieval cooking suggest - was still used in the 18th century, but vinegar and lemon juice were used more frequently, as they are today.

Here are some sample lists of spices and other flavorings from the Viandier and from eighteenth century recipes listed on Sundries:

Le Viandier
Brewet Georget: costmary, marjoram, wild spinach; parsley leaves; cinnamon, ginger, clove and [paradise] seed
Covered Brewet: cinnamon, ginger, paradise seed and clove
Lamb Shoulder: parsley, hyssop, pennyroyal and raw marjoram; ginger, sugar and salt
Haricoq: peeled onions; white ginger, cinnamon and assorted spices, that is, clove and seed
Civet of Singed Veal: some onions; ginger, cinnamon, seed, clove, and saffron for color;

18th Century Recipes
Wings of Fattened Pullet à la Maréchale: a carrot, a bouquet of parsley and spring onion, and two onion halves, in one of which you will have put a clove nail
Soup of chicory with water: salt, coarse pepper and a little nutmeg
Rouen duckling with orange juice: parsley, spring onion, shallots, salt, pepper, and powdered basil, a little nutmeg; a little salt and crushed pepper, shallots chopped fine
Rice Casserole: an essence of two or three garlic cloves, basil, clove and wine;
Veal Blanquette: parsley chopped fine, a little nutmeg
remoulade sauce for Entree of grilled or fried Pigeons, à la Sainte-Menehout: anchovies, parsley, chopped capers, a little spring onion Roasts à la Hollandoise: parsley, spring onion, shallots, crushed pepper, chopped anchovies
Grilled Food: oysters, anchovies, capers, nutmeg, a little laurel and some lime
Godiveau: salt, pepper, cloves, nutmeg, fines herbes & spring onion


The Viandier very often uses a puree of peas, often in combination with toasted bread which has been moistened and strained, as a thickener. Sometimes the latter is used with chicken livers. When egg yolks are added, they are always hard-boiled.

By the eighteenth century, all these methods have disappeared. The most common binding is liquid egg yolks, sometimes with butter added. Flour is sometimes used as well.

Flour and butter are often used in French cooking. The sauces in the Larousse Gastronomique are often not thickened at all, while some use hard-boiled eggs once again.

Flour and butter also appears in American cooking. Corn starch seems to be used less than it once was.


In medieval cooking, lard was the dominant shortening. It was often used with beef bouillon for cooking. Butter and oil are both mentioned for frying, but very rarely.

In 18th century cooking, butter is on an equal footing with lard. Oil is not mentioned in recipes for frying - the Dictionnaire des Alimens articles on both 'Frying' and 'Oil' implicitly acknowledge that it sometimes was used, but only by saying that it was bad for digestion (that is, it was not recommended for frying). (Had it caused stomach trouble in medieval times? Maybe. But anyone whose stomach was still working on heron or stork might not have noticed the difference.)

Butter is still used in both France and America. Lard persists regionally, but is far less widespread. Cooking in oil is absolutely standard, even without considering the deep frying which now imprints (via American influence) the world's diets.


I have seen it suggested that in medieval cooking everything was put in one big pot at once, however separate the recipes. This is not absolutely unheard of today - at one taco stand on Sunset Boulevard, everything (pork, beef, fish, vegetables, etc.) is put on one round grill and cooked in the same collective juices.

Still, in the Viandier for many dishes instructions say to grill, fry or simmer the meat, then add the sauce on top after. Some meats of course were cooked on the spit.

Pasties, which became 'paté' in French, were a major element in meals, basically consisting of a thick pastry crust filled with various mixtures, many corresponding to today's patés. Some think the pastry may have been used as a bowl. Two similar items today would be meat pies and paté en croute.

The most distinctive technique in medieval cooking was 'redoing' or 'restoring' the meat, which is frequently mentioned. This was essentially pre-cooking it, by grilling it lightly, for instance, or blanching it. No mention of this technique appears in eighteenth century works (though some modern cooks now brine meat before cooking it).

Otherwise, the shift is subtle. The spit is still often used, and frying is common, though less so than in earlier centuries. Grilling is still normal, if somewhat less used. More meals seem to be simmered in larger pots (simmering in medieval times was often a step away from frying, using bouillon mixed with lard.)

Pasties were still common, but had become only one among a number of smaller dishes.

In a general way, this was the period when French cuisine began to develop finesse and differentiation, so that simple care and separation of ingredients differed from the heavier-handed approaches of medieval cuisine.

One issue with comparing previous cooking methods with modern practice is that earlier cookbooks generally assumed a fairly large kitchen and kitchen staff. The Encyclopedie's article on "Kitchen" (Cuisine, as an architectural term) describes various hearths for various preparations, ovens as separate units, etc. Recipes too often refer to putting something on the coals or other spots that suggest the edge of a hearth.

The most important change in cooking methods today is the move from the fireplace to the stove, which began in the eighteenth century. The development of the stove as a separate and manageable domestic unit most differentiates how we cook today from an era when meat might roast on a spit while various frying pans and pots were put on the coals or over a fire in a hearth. A modern cook is a bit like a keyboard player, with a versatile. wide-ranging instrument at their command. For instance, if a modern cook has a spit, it is probably an accessory in their oven (itself a component of a stove), rather than being an entity unto itself. What is more, refinements such as controls for individual burners make modern cooking a far more fine-tuned affair than in previous centuries.


If you would like to give unsuspecting friends a rather caricatural idea of the difference between medieval cooking, eighteenth century cooking and modern French and American cooking, here are some recipes to make that point.

Each uses a chicken breast, which already might be an issue for the medieval 'sample'. At the very least, for both medieval and eighteenth century cooking, you might want to use fowl, or a less tender type of chicken than is found (in American markets at least) today. A real purist would want a game bird for the medieval portion. Eighteenth century recipes often use poularde, which has no common equivalent in America. The Penguin (Oxford) Companion to Food says that poussin (spring chicken) has less meaning today, since most chickens sold ARE spring chickens.

To really be authentic, too, you might want to cook the pre-modern recipes over a pit, or in a fireplace.

None of these are more than sketches of recipes - I'll leave it to expert cooks to refine them. But most are simple enough that it is hard to go too wrong. While hardly emblematic of their eras, they have specific elements that anchor them in each: the medieval mixture of spices is rarely found on meats today; parsley, shallots and nutmeg were not frequently mixed either before or after the eighteenth century; oil is far more frequently used today for frying and sauteeing than in either previous era, and potatoes and tomatoes mark any recipe as being from after the eighteenth century.

-- Medieval

Cook half a cup of peas and then puree them. Toast a slice of bread, cut it up and lightly soak it in wine, then blend it with the pea puree.

Mix a teaspoonful each of ground ginger, clove, nutmeg and cinnamon (and cardamom or paradise seed, if you have them.) Moisten this mixture with vinegar (or, if you can find it, verjuice).

Blanch a chicken breast, then simmer it in lard and beef broth with a chopped onion (or grill it). When it is done, put it in a plate. Either mix the spice paste with the puree or spread it on the chicken. Pour the puree over the chicken breast.

NOTE: Though this kind of thing apparently tasted terrible to one nineteenth-century French writer, to modern Westerners who know Indian cuisine with its different spices and lentil purees it may taste almost familiar.

-- Eighteenth century

Rub the chicken breast lightly with salt and pepper. Spear two small onions with clove and fry the chicken with the onions in butter or lard. In a separate pan, sautée some mushrooms in butter with chopped parsley, chopped shallots, some capers and nutmeg. Add an egg yolk to thicken it. When the chicken is cooked, put it in a dish and pour this sauce over it.

Alternately, to emphasize other differences with medieval cuisine, you could use a chicken leg and thigh, simmer it in butter in a pot, then add the mushrooms, etc. and simmer all that before adding an egg yolk towards the end.

(WARNING: Of the three periods, this kind of combination is hardest to get right: the nutmeg can overwhelm the parsley, the yolk, if the sauce is too hot, becomes bits of omelette, etc. Of course, it is just possible that people in our period liked all this as is.)

-- Modern

Here are two recipes, one leaning toward classic (as opposed to nouvelle) French cuisine, the other toward American cuisine (much influenced by the former, but often with many Italian notes).

Dice some potatoes and boil them lightly. Then simmer them in butter or olive oil with the chicken breast, chopped garlic and onion. Take out the chicken breast when cooked and put it in a dish. Add some red wine to the sauce before simmering it a few more minutes and pouring it over the chicken breast.

Stew tomatoes, garlic and onions together with a chicken breast in olive oil, with oregano, thyme and basil, and a few cloves of garlic. Serve breast with sauce over it.

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fleur de lysFOR READERS OF FRENCHfleur de lys

Magasin Pittoresque: No - 18

REMINDER: The Magasin Pittoresque was a nineteenth century French magazine. Issues can be found on Gallica. Also, most articles are accompanied by at least one image, and so some may interest even those who do not read French.

The first volume of the Magasin Pittoresque contains this charming note before the extensive index which would end every volume going forward: "The Editors of the Magasin Pittoresque believe that part of the success which their work has achieved derives from the great care with which they have avoided in all their editing any scientific system and all methodical classification."

In other words, the Magasin made an intentional point of mixing its articles up in a random and unpredictable way, so that the reader never quite new what would come next.

Since readers of Sundries have shown interest in this 19th century publication, which we will be looking at for some months yet, it seems worthwhile to quote the opening text of the first issue:

To Everybody

It is a true Store [Magasin] which we propose to open to all the curiosities, to all purses. We want objects of very value, of every choice to be found there: old things, modern things, animate, inanimate, manumental, natural, civilized, wild, belonging to the earth, the sea, teh sky, to all periods, coming from all countries, from Hindustan and China, as well as from Iceland, From Lapland, from Timbuktu, from Rome or from Paris, we want in a word to imitate in our engravins, describe in our articles all that deserves attention and regard, all that offers an interesting subject for revery, conversation, or study.

The editor than compares the new magazine to that recent innovation, the omnibus, which seemed superfluous at first, and too cheap, but now seen everywhere "among the tillburys, the landaus, the hired cabs and the cabriolets" and used even by the rich.

In the same way, our two cent store, in a very different type of undertaking, is offered to everybody, but it is particularly intended for those who can only spend a small sum on their little pleasures.

He then outlines the comprehensive mission of the publication before ending:

Those promises made, resolved to keep them conscientiously, he will avoid imposing long programs and revealing what must remain our secret, that is the difficulties we have to overcome, our labors, our late nights; for ourselves alone the trouble we try to render fruitful, for the public all that the work may give of pleasure useful to the spirit and the view.

This introduction completed, the magazine presents its first article which, to my delight, is on the Fountain of the Innocents, just around the corner from where I once lived on the Rue des Lombards. A friend of mine once told me how, after some artificial enhancement, she and her friends would climb up a door (now blocked) at the base of one side of this four-sided fountain and climb to the top, where one could look out little windows. In 1788, it turns out, the original fountain, with only three sides, was brought from the rue St. Denis and the rue des Fers to stand where it does now, with a fourth side added.

And so the Magasin begins its long outlay of unusual and delightful facts...

"The Palais Royal is completely modern" - February 15, 1794: the Convention selects a flag of three equal bands, red, white, blue - How many work-hours do YOUR taxes cost you? - For a peddler of French fries, succes was becoming a rotisserie owner - 52 millions in thefts in London in 1831 - Moliere: "Unfortunate enough to marry a coquette" - Every sort of beggar had a name - In 1554, leeches were excommunicated for attacking fish - Poussin preferred Rome to the favor of Louis XIII - In the XVIII century, France had 51 years of foreign wars - In 1789, messenger services brought 1,100,000 pounds to the government - Stuck with the clavicerium, virginal, clavichord and clavecin, until Cristofori came up with the piano - March 26, 1791: uniform weights come to France - In 150 years, the population of France doubled; tax income increased six-fold - Did those who followed Cook only complete his work? - Would you want a ribboned bull at YOUR marriage? - By marriage, acquisition, donation, confiscation, France grew - Turenne 'had the glory of giving Louis XIV his throne' - Cockfights were to the Philippines what bullfights were to Spain - Sure slavery's wrong, but how do we replace it? - There were corporations (guilds) of workers well before those of owners - Foreigners who died in France gave all to France - Their friend jumped off a cliff, so they did too - C is blue, or acid - Exact sciences 'came painfully forth from chaos' - Which held more: the Wicker Man or the Trojan Horse? (No question which was hotter) - A bank founded by Revolutionaries - Six florins was cheap compared to being burned at the stake - Titian succumbed to the plague (at 100) - Offered a regiment, an old soldier asked only for a pair of shoes - The oldest mutual aid society was founded in 1694 - The shy inventor of a noisy machine - The Brahmin Scheschal would not reveal his secret - At fifteen, Flaxman joined the royal academy - Napoleon's wardrobe helped pose for his statue - In the 5th century, the French were distinguished by their shaved cheeks - An 18th century 'robot' played the flute - Ballons: "All this brillance, all this talk, has produced nothing useful" - La Fontaine: "His life was as original as his genius" - Having beheaded Lavoisier, the Revolution went on to encourage the sciences - Did a valet throw his voice to earn the hand of a banker's daughter? - Voltaire drew French attention to, but did not fully appreciate, Shakespeare - In 1833, a few witnesses to the Lisbon earthquake still survived - "Robert, remarkable as a painter, was even more so by the singularity of his existence" - Abandoned by unpaid teachers, the Abbe Gaultier recruited some of his better students - An immense lake appeared in the desert (or so it seemed) - A short article on a long war - Bit by bit kings built a collection that became a great library - "This monument is one of those which recalls the most memories" - Was Paris founded by Belgians? - A young lawyer would not have dared to wear colored clothes, even during his vacation - A war led to a new monarchy created by Frederic's genius - Bonaparte: "It is hard to see a land more fertile and a people more miserable" - The leaning tower of... Bologna? - 66 of Charlemagne's pounds equaled one of Louis XVI's - Gluck to Mozart: "Don't worry - in thirty years they will do me justice" - "I have seen Lao-tsu; he looks like a dragon!" - In 1778, Virginia banned the slave trade - From 1700 to 1731, measurements showed some large movements - The king hoped Laperouse's voyage would cost no lives

When the MP began, it included a feature that seems to have fallen away in later years: "The Week", listing events on previous dates of that week. Many of these events took place in the eighteenth century: 6, 15, 22, 31, 38, 46, 55, 62, 71, 78, 86, 95, 108, 111, 118, 126, 142, 151, 167, 174, 183, 191, 199, 207, 223, 231, 238, 247, 255, 262, 271, 279, 287, 302, 310, 319, 327, 343, 359, 366, 275, 383, 391, 399, 406.

1 - Fontaine des Innocents
5 - Galerie d'Orleans at the Palais-Royal
39 - years of war in France during the five preceding centuries
42 - Progress of messenger services in France
53 - brief history of keyboard instruments
58 - population growth and tax income
74 - successive growth of France
82 - corporations
90 - the right of aubaine
106 - Banque de France (founded 1800)
107 - the witch's scale at Oudewater
123 - Mutual aid societies in Paris
159 - Vaucanson's automats
163 - aerostation: balloons
170 - historical details on the Institute of France
178 - ventriloquism
185 - The Lisbon earthquake
218 - Bonaparte's soldiers see a mirage
226 - war of the Austrian succession
239 - The Royal Library (now the BNF)
249 - the Hotel de Ville of Paris
266 - history of lawyer's dress in France
284 - the Seven Year's war
281 - battle of the pyramids
321 - coins of France
378 - Denmark first to abolish the slave trade
379 - continental drift first measured

3 - anatomist Cuvier
23 - Moliere
35 - Poussin
63 - explorer Cook
75 - La Tour d'Auvergne, viscount of Turenne
115 - La Tour d'Auvergne, first grenadier of France
127 - James Watt
135 - John Flaxman, sculptor and draftsman
139 - a statue of Napoleon
158 - history of the beard in France
189 - painter Hubert Robert
200 - Abbe Gaultier, educator
317 - Beaumarchais' house
328 - Mozart
387 - La Perouse

OT, but of interest
14 - time of labor spent to pay taxes
18 - costs to establish small trades
21 - costs of London thefts
26 - The Cours des Miracles
35 - trials of animals
66 - popular customs in France
78 - cockfights in the Philippines
80 - the slave trade
91 - suicides by imitation; keyboards of colors and smells
93 - alchimists
97 - Wicker man of the Gauls
112 - Titian's funeral
128 - A Brahmin levitates
179 - Shakspeare [sic]
258 - map of Paris under the Romans
305 - leaning towers
326 - Arab proverbs ("Often the tongue cuts off the head")
333 - Confucius

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End quote

"France is the country with the best conversation; in this regard, all nations pay it homage.."

Magasin Pittoresque No 1 (2)

FROM CHEZ JIM BOOKS Three works on eighteenth century subjects:

For some sample 18th century vegetarian recipes, click here.

copyright 2006 Jim Chevallier.
When using brief extracts from this site, please credit properly and provide a link back to this site.
(NOTE: Most translations, except where otherwise noted, are by Jim Chevallier and are copyrighted as such.)
Please do not reproduce extended pieces (recipes, translated pieces, etc.) without prior permission.


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