The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0111 Thursday, 15 January 2004
Date: Wednesday, 14 Jan 2004 18:55:25 -0800
Subject: Have a Slice of Shakespeare
Modern cooks can re-create a Shakespearean feast thanks to a food
historian's fascinating cookbook.
By LUCIA ANDERSON
Fredericksburg (Va.) Free Lance-Star, 1/14/2004
Ever wondered what William Shakespeare served his guests when he had a
party? Confused by references to peascods, sallets and kissing-comfits
in some of his plays?
Wonder no longer. Francine Segan's "Shakespeare's Kitchen: Renaissance
Recipes for the Contemporary Cook" [Random House, 2003; $35] provides
answers to all those questions and more.
Segan, a child psychologist-turned food historian, spent a year and a
half reading Elizabethan cookbooks and re-creating the trendy dishes of
1610 (or thereabouts) in her kitchen.
"I prepared each of them several times," Segan said in a telephone
interview from her home in New York City. "I kept wanting to tweak them.
[Elizabethan recipes] are very vague."
Several original recipes are included in her book, along with her modern
interpretations, and they do seem guaranteed to drive a contemporary
cook nuts. For instance, this recipe for beef purses...that appeared in
"The Good Huswifes Jewell," published in London in 1587, when
Shakespeare was 23 years old.
"Take a little mary, small raysons, and Dates, let the stones bee taken
away, these being beaten together in a Morter, season it with Ginger,
Sinemon, and Sugar, then put it in a fine paste, and bake them or fry
them, so done in the serving of them cast blaunch powder upon them." Right.
Segan has filled her book with myriad explanations of how Elizabethan
cooking methods differed from those in use today, the dietary habits of
Shakespeare's contemporaries and other tidbits of historical lore.
For instance, after a recipe for dried plums with wine and ginger-zest
crostini, she writes: "Damson plums were a favorite Elizabethan fruit
and 'eaten before dyner, be good to provoke a mans appetyde.' They were
also popular dried into prunes. It is unclear why, perhaps because they
allegedly inflamed men's appetites, but stewed prunes were a favorite
dish at Elizabethan brothels and also were a synonym for prostitutes.
Shakespeare mentions prunes in that context in 'King Henry IV,' 'The
Merry Wives of Windsor,' and 'Measure for Measure.'"
Conveyed by Al Magary
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