By Jean-Louis Flandrin
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Extra info for Arranging the meal : a history of table service in France
Luther denounced it emphatically, accusing the papacy of using this interdiction to promote the sale of inferior Italian oils. In a more serious vein, it appears that aversion to oil cookery may have contributed to northern Europe’s Reformation movement. In subsequent decades, the papacy did in fact grant more dispensations in countries that did not produce olive oil and therefore did not have a taste for it. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, nearly all French provinces were among these exempt regions; French cookbooks thus use butter in Lenten recipes—still distinct however from simple meatless dishes.
For example, in 1660, Le Nouveau Cuisinier suggests such meat-day entremets as “Pistachio custards,” “Melon custard,” “Pea custard,” and elsewhere a “Custard pie,” two “Almond custard pies,” “Apple custard pie,” “Sugared artichoke custard,” and so on—not counting the various creamed vegetables that were served at the entremets course as vegetables, not for their creamed sauces. 35 The entremets course also brought a wide selection of fritters. Le Cuisinier françois offers 9, all of them as entremets; there are 18 in Les Dons de Comus, including “Early dawn fritters,” “Royal fritters,” “Fallen fritters,” “Fritters à l’Italienne,” “Cup-and-ball fritters,” “Extruded fritters,” “Elder blossom fritters,” “Fritter poppies,” fruit fritters of all sorts, and a few vegetable ones.
We will also touch on the very strict conventions that prevailed in the late Middle Ages. Early medieval and Renaissance rules focused only on fasting and abstinence. Fasting initially meant no food at all for periods of various lengths, emulating Jesus’ forty-day fast in the desert. During the late Middle Ages there were three forty-day fasts: one before Easter (our present-day Lent), one from St. Martin’s Day to Christmas, and a more elusive one after Pentecost. Short fasts were also observed, including ember days and the eves of certain major celebrations.
Arranging the meal : a history of table service in France by Jean-Louis Flandrin