Seven years ago, we introduced some interesting medical or veterinarian treatments involving the abuse of cats. However, the Dictionaire oeconomique offers other recipes than the ones requiring slaughtering a pet.
A fair warning: back in 1725, when this book was published, a ‘recipe’ qualified not just instructions leading to a tasty treat, but also medical and medical-adjacent products. The original French edition, published first in 1709 then greatly expanded throughout numerous editions and translations, was written by abbot and agronomist Noël Chomel (1633-1712). Our copy (the first English edition according to WorldCat) is a translation of the second French edition with some additions by Richard Bradley (1688-1732), then professor of botany at the University of Cambridge.
As you will see, orange-flower water was used in multiple desserts of the 1725 table – so of course, a recipe for it was included. Instructions state to take ‘the Leaves of an Handfull of Orange-Flowers, without the yellow and green’ to infuse in a ‘Quart of Water’ with a ‘Quarter of a Pound of Sugar’, which is then strained through a ‘Sieve or Linnen Cloth’. On top of being an excellent baking companion, this liquid was believed to be ‘good against Vapous and the Malignity of Humors’, with ‘two Scruples [1/2 teaspoon] to an Ounce’ to be administered in case of ‘Histerical Distempers’, to ‘provoke Women’s Terms’, or to ‘fortify the Stomach’.
Since we will be looking at pies next, it seems important to look at the crust first. ‘Paste’, including marzipan, fruit pastes, and ‘paste for crackling Cust’ are extensively covered on two entire pages of the dictionary.
The latter is made by mixing equal parts sugar ‘beaten to Powder’ and fine flour to the ‘Whites of Eggs, according to the Quantity of your Paste, and a little Orange Flower Water’. The result is then spread, and baked in a baking pan rubbed with butter – although I am sure that more than one 18th century baker forgot and found themselves with a stuck crust.
Tarts are made by using that ‘paste’ garnished with ‘Cream, Comfits, Fruit or Cheese’ and can be flavoured with ‘Sugar, dry Currans, Pine-Apple Kernel, Cinnamon, or sweet Spice in Powder, fresh Butter’. In other words, by throwing together sweet foods into a pie crust. The garnish is then covered with bands of the same paste to form a lid or decoration, baked in the oven, and covered with more sugar or rosewater after baking.
A ‘sweet-sowre [sour] Tart’ can also be made by boiling ‘a Glass of Verjuice or Lemon Juice, with a Quarter of a Pound of Sugar’ until reduced by half. To this are added ‘some Cream, with six Yolks of Eggs, and a little Butter, Orange Flowers, candid Lemon-Peel grated, and beaten Cinnamon’. The mixture is then baked without a lid, creating an early lemon pie. Alternatively, one can boil ‘Apples, Beets, Melons, and other sorts of Fruits’ in white wine, mix them with ‘Sugar, Cinnamon, Orange-flowers and Lemon-Peel’, and bake this in a pie crust.
The ‘Egg Pan-pie’, a precursor to the custard tart, is made by baking a mixture of egg yolks, sugar, butter and orange-flower water in a pie crust.
Biscuits and cakes
Our biscuit today is a Macaroon, made with a pound of ‘pounded’ – ground – almonds ‘moistened’ with orange-flower water or the ‘White of and Egg’, then mixed with powdered sugar and three or four additional egg whites. These are then baked ‘with a gentle Fire’.
Chomel and Bradley give two methods to make cake. First, one can mix ‘two Litrons, or somewhat more than two Pints of Flower [flour]’, ‘two new-laid Eggs, half a Pound of Butter, a little Milk, and as much Salt as you judge proper’, adding in ‘as much Leven as your Thumb’s End’. This is then left near a fire for an hour and a quarter to rise, before being baked.
The second method is to beat the ‘Whites of Two new-laid Eggs’ before adding a ‘Quartern’ of flour and as much pounded sugar. To this are added a ‘Quartern of Brandy’ and some coriander. The mixture is spread, sprinkled with sugar, and baked.
To accompany all of these delicious treats, you may want something to drink. Fear not – for Chomel and Bradley have exactly what we need. The trade with the American continent brought chocolate to the wealthy masses of the British upper-class.
For the plain version, Bradley recommends a ‘quartern’ of chocolate (four ounces), chopped, to four ‘dishes’ of water boiled in a chocolate pot – to which you can mix between ‘quartern’ and ‘three Ounces’ of sugar. The drink is then frothed before being served. Milk chocolate can be made by replacing the water with milk. This drink, according to Chomel and Bradley ‘preserves the Heat of the Stomach, and helps Digestion’.
Although no specific recipe is given for Tea itself – except drying methods for the leaves – the beverage is highly praised by the authors, who state that
‘There is nothing more sovereign than this Plant, as well for prolonging our Days to a good old Age, as to obstruct every thing that may be injurious to our Health, for it makes the Body notoriously vigorous and robust, and also cures the Head-Ach, Rheums, Shortness of Breath, Weakness of the stomach, Belly-Ach[e], Lassitude and Defluxions, which fall on the Breast and Eyes’.
Whilst its medicinal abilities can certainly be discussed and debated, we can at least agree that tea is an excellent beverage to go with the cakes and biscuits above.
If you would rather have something cold, strawberry lemonade was also already on the 18th century table – under the name ‘strawberry-water’.
It is a straightforward recipe, mixing a pound of strawberries ‘bruis[ed] or mash[ed]’ in a Paris-Pint (about 1.6 modern pints, or 946 mL), to which is mixed ‘a Quartern or five Ounces of Sugar’ and the juice of a Lemon – although a ‘full’ lemon may be enough for two pints.
Please note that none of these recipes were tested by modern audiences or librarians – so far – and that you would be trying them at your own risk! Children are also encourage to seek a responsible adult before attempting any form of baking.
Text transcribed and blog written by Raphaëlle Goyeau, Library Assistant.
STORE 65:1-2. Noël Chomel, Richard Bradley. Dictionaire oeconomique: or, the family dictionary. Containing the most experienced methods of improving estates and of preserving health, with many approved remedies for most distempers of the body of man, cattle and other creatures… The most advantageous ways of breeding, feeding and ordering all sorts of domestick animals… The different kinds of nets, snares and engines for taking all sort of fish, birds, and other game. Great variety of rules, directions, and new discoveries, relating to gardening, husbandry … The best and cheapest ways of providing and improving all manner of meats and drinks … Means of making the most advantage of the manufactures of soap, starch … All sorts of rural sports and exercises .. The whole illustrated throughout with very great variety of figures. London: Printed for D. Midwinter. 1725.
A digitised copy of the same English edition is available online from the University of Michigan via the Hathi Trust Digital Library.
A digitised copy of the 1767 French edition is available online from the Bibliotheque Nationale de France via Gallica.