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Everything posted by chezjim

  1. The maid wouldn't have looked at you expectantly if you had been a local person. The hotel probably caters to a lot of foreigners who don't follow the local customs of not tipping. Oh absolutely. But I'm guessing most people here would be in the same case when in China. The fact is, now that the Chinese know that foreigners are used to tipping, from what I've seen and read, they want in. Tipping certainly is not an American phenomenon. If you do it less in France, it's because the servers were so determined to get tipped, they got it included as a matter of course ("service compris"). And as I wrote, they still try to get a little extra on top of that. And when I went to the hotel nightclub at my hotel in Mexico, the owner (who was serving me) went out of his way to say, as he handed me the bill, "the tip is not included."
  2. A few comments, and a question. First of all, I see absolutely nothing wrong about griping about tipping on a "Restaurant Life" thread. Tipping is one of the key aspects of dining out and it's hardly a simple issue. In regard to making the tip obligatory, unfortunately since they did that in France under the euphemism "service included" lots of waiters will say "The service is included; the tip [pourboire] is not". Making it clear they expect something more; a something more which will no doubt escalate with time. I would not say servers in China would be insulted if you left them a tip; in Beijing these days I suspect more and more expect it. At my hotel there, one maid volunteered, a little hastily, to move a table in my room then looked at me expectantly after I just said, "Thank you." If anything, people new to capitalism tend to overdue it. It's important to realize too that a tip is no longer that; that is, it is no longer a little bit off the top of the bill. Many servers today expect 20%, minimum - which is a fifth of the bill. Yet very few servers I've ever encountered did anything like 20% of the work in making my meal happen. If many restaurants fail, I suspect the increased "commission" on each bill is one reason. Eating out is no longer a casual way to avoid cooking; it's an economic decision, especially in a recession. So restaurant owners and servers alike should consider if the near-obligation to tip, no matter how bad things are, isn't one reason eating out looks way less attractive. Never mind the practice some have of abrogating any loose change to themselves as a matter of course. Personally, I always count that against the tip, but I doubt they appreciate that. Now, my question. I sometimes go to a wine shop that also does a tasting with four pours and a (communal) cheese platter. When an employee is handling all this, they put out a tip jar. But sometimes I go and one of the owners (a couple) is there alone. And the tip jar has been moved to the back of the counter, visible, but behind some other things. Do they not expect a tip because, as owners, they're getting the business? Or do they simply find it a bit embarrassing to put out the tip jar and expect that the matter will nonetheless be tactfully handled otherwise? (As in leaving part of one's change on the counter). Is this a borderline situation where tipping is nice but not necessary? Or just an over-complication of what is usually a simple situation?
  3. Alcuin, I'm sure Theuderic I had access to spoons. The richer Franks adopted Gallo-Roman ways and the Romans certainly had spoons. My point is lots of other people might not have and for whatever reason Anthimus offers an alternative for them. I'm also reasonably sure this IS a Byzantine recipe (unlike others he includes), so if vines were used at all, it might well have been in Byzantium. Yes, the "ladle" reference is from Mark Grant's edition, which I've only seen in bits and pieces on the Web. I don't have it or a previous translation available to me. But I tend to distrust translations in general, especially in regard to food history. I can't get around this with Arabic, but Latin at least I can puzzle through.
  4. Hmmm.... Interesting. Honestly I'm inclined to doubt it was leaves, since it would be simple enough to use that word. As for vegetables, there's a whole separate section on them. Though I'm not sure they were considered especially healthy. They certainly weren't going in to the eighteenth century; some were even considered harmful.
  5. In fact one nineteenth century French dictionary specifically says that "novella" can mean "a young vine, a young plant". And a German gloss suggested something similar in regard to Anthimus' text. I wouldn't count on people having had spoons readily available at this time. The Gauls, only a few centuries earlier, didn't. And the Franks, until they became Romanized, would have led lives much like the early Gauls. The only spoons I know from the time were Roman and would have been luxury items in Gaul. I'm pretty sure this would have been a luxury dish, yes. But he seems to offering an alternative way to eat it, for whatever reason. Chicken by the way was a very common food all through the Middle Ages. Ironically, the French peasants didn't start to be meat-deprived until after feudalism took its firmest hold, so that they in fact ate worse in the eighteenth century than in the sixth (when they could still hunt freely). The most popular translation of this work says to use a spoon or a ladle. I see no meaning of "novella" which supports the latter, but of course I'm not a Latinist either.
  6. Does anyone know of a practice in Gaul or Germany, or in Europe in general, of using lengths of vine or other plants as utensils? Specifically, in place of a spoon? In his 6th century dietetic letter, the Greek physician Anthimus describes a complex dish made of cooked meringue (egg white in foam) and chicken, scallops optional. Liquids were poured over this as well, so the most logical way to eat seems to have been with a spoon. But that is only one of two options Anthimus offers: cum cocleari vel novella tenera manducatur "eat with spoons or a [new tender]" The word "novella" generally would be the adjective "new", but one of its meanings turns out to be a young vine or plant. "Tenera" would imply that it was soft or flexible, giving "a supple young vine". (Presumably a piece of one). At first glance this seems like a dubious replacement for a spoon, but if one was cooking in the woods for instance - as the Franks once would have - spoons might have been in short supply and a length of vine or plant might have been a reasonable option. But I've never seen such technique used anywhere (except perhaps by a chimp). Does anyone know of any such usage, in Europe or anywhere (not chop sticks of course, which, for one thing, aren't supple.)
  7. I would hesitate to be categorical, but I can say that my original intuiting of the fact that there had to be a fermentation agent equivalent to yeast (as opposed to sour dough) to make the bread white led me pretty neatly to the use of concho. The subject is more complex, having looked around just now, than I would have thought. No, the whiteness of the bread did not depend only on the wheat. The leavening did indeed play a part (so could the type of salt). But here's where it gets dicey: yeast, say several sources over a century or more, actually made the bread LESS white than sour dough. And yet I had the opposite impression. Why? Well apparently the sourdough bread sold in the countryside WAS darker than the yeast-based bread made in Paris (which was also, and definitely because of the yeast, lighter). In general, overall, bread made with yeast was finer than that made with sourdough. But the reasons bear further research (and yes may have had to do in this case with the quality of the flour or the milling). And then to complicate matters: Brevans-Le pain et la viande-1892 (Which contradicts a number of other writers, but also is from fairly late in the century.) So, no short answer. Most authors say in a word that French bread made with yeast tended to be whiter than that made with sourdough, but not, necessarily directly because of the yeast but because of other measures associated with finer breads. Certainly, the milling methods in South America bear further research. (Or maybe are described somewhere in the new dictionary?) For now, I am left with the non unfamiliar experience of having started with a faulty premise and being led to a useful result (that is, an insight into how indigenous products were used for European breads).
  8. Damn. There's always a faster gun - or a quicker researcher. Having discovered the excruciatingly obscure factoid outlined above, I have since received the new French Dictionnaire Universel du Pain where I find the following under the heading "Perou" (Peru) (from Sirley Rios Acuña): That is, I already had high expectations of this dictionary - I wrote several articles (including those on the baguette and the croissant) for it. But finding something this obscure floors me. In fairness, Ms. Acuña does have an advantage here: she is a curator at the National Museum of Peruvian Culture. Still, I gotta say: I'm impressed.
  9. My dearest hope in putting this up was that it would inspire some of you who (unlike me) are bakers to try some of these. If anyone does, I hope they'll post an image and/or recipe here. It would be delightful to see this thread stretch into a series of period breads. My own favorite candidate would be the bread that was least appreciated - nay, despised - in its own time: soldier's bread (pain de munition/French ammunition bread). Period soldiers may have felt that a bread made from wheat, rye and bran was one of the many insults of their lot, but today such a bread sounds pretty tasty, especially if baked as described: Low, crusty and whole-grained. Sounds pretty good to me. Not to mention when your friends ask what it is, you get to say, "French ammunition bread." Pause. "EIGHTEENTH CENTURY French ammunition bread." For those who like to faire un effet.
  10. It may be superfluous to announce this here, since I'd guess some here at least are on lists where I've already done so, but for those who aren't... I have finally put up a few pages on 18th century French breads: Chez Jim: 18th Century French Breads This includes "common breads" - for commoners, middle class masters and servants, as well as consecrated bread and bread for soldiers -, "pains mollets" - more for the well-off - and soup breads, which reflect the importance soup long had in French meals. I've tried to find useful links for subjects that I'm weaker on, like milling and the differences in flours, but if anyone has better suggestions or further information on the technical side, I welcome them.
  11. Having continued on from the inquiry in this thread, Ecuadorian bread history? I have found a random assortment of other facts about early South American (European-style) bread, most, but not all of it about Ecuador and particularly Quito. (I doubt many people are interested in the minutiae of this subject, but to the degree anyone is they are probably to be found on this board. ) Here then (sans references) are my current findings. As I go on, I may well be tempted to assemble something more formal. According to Humboldt, a Black slave of Fernando Cortez introduced wheat to New Spain, having found three grains of wheat in the rice that had been brought for the army's food. In Quito, the Franciscan monastery kept (and may still keep) an earthen container in which Brother Jodoco Rixi of Ghent brought wheat to sow in the city. It bears an inscription (probably in Flemish) "Let he who drains me in drinking not forget the Lord." In Chile, Marie d'Escobar, wife of Diego de Chaves brought a few grains of wheat to Lima, sometime after 1547. The 18th century writer La Harpe said the bread in Lima was both tasty and white, and was made by Blacks for the bakers. There were three qualities: the criollo, very light, French-style bread and soft bread. The work was so hard that masters would send disobedient slaves to work in the bakeries where they hardly slept, were poorly fed and would end up much weakened. Just the threat of this was apparently enough to impose obedience (according to La Harpe, the Greeks and Romans did the same thing.) In Quito, about the same time, wheat bread was unusually common and very cheap, but would, says La Harpe, have been better if the Peruvians who made it had known how to knead it. On December 24, 1790, the government offered a prize in Ambato to the first baker who would make well fermented and well baked bread. This may be one reason the city was long known for the excellence of its bread. Already in 1802, an excellent, very white bread was being made in Riobamba. In 1892, an English traveler there said that his people "fancied the bread of the country." In 1823 - about the same time Boussingault was in Quito -, the best bread in that province was being made in Ambato, with eggs which made it "like big cakes" and sold in Guayaquil. (Ambato's bread was still being sold there in 1875.) In San Miguel de la Chimba at that time the bread was made from potatoes and oats. Flour then came from North America to Cartagena (Colombia) and was sent to Novita, costing 34 piasters the barrel. A four ounce roll cost a silver Real (corresponding to 2 French francs, 50 centimes an ounce at the time, the same price as meat)/ (Ecuador was then part of Gran Colombia; but wheat may have been cheaper in Quito, which grew its own). In 1828, several types of bread were being brought to the Quito market, all in the forms of "little cakes". The price went down after noon, because of the "habit of only eating soft bread". This suggests that the bread was being made with a yeast-like substance (probably still chicha dregs), since bread made with sourdough typically lasts longer. (Note that all this was just before Ecuador's independence in 1830, which may among other things have affected production and consumption of bread.) The bread in Guayaquil was then said to be of inferior quality, even though the flour was good. Ambato's bread continued to be known as excellent. In 1835, a French writer found the bread in Quito "worthless", because it was mixed with a flour of peas, lentils and oats. (Note that today French flour often includes some lima bean flour.) Since no one else mentions this mixture, however, this traveler may either have eaten an unusual form of bread or the young country's turmoils might simply have impacted the cultivation of wheat, etc. Around 1850, a French writer found European bread as made in South America unsatisfactory, despite the presence of some French bakers. In Quito, one of these (who made bread for the President) was so valued that he went unpunished after stabbing one of his servant women to death. In 1878, locals in Quito preferred potatoes to wheat and both potatoes and wheat cost $1.60 for 100 lbs. But descendants of Europeans preferred wheat bread. "The bread is generally of very inferior quality, for several reasons. The grain is, for the most part, very poor, and not ground enough. The dough is kneaded very imperfectly and the bread is half baked." In 1896, rolls of bread were being used as small change in Ecuador. In the same year, bread in Venezuela was made by pounding the grain (corn, wheat, rye, or barley) in large mortars of hard wood or stone. The flour was cleaned with water, which brought the chaff to the surface, then mixed with water and ground to paste between two stones, molded into flat cakes, wrapped in leaves, and baked on flat stones heated by a fire built on them. (This may have been indigenous bread however, since the process mentions no leavening.) Though most white bread seems to have been from wheat, one account from 1896 describes ring-shaped or flat bread made from yucca, with a yellow crust and a snow-white interior "spongy, translucent, like blown bubbles of bread". Voila, for now. The overall picture is of a decline over time in the bread of Quito, at least. It does leave the suggestion too that some of the "white bread" eaten by travelers may have been indigenous (of corn, yucca, etc.) rather than of wheat.
  12. Wow. It is scary what one can find with a little persistence: José María Troya, Vocabulario de medicina doméstica 1906 Not only was the use of a byproduct of chicha the key, but even the Ecuadorians themselves apparently noticed the difference, once this fell out of favor. The lines preceding this describe a crude ferment made with potato skins in pre-used (and not very sanitary) barrels. By the way, Rachel and I having corresponded, she noted that the Mexicans used pulque in a similar way. The question of native ferments being used to initially make European bread is probably a rich subject, should any specialists be tempted by it.
  13. chezjim

    Celery Substitutes?

    When you use leafy vegetables like kale, do you save the stems? I do and then cook them with paprika, water and oil. Cooked, they are at least reminiscent of celery (though I prefer them, myself).
  14. Someone having searched my site for the origin of what was once my favorite viennoiserie (before weight loss put it off-limits), I was surprised to discover it had existed in France since before the middle of the nineteenth century (the English apple turnover is documented back as far as 1835). In 1825, "apple croquettes" were made which were basically fried chaussons aux pommes: B. Albert-Le cuisinier parisien; ou, Manuel complet d'économie domestique 1825 I don't yet know if these were considered separate, or if one evolved from the other.
  15. Here's the source text, as translated in the fifteenth century: Natural and Moral History of the East and West Indies By Jose de Acosta, trans Edward Grimston 1604 The same passage specifically references Pliny and his accounts of similar beverages causing intoxication in his time.
  16. Hmmm.... Here's an intriguing - if not necessarily appetizing - note that might have some relevance here: Historia de la Cultura Material en la América Equinoccial (Tomo 1) Alimentación y alimentos Víctor Manuel Patiño BEBIDAS HECHAS DE SEMILLAS In a word, this describes Indians chewing corn to produce a fermented mass which was then used to make yeast. It's not clear (to me at least) if this was only part of making chicha (a drink) or if the yeast was for more general use. But certainly, just as the Gauls skimmed "foam" off beer to use in bread, it might well be that this chewed and spitted yeast was what made Quito's bread so white (and Boussingault reluctant to go into details?) Suggestive, at least, if not at all decisive.
  17. Thanks for the link. We've corresponded but with no result so far. It occurred to me it might be useful to quote Boussingault's comment, in describing his first days in Quito: Boussingault, Memoires What is frustrating here is that by the time he wrote these, Boussingault was known not only as a chemist, but a chemist who made important contributions to bread-making. So he was unusually well-qualified to describe how the bread was made. Further, when he had left France, its bread was still being criticized (after being praised in previous times), but by the time he was writing the arrival of August Zang and Viennese baking techniques had transformed it. Did he find the Ecuadorian bread whiter (which for the French long meant better) than the later bread as well? I'm very dubious about finding hard data on all this. But if in fact a Spanish colony was making bread better than one of the more cultured countries in Europe, it would be very interesting to know how. My own guess is that, though the French had been using milk and yeast for a while in the finer breads, something about the leavening, and perhaps the milling, made it better.
  18. chezjim

    Cooking testicles

    In 18th century France, testicles were called (as they still are in some places) "animelles". They were an item on 18th century model meal for which I dug up the corresponding recipes (self-published as Après Moi, Le Dessert: A French Eighteenth Century Model Meal). Here is part of the entry for that item: The menu pairs these with (cheese) ramekins. If you like the preparation but quail at the content, scallops might work nicely, no?
  19. This one is a long shot, I'll admit. The French nineteenth century chemist Boussingault - who later became quite famous - went as a young man to what would become Ecuador in the early 1820's. Very much in passing, he raved about the bread. This at a time when French bread was often criticized and had not yet gone through a change that would be helped by the arrival of Austrian techniques. So naturally I'm more than a bit more curious what was different about South American bread, or at least bread in that region, at the time. One would expect that, if anything, it would have been cruder. Were they using some other European technique? Or maybe some local method that was the equivalent to yeast (as opposed to sourdough leavening)? (Not impossible - the ancient Gauls used yeast - "beer foam" - in bread centuries before it returned to French baking.) And is bread-baking today largely derived from Spanish techniques, or some version of the French? Is there a distinct moment when it changed, either in specific countries or throughout the region? (Argentina, for instance, I would imagine was influenced by the Italians and Germans, at the least.) I'm not under-estimating the rarity of all this information - even hard facts on French baking of the period are spotty. But maybe a more fluent Spanish speaker might spot something on the Spanish Google Print, or in another on-line repository of Spanish-language books? Or even (oh joy) be a bread historian themselves? Thanks for any help.
  20. I can't vouch for the innumerable recipes one finds on the Web, but this site looks pretty substantial: Vietnamese recipes
  21. This reminds me of when I was a folksinger and people used to complain how crazy some clubowners were. Don't you have to be a little, at the least, out of the ordinary to go into certain professions in the first place?
  22. A tip was once very much that - a small amount off the top of the main bill to leave as a token for the waiter. 5% used to be common. Then it got up to 10% and the increasing assumption that you were helping to pay the person's salary. In Europe the tip is included - at 15%. This is euphemistically called "the service" and so, in France at least, some waiters have started saying "The service is included, but not the tip [pourboire]." In other words, start including the tip and soon servers will find ways to get... an additional tip. Now, people EXPECT 18%? Almost a fifth of the cost of the meal? Basically, the percentage keeps going up and whatever it hits as a peak, some customers will always want to show they're big tippers by going beyond it and so... we end up with one person here leaving... a THIRTY PERCENT TIP? If anyone should be getting that large a percentage of the whole price of your meal, wouldn't it be the cook? This escalation, along with pressures to buy bottled water, have desserts I don't want, etc. have a lot to do with why I stopped going to restaurants much a while back or, if I eat out, do so at my local cafe. Being treated as a milk cow just isn't much fun.
  23. I've done it a few times. When one subsequently posts such an image on the Web for a lesser known restaurant, I would think it would be a useful plug. (One picture I took in Vietnam of a particularly ornate lobster dish has been snagged by all kinds of other sites, though I don't know if they always include what I say about the restaurant.) It seems to me lots of people take pictures of each other in restaurants and so often, however incidentally, of the food. Short of banning pictures altogether (I imagine the very best restaurants frown on it overall), I'm not sure it's "on" to object to photographing the food.
  24. I've never seen his title qualified in any way and apparently he became "professor emeritus" after he retired, which would suggest to me a full professor. Still I can perfectly imagine that they might have considered his working background qualification enough without requiring further certification. Helas, this did not keep him from writing with a great air of authority on historical matters. Strangely, you can find info on him in the American Wikipedia and on a Spanish site: Raymond Calvel site - in Spanish But not on the French Wikipedia (any native French speakers tentés par la tache?)
  25. (I thought of reviving James MacGuire's thread (which I was delighted to see) but 2004? Seems a bit far back.) While I'm not enough of a baker (barely a baker at all) to judge the technical aspects of Calvel's monumental book, I have every reason to believe that from a technical point of view it is invaluable (this is, after all, the person who taught Julia Child to make French bread). I was also delighted to see that it was one of the rare works to show photographs of the basic French breads (which, verbally, are almost undefinable, so that pictures are all the more necessary). I keep hoping someone in Paris will shoot a baguette next to a flute, a ficelle and a batard and put the result on Wikipedia, but for now Calvel is one of the few to offer these images. My own interest however is in food (largely baking) history. I probably have to trust Calvel's accounts from when he was a working baker (the 30's?) and after (even then I'd love to be able to ask him a few pointed questions). Anything earlier and he makes some really shocking errors. Which probably won't matter to most hands-on bakers, but if the actual history of some of this matters to you, read on. As near as I can make out, Calvel simply accepted the legends of his trade. A natural enough thing to do, but once he became a professor it would be nice if he'd applied the principle of returning to prime sources, which he clearly did not. He says for instance that until the Viennese (that is, August Zang) arrived (around 1839), the French had only used yeast as an aid to sourdough (p 45). But eighteenth century sources (notably the monumental Dr. Malouin) state quite clearly that some breads were to be made only with yeast. On the same page, he repeats (and may have originated) the common assertion that "poolish" is a "Polish" sponge. This goes along with an idea frequently cited by others elsewhere that the poolish was a Polish technique which came to France via Austria. Which would be very strange, given that "poolish" does not mean Polish in any of those countries (it is an old ENGLISH word for "polish" - the English didn't use the method themselves, since they long had a sponge of their own.) In fact, references before 1900 to the technique (including two by an Austrian, Emil Braun) spell the word "pouliche", that is, the French word for "foal" (and a homonym for "poolish".) One can more readily imagine French bakers referring to a "young" mix of yeast allowed to grow strong before being used as a young horse than imagine that Polish, Austrian or French bakers used an archaic English word for a Polish technique. But speculation applies in either case. Later (116) he says that "Baron Zang" (Zang was a commoner) made Vienna bread without milk (numerous contemporary sources say it was made WITH milk) and using a poolish (no contemporary source mentions Zang using a poolish, which at any rate is not mentioned until the late 19th century, years after Zang left in 1848.) The Austrians certainly used yeast, but a German language text from 1841 describing Austrian techniques says nothing of any technique resembling a poolish (that is, no pre-fermentation). And the one big Austrian contribution to yeast - the invention of the more purified "pressed yeast" - came after Zang had left France. He treats the appearance of the baguette as contemporaneous with other "pains de fantaisie" (fancy breads) (103) and focuses on the fact that these had to be eaten soon after they were made. Which tended to be true. But it was not a defining characteristic of the classification, which existed since at least the 18th century (well before the baguette). A pain de fantaisie was originally so-called for the simple reason that it was out of the ordinary (made to the baker or client's "fantasy" or whim) and with time was sometimes defined as a bread not subject to a regulated price. When made with yeast (which was not always the case), it did indeed need to be eaten within the day, but that was incidental to the meaning of the term. The baguette, at any rate, was a very late entrant to the category. All this might seem to be nit-picking in the extreme, but beyond the fact that, hey, some people care about this stuff, several of Calvel's assertions seem to have made their way into the general literature (Calvel was after all a bone fide expert) and so one finds, for instance, frequent mentions of "Baron Zang". I don't know if Calvel is responsible for the myths around the poolish (which is referred to as a "Polisch" in one early 20th century text), but those are pretty widespread too. None of this is meant to question the book's fundamental importance. I've recommended it more than once. But if it has an Achilles' heel, it is on the history side.
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