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The Old Foodie

Potatoes aboard the TItanic.

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This is driving me crazy!

I am considering using the FIRST meal aboard the Titanic in my Menus from History book. The meal took place on April 2nd - the one and only day of sea-trials before the real voyage - so it must have been served to crew. There is an image HERE

In the list of vegetable dishes, below "Green Peas - Cauliflower", there is a dish that appears to be called "Bovin & Boiled Potatoes".

I am completely baffled: what is 'Bovin' ?

It is not likely to be Bovine; there is (was) a variety of potato called Bovinia, apparently grown for feeding to livestock, from what I can gather, but this hardly fits; there is "Boivin" which apparently is a variety of Meadow Rue - but again, this does not fit. The style of menus of the time (and the other surviving menus from the ship) would suggest that at that point the menu would list potatoes cooked by other methods, such as "Parmentier and Boiled new potatoes" such as on the famous last meal menu.

I have tried all sorts of phonetic spellings of what might be the word.

Any ideas? Please (she says plaintively)

Janet


Happy Feasting

Janet (a.k.a The Old Foodie)

My Blog "The Old Foodie" gives you a short food history story each weekday day, always with a historic recipe, and sometimes a historic menu.

My email address is: theoldfoodie@fastmail.fm

Anything is bearable if you can make a story out of it. N. Scott Momaday

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The word "bovin" is the singular of "bovines" in French, the translation of bovine. My guess is that it would be some sort of beef, veal, ox, buffalo or other bovine dish served with potatoes - perhaps a stew? I know that you are looking for something more specific, but that is the best that I could come up with. Does Escoffier ever use the term?


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Not in Escoffier, Larousse, La Repertoire, or several others such as Lady Clark of Tillypronie.

From the context and menus of the time I would guess a puree; perhaps mashed with dripping, hence Bovin. Not a dish known to the Cuisine Classique, but very good, and one for which the ingredients would be on hand.

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I don't know how reputable the site is as a source, but from the Encyclopedia Titanica:

'Bovin Potatoes are potatoes that have been boiled in beef broth, according to Great Grandma. She would peel the potatoes, place them in cold water with spoons of the product named Bovril until quite firm but cooked. Then in a skillet, butter would be melted and a bit more Bovril. The boiled potatoes and patted dry potatoes were then rolled around in the skillet and allowed to brown just a bit. The potatoes would get speckles of the caramelized Bovril and are browned by the butter. Serve while hot. Occasionally Grandma would sprinkle a tiny bit of chopped parsley on the top as a garnish'

Edited by mkayahara (log)

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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I am intrigued - be sure to let us know when your book is available. Need a proofreader?

The Titanic has made quite an impact here in Halifax. There is a cemetery in town full of passengers who perished - including a guy named J. Dawson (the name of Leo DiCaprio's character in the movie) Its a bit eerie seeing that menu, thanks for bringing it to our attention.


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I don't know how reputable the site is as a source, but from the Encyclopedia Titanica:
'Bovin Potatoes are potatoes that have been boiled in beef broth, according to Great Grandma. She would peel the potatoes, place them in cold water with spoons of the product named Bovril until quite firm but cooked. Then in a skillet, butter would be melted and a bit more Bovril. The boiled potatoes and patted dry potatoes were then rolled around in the skillet and allowed to brown just a bit. The potatoes would get speckles of the caramelized Bovril and are browned by the butter. Serve while hot. Occasionally Grandma would sprinkle a tiny bit of chopped parsley on the top as a garnish'

Interesting! I considered Bovril as the ingredient and then discarded the idea. I thought I had checked out the Encyclopedia site, but obviously missed this!

I am intrigued - be sure to let us know when your book is available. Need a proofreader?

The Titanic has made quite an impact here in Halifax. There is a cemetery in town full of passengers who perished - including a guy named J. Dawson (the name of Leo DiCaprio's character in the movie) Its a bit eerie seeing that menu, thanks for bringing it to our attention.

It will be a while before the book is available - the manuscript is not due for 12 months yet. I have selected (and keep re-selecting!) 365 historic menus (one for each day of the year, for an event on the actual day) - each will have a commentary and 1-3 recipes. I am having great fun with it. I'll certainly be asking for assistance round here from time to time I expect - thanks for the proof-reading offer.

Janet


Happy Feasting

Janet (a.k.a The Old Foodie)

My Blog "The Old Foodie" gives you a short food history story each weekday day, always with a historic recipe, and sometimes a historic menu.

My email address is: theoldfoodie@fastmail.fm

Anything is bearable if you can make a story out of it. N. Scott Momaday

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I sent your query to a friend who is on the faculty of one of the restaurant schools in town, and his reply, which I hope may give you a clue, was,

"I have not heard of bovin and boiled potatoes. The Bovril recipe sounds interesting. But often words have evolved in our language from completely different sources than would seem logical. Hence, allow me to propose that the researcher also look back in time to "beau vin" as a remote possibility to explore for derivation."

I hope you'll post again if this leads you anywhere. Good luck!


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I sent your query to a friend who is on the faculty of one of the restaurant schools in town, and his reply, which I hope may give you a clue, was,

"I have not heard of bovin and boiled potatoes. The Bovril recipe sounds interesting. But often words have evolved in our language from completely different sources than would seem logical. Hence, allow me to propose that the researcher also look back in time to "beau vin" as a remote possibility to explore for derivation."

I hope you'll post again if this leads you anywhere.  Good luck!

Another possibility, thanks for asking your friend, markk. I'll see what that line of inquiry turns up and will keep you all posted.

I have found no other reference to Bovin so far. I guess it is possible that Bovril And ... became abbreviated to Bov. an'..... , and then the pronunciation led to it being spelled Bovin. We do have a tendency to abbreviate and amalgamate words, dont we?


Happy Feasting

Janet (a.k.a The Old Foodie)

My Blog "The Old Foodie" gives you a short food history story each weekday day, always with a historic recipe, and sometimes a historic menu.

My email address is: theoldfoodie@fastmail.fm

Anything is bearable if you can make a story out of it. N. Scott Momaday

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It is important to remember that the RMS Titanic was a British ship and that despite their attempt to give much of their voyage a French touch, it was Ango-Francais that appeared on their menus.

At the time of the ship's commissioning one of the more popular "French" dishes in England was potatoes that had been first boiled and then tossed in a sauce of concentrated beef sauce. The product "Bovril" was then quite a la mode in the UK and a bit of research shows that the larders of the good ship Titanic were well stocked with these commercially prepared cubes.

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It is important to remember that the RMS Titanic was a British ship and that despite their attempt to give much of their voyage a French touch, it was Ango-Francais that appeared on their menus.

At the time of the ship's commissioning one of the more popular "French" dishes in England was potatoes that had been first boiled and then tossed in a sauce of concentrated beef sauce.  The product "Bovril" was then quite a la mode in the UK and a bit of research shows that the larders of the good ship Titanic were well stocked with these commercially prepared cubes.

It is certainly looking like it is Bovril that is the culprit, although in the absence of any other clear references to 'Bovin' it might have to remain educated conjecture. Bovril and the like were popular as restorative drinks, so the on-board concentrates might have been intended for this. The dinner was for crew, not wealthy passengers, so the dishes may have been less 'posh' on that account.

Having said that however, chefs and menu-writers were not afraid to use brand names at the time- one menu from the famous Raffles hotel in Singapore in 1910 proudly advertises 'Heinz' soup, and another from the opening of an American hotel has "canned corn". It would not have been strange even for a ship like the Titanic to have the word "Bovril" on the menu, rather than a neologism like "Bovin"

I'm still searching for another reference to "Bovin" itself.

Thanks for all your input - keep it coming!

Janet.


Happy Feasting

Janet (a.k.a The Old Foodie)

My Blog "The Old Foodie" gives you a short food history story each weekday day, always with a historic recipe, and sometimes a historic menu.

My email address is: theoldfoodie@fastmail.fm

Anything is bearable if you can make a story out of it. N. Scott Momaday

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You might look up the Titanic Historical Society (THS). If you can't find them, they used to store their collection with the Philadelphia Maritime Museum (PMM). PMM had a Titanic exhibit years ago and the living survivors attended. The PMM research librarian ought to be able to help or put you in contact with the THS.

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I don't know how reputable the site is as a source, but from the Encyclopedia Titanica:
'Bovin Potatoes are potatoes that have been boiled in beef broth, according to Great Grandma. She would peel the potatoes, place them in cold water with spoons of the product named Bovril until quite firm but cooked. Then in a skillet, butter would be melted and a bit more Bovril. The boiled potatoes and patted dry potatoes were then rolled around in the skillet and allowed to brown just a bit. The potatoes would get speckles of the caramelized Bovril and are browned by the butter. Serve while hot. Occasionally Grandma would sprinkle a tiny bit of chopped parsley on the top as a garnish'

Interesting! I considered Bovril as the ingredient and then discarded the idea. I thought I had checked out the Encyclopedia site, but obviously missed this!

I am intrigued - be sure to let us know when your book is available. Need a proofreader?

The Titanic has made quite an impact here in Halifax. There is a cemetery in town full of passengers who perished - including a guy named J. Dawson (the name of Leo DiCaprio's character in the movie) Its a bit eerie seeing that menu, thanks for bringing it to our attention.

It will be a while before the book is available - the manuscript is not due for 12 months yet. I have selected (and keep re-selecting!) 365 historic menus (one for each day of the year, for an event on the actual day) - each will have a commentary and 1-3 recipes. I am having great fun with it. I'll certainly be asking for assistance round here from time to time I expect - thanks for the proof-reading offer.

Janet

Your book idea is really intriguing. Best of Luck, Janet!


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