So I found this in the Victoria news:

17th-century cooks had their finger on the pulse

Pam Freir, Times Colonist Published: Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Last week I wrote about some of the gadgets that accumulate in today's kitchens. Since then I have visited a quite different kitchen, one in which the most advanced aid to food preparation is a pestle and mortar, and the most convenient timing device a finger on the pulse.

The kitchen belongs to Kenelm Digby, who died in 1665, so you will understand that I was not physically there. Kenelm (actually Sir Kenelm, but we don't stand on ceremony) was not primarily a cook. He was a bit of everything. A courtier, a pirate, a jailbird, an exile, a lifelong student, an ambassador, an alchemist, a respected healer and toward the end of his life a founder, with Christopher Wren, of the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, which is still going strong.

After his death Kenelm's secretary found a hidden treasure in a closet, a collection of recipes. Most were provided by others -- "Dr Harvey's pleasant water cider," "My Lady Fanshawe's way of feeding capons" -- but others clearly report his own efforts. For example, in "Gelly of Quinces" he takes us through an almost scientific examination of ways to preserve quinces in syrup.

Many of the recipes reveal how a 17th-century cook controlled the various processes without thermometers or thermostats. How long should an egg boil? Lacking a timer, Kenelm says "while your pulse beats 200 strokes." Fresh lampreys should be scalded in hot water, but for how long? "About an Ave Maria while." I tested that one; an Ave Maria takes 20 seconds, a Hail Mary 15 seconds. When making tea the Chinese way, how long should it brew? "No longer than it takes to say the Miserere Psalm very leisurely." In modern terms, one minute and 40 seconds.

Cooking over an open fire or a charcoal brazier requires special heat control techniques. In a recipe for mead he says - "let it boil 3 or 4 walms." A walm can be many things, in this case it means a boiling. The pot is placed on the heat until it boils, taken off the heat, put back on the heat, and so on. He has precise words for the various levels of boil: when making clotted cream it should "boil simperingly"; when making gruel you should "make it rise in a great ebullition, in great galloping waves".

If, like me, you get confused juggling metric and Imperial measures, you would lose your mind in Kenelm's kitchen. The pints, quarts and gallons would be familiar, but you'd be puzzled by the pottle, the peck, the pipkin and the porrenger. There's also the pugil, which is a double pinch; instead of using thumb and finger, use thumb and two fingers. Mixing good mustard calls for "a good pugil" of ground white pepper.

Measuring smaller quantities requires a pocket full of change. In the recipe for Cordial Tablets Kenelm asks for "powder of white amber, as much as will cover a shilling," and "mace, as much as will lie on a three pence." Or you may be directed to add "one penny worth of cloves."

As for the recipes, they feature a lot of mutton and venison. Eggs are consumed by the dozen, butter by the pottle. Milk is fresh from the cow; chickens are fattened with ale-soaked grains. The range of herbs is many times what we would use today --* among the unfamiliar are agrimony, bettony, broom-buds, eyebright, pimpernel. One recipe calls for gold leaf.

Kenelm was a large handsome man, and his wife Venetia was a notorious beauty. She died in his 30th year, and he mourned her extravagantly. Indeed, he did everything extravagantly, especially talk. He talked of his alchemical studies, of potions and medicines that only he could make, of his travels in the courts of Europe, where he flirted with queens, fought a duel and argued with the pope.

But it was generally understood that his stories required the addition of an important corrective -- a good pugil of salt.

pam@gulfislandswireless.net

© Times Colonist (Victoria) 20
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Chef's chili a hit with drop-in kids

Gay Cook, For Canwest News Service Published: Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The aroma from a pot of chili bubbling on the stove in Operation Go Home's kitchen permeates the house, making everyone long for lunch.

This busy place, in Ottawa's ByWard Market, is a welcoming, casual drop-in for kids who are away from home -- sometimes by choice, sometimes kicked out by parents.

For the past few months, caterer Lisa Kates has come to the house every Thursday, bringing her large soup pot, spices and fresh ingredients to prepare lunch for about 20 young people and staff.

"When I heard that Operation Go Home wanted to start a luncheon program one day a week, my eyes opened wide, I became excited and I decided right then that that was what I wanted to do," says Kates. "The kids like to come into the kitchen when I'm cooking and peek into the pot, and they always say thanks."

One of Kates's most popular lunches is her chili.

LISA KATES' DELICIOUS SPICY BEEF CHILI

6 servings

1 pound (480 g) coarsely ground beef chuck

5 tablespoons (65 mL) olive oil (divided)

2 tablespoons (25 mL) dried oregano

1 teaspoon (5 mL) dried sage

1 teaspoon (5 mL) ground cumin

2 medium yellow onions, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 carrots, peeled, diced

1 sweet cubanelle pepper, or 1 local or organic bell pepper

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, chopped

2 tablespoons (25 mL) Mexican chili powder

1/2 teaspoons (2 mL) cayenne, or to taste

1 teaspoon (5 mL) sea salt or to taste

2 19-ounce (540 mL) cans plum tomatoes

1 19-ounce (540 mL) can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup (250 mL) barley

10 ounces (280 grams) fresh spinach or chard, washed, stems removed, coarsely chopped

In medium-sized heavy saucepan, brown meat in 3 tablespoons (40 mL) olive oil with the oregano, sage and cumin. When beef is browned, remove from saucepan and drain off fat; reserve meat.

In the same heavy saucepan on medium heat, add the remaining olive oil; saute onions, garlic, carrots, chopped cubanelle or bell pepper with its seeds, jalapeno, chili powder, cayenne and salt. Cook until vegetables are coated with spices, about 10 minutes.

Add tomatoes; bring to a slow boil; add black beans and barley with reserved beef. Simmer on medium low heat for 90 minutes. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, add spinach or chard.

© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2008



OK. I'm hungry now!