"The old ways are the best" was a phrase often heard in the old days but much less frequently in our modern know-it-all era. Just as we have handed choice - skinny latte, cappuccino, full-fat arabica malted mocha or fresh juice sweetie? - to our 4-year-old children, so have we turned out backs on the ancient wisdoms that unerringly guided our ancestors in the direction of perpetual war, mass starvation, wholesale pestilence and (in East Creech at least) incest, sodomy and funny-man-who-lives-on-his-own-baiting. Here at professorthrupiece.com we understand the meaning of progress and like to think that we embrace it as enthusiastically as the next man [the Betterware salesman surely? [Ed]]. However, it is worth pausing - as we hurtle unimpeded towards a post-modernist, post-colonial nirvana - to remember that some of the things our great-great-great-great-great-great grandpersons treasured and lived-by all those years ago are worth revisiting.
And what better time to do so than the yuletide season when we regularly suspend disbelief to revive ancient rituals and celebrate narratives that were, frankly, "off with the fairies" even when they were brand-new? So, we asked several of our special correspondents to dig around in the Bradford Abbas Archives to see what they could discover. And what better place to start than in the culinary bio-ethical sphere where progress and experimentation tinged with respect for the old ways is the absolute hallmark of Thrupieceian endeavour?
This week our Home-baking Correspondent Gaz Markfourre turns his attention to traditional mincemeat.
SEASONAL FARE OF OUR ANCESTORS NO 1: TRADITIONAL MINCEMEAT
Hidden away in File 15b/c12486 [carefully stored in Room 8, Cabinet 32 of the Bradford Abbas Archives] are the collected papers of pioneer household economist Mrs Isabella Beeton-Oats [1856-1903]. Well known for her contemporary recipes as well as her attempts to standardise domestic procedures, the better to aid the busy Victorian housewife, she was also an inveterate collector of ancient recipes many of which she believed had "stood the test of time". She even quarried the local jumble sales for ancient texts and many of these survive in the archive amongst her private papers.
Here we feature a recipe from c1623 written down in an unknown hand in about 1791. We are told by Mrs Beeton-Oats that it is "a perfectly viable alternative to other mincemeats" and that it is "especially recommended to those with little money and no sense of taste or smell".
THAT RECIPE IN FULL
MIncemeat for the Yuletide
2 lbs raisins
3 lbs currants
1 1/2 lbs of brisket, scrag-end or gristle
3 lbs of aged pig-sourced suet (bone-in)
2 pounds of soft dark brown sugar (adulterate with fresh soil if preferred)
6 oz mixed candied peel (citron, lemon, orange &c)
1 nutmeg, grated
2 lbs of hard-wintered apples, peeled, cored and grated (leave grubs in)
the juice of 2 onions and the juice of one ferret
3 oz chewing tobacco
1 1/2 pint of brandy
3 pinches gunpowder
Mix very very very carefully and stand well-back whilst cooking. Do not eat whilst smoking a cheroot, cigarillo or practising fire-eating.