Robinson Crusoe Quote

"He preferred, however, "gourmandization," was an idolater of a certain decent, commodious fish, called a turtle, and worshipped the culinary image wherever he nozed it put up."
---The Contradiction (1796)

Friday, 27 May 2011

Freemasonry and Celebrity Chefs

I've been spending time at the Freemasons Hall as of late, and ran across this newspaper clipping today.   It comes from Lloyds Evening Post, and was published on the 26th of February 1790.

“MICHAEL RUHOLD, who lately kept the Tavern at Madrass, and JOHN MOLLARD, late a Partner and cook at the London Tavern, respectfully inform the Public, that they have taken the Free Masons Tavern, in Great Queen-Street, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, which has been rebuilt upon an enlarged Plan, and fitted up in the genteelest Style, that they have laid in a large Assortment of the choicest Wines, and propose to open their House on Thursday the 4th of March, when they solicit the Favour of their Friends and the Public, assuring them that no Pains will be spared to merit their Encouragement. 
N.B.  The largest Companies may be commodiously entertained."

A 19th century illustration of Freemason's Tavern
Making a point of Mollard's previous employer was no accident.  The London Tavern was a pretty big deal in the latter half of the 18th century, and just like today, working at a prestigious eating establishment could give a cook some much needed celebrity cach√©.

The same was true when it came to cookbooks.  Ten years later, Mollard came out with The Art of Cookery made Easy and Refined, which, considering the fact that it ran into five editions by 1836, didn't do so badly with the public.

I was checking it out today, and was rather impressed with its scope.  There are recipes for all the English staples: pea soups, 'meat cakes with savory jelly,' and turtle, both real and "mock."  But there are also quite a few dishes that proclaim their international flare; French names are littered throughout the book, as well as things done "the German way" or "the Spanish way."  There are even three different recipes for curry.  But I didn't really know what to make of all of this.  Was there anything particularly "Masonic" about this cookery book?

Other than being associated with the Freemason's Tavern, the cookbook never mentions the so-called "Royal Art."  Perhaps that isn't wholly surprising.  Even though the tavern was attached to the grand lodge, you didn't have to be part of the Brethren in order to enjoy a meal there.  In fact, it was often rented out for private events that had nothing to do with Freemasonry at all.

One recipe, however, caught me eye: "Solomongundy."  Salmagundi, I knew, was a sort of meat-vegetable-condiment salad ... a handy way for 18th century cooks to use up all of their leftovers.  But "Solomongundy?"  It couldn't have anything to do with Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem, which was so important to Masonic legend?  Could it?

Alas, dear readers.  I poked around a little more and I found this alternate spelling wasn't so unusual after all.  Dead end.  The subject of Masonic dining in the 18th century is full of tantalizing clues –– references to "demolishing huge walls of venison pasty" and "leg of mutton masons" –– but getting an idea of how food functioned in rituals and social life was harder than I thought.

It being around tea-time, I went across the street to satiate my frustration in a more contemporary English treat, meat salads being harder to come by these days.

Yet another fabulous scone with cream and raspberry jam ... 
But if you feel inspired to whip one up ...  

John Mollard's "Solomongundy:"
“Chop small and separately lean of boiled ham, breast of dressed fowl, picked anchovies, parsley, omlets of eggs white and yellow (the same kind as for garnishing), shallots, a small quantity of pickle cucumbers, capers, and beet root. Then rub a saucer over with fresh butter, put it in the center of the dish, and make it secure from moving.  Place round it in partitions the different articles separately till the saucer is covered, and put on the rim of the dish some slices of lemon.”