FoodReference.com Logo

FoodReference.com   (Since 1999)
 

Food Articles, News & Features Section

Home       Food Articles       Food Trivia       Today in Food History       Recipes       Cooking Tips       Videos       Food Quotes       Who's Who       Food Trivia Quizzes       Crosswords       Food Poems       Cookbooks       Food Posters       Recipe Contests       Culinary Schools       Gourmet Tours       Food Festivals & Shows

  You are here > 

HomeFood Articles'P' to 'Z' Food History >  Spices & Spoiled Meat

 

CULINARY SCHOOLS &
COOKING CLASSES

From Amateur & Basic Cooking Classes to Professional Chef Training
Over 1,000 schools & classes listed for U.S., Online & Worldwide

Culinary Posters and Food Art

SPICES: SPOILED MEAT & MEATLESS FRIDAYS

 

QUESTIONS:

Hello Chef James,

I love the Foodreference.com website!!
I have a few questions.  I can not seem to find answers anywhere. With your vast knowledge of food, I was hoping you might be able to help!
 
In college a professor taught me  that because of no refrigeration they often served spoiled or meat that was about to spoil, thus the evolution of the French sauces? Basically he said they developed them to cover the taste of the meat. It made sense to me.  Do you think this is true? Perhaps point me in the right direction.
 
Second question, I was also taught that the practice of no meat on Fridays for Catholic's was the churches way to reduce sickness from consuming rotting meat. Again this would be due to lack of refrigeration.  I know this is not the sole reason for this tradition but I was taught it was a contributing factor. Again this seemed logical but I find no reference to this either. I would be very grateful if you could shed some light on these questions.
In advance I thank you!! - Christopher

 

ANSWERS:

Hello Christopher,

At first both theories may seem logical, and they have been widely accepted for a long time.  But facts to back them up just aren’t there.

1.  The use of spices or French sauces to cover the taste of spoiled meat:

A) Humans have been using various techniques for preserving meat for a very long time before refrigeration was invented. Salt, vinegar, dry curing, etc.  Eating spoiled meat was very rarely necessary.

B) Spices were extremely expensive until very recently.  Black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg etc. were imported from Asia and Africa.
Those most likely to resort to eating spoiled meat would be those who could not afford fresh meat: the poor.  Someone who could not afford fresh meat would also be the least likely to afford expensive spices.  The spices were more expensive than the meat! 
French sauces are time consuming and expensive.  The same facts apply to them.

C) If spices and sauces were used to cover the taste of spoiled meat, where are the recipes or instructions for doing so?  If this was a common practice there should be a wealth of written material, instructions or recipes dealing with ‘spoiled’ meat from the period.  The few references I have seen are mostly misinterpretations (‘greene’ meat or cheese actually means fresh or unripe, not spoiled).

D) Spices/Sauces actually cannot cover the taste of spoiled meat.  Try it yourself (if you don’t mind food poisoning!). It is almost impossible to cover up the taste of spoiled meat.


2.  Meatless Fridays

The practice of eating Fish on Fridays has no connection with avoiding rotten meat or reducing sickness.

A. If spoiled meat was such a problem, why avoid it only one day a week?  Avoiding meat for 6 days a week would make more sense.

B. Christ died on Friday.  Meatless Fridays are a variation/evolution of the tradition of fasting to commemorate the suffering and death of Christ.  Fasting traditions have evolved over the years and have settled into not eating meat on Friday as a compromise.
(The tradition of fasting or abstinence is not limited to Catholics, Christians, or modern times. Fasting in one form or another has been practiced for all of recorded history. Eating fish to honor various gods also has a long history. The ancient Romans ate fish to honor the goddess Venus).

Chef James, FoodReference.com
 

A few references:
Yale Center for the Study of Globalization
We can dismiss the most widely disseminated explanation for the medieval demand for spices: that they covered the taste of spoiled meat or they were used to preserve meat. Not only is there no evidence for this, it cannot be squared with common sense. Spices were much more expensive than meat. Besides, fresh meat was readily available, which is proved by the many extant records of municipal ordinances prohibiting butchers from throwing unwanted animal parts and blood in the streets. Butchers received meat on the hoof and were responsible for all the processing now done off-site. Medieval purchasers consumed meat much fresher than what the average city-dweller in the developed world of today has at hand. Moreover, spices are not in fact effective preservatives, especially compared to salting, smoking or drying meat.
ALSO:
Medieval Cookery: www.medievalcookery.com/notes/drummond.pdf
Food History News: www.foodhistorynews.com/debunk.html#rotten
Catholic Encyclopedia: Lent - www.newadvent.org/cathen/09152a.htm

 

TOP 

RELATED ARTICLES

Turkey and Ancient Maya       Spices & Spoiled Meat       Pace, The Original Picante Sauce       Parker Ranch History       Peanut Butter Origins       Pizza History       Pomegranate History       Potato: Their Early History       Potato: Origin of the Modern Potato       Potatoes, The Idaho Potato       Potato: Growth of the Idaho Potato Industry       Pretzels: History & Development       Puttanesca Pasta Sauce       Quiche Origins       Reuben Sandwich Origins       Rice: History of Rice       Roast Pig, A Dessertation       Salisbury Steak       Salt: A Precious Commodity       Sandwiches, Origin       Sandwiches, A History       Scones, A Short History       Squash, The History of a Squash       Steak Diane, Legacy of the Huntress       Stew, A History       Strawberries, A History (Sci4kids)       Stuffing       Tomatoes, Taxonomy       Tomato Origins: The Love Apple       Turkey, History & Facts       TV Dinners: Who was First?       Vegetables & Fruits Of The New World       Walkerswood Caribbean Foods      Walnuts, Up Against the Wall       Waring Blender's Unusual History       Whipped Cream       Worcestershire Sauce History

 

   Home        About Us & Contact Us        Cooking Contests        Free Magazines        Food Links  
Copyright notice

 

 

 

POPULAR PAGES

FREE Food & Beverage Publications
An extensive selection of free magazines and other publications for qualified Food, Beverage & Hospitality professionals