Stuffed Dormouse, Anyone?

The cult of authenticity may be jumpin’ the shark. Alina Dizak reports that the next food trend may be dredging up the recipes our forbears ate.

Chefs are raiding ancient Roman texts, Renaissance manuscripts and 19th-century American cookbooks in search of authentic old recipes with which to tempt jaded foodies. Many of the recipes call for unfamiliar—and somewhat unappetizing—ingredients like songbirds, veal brains, the ancient herb hyssop and “preboggin” (pray-bo-ZHAWN), a fancy name for wild greens, also known as “weeds.”

The “foodie revolution” has helped America discover its palate. And that is all to the good. But the seemingly never-ending search for novelty (in the guise of a search for “authenticity”) may leave the palate unsatisfied.

Most of the comments are less than enthusiastic about flavor.

Cooking was very bland back then,” says Robyn Stern, culinary research assistant for Think Food Group, chef José Andrés’s company, which operates America Eats. “Meats were either roasted or boiled, and a lot of the same spices were repeated.

I suppose rummaging through the past might turn up a few gems and it is always interesting to revisit the past (from a great distance), but in the absence of flavor I wouldn’t expect this trend to go far.

And happily there are limits:

So far, Mr. Baltzley has confirmed he’ll prepare the Meat Mincer, a gory second course of langoustine sausage, spelt and veal brains. For other dishes, he wants to experiment with pig udders and pig wombs—although they are highly unlikely to appear on the final menu because they aren’t inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and farmers can’t sell them. “You need to find a crazy farmer that will give it to you,” Mr. Baltzley says.

One recipe he won’t bother to explore: Stuffed Dormouse.


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