Friday, 13 November 2009


“Edible, (adjective): Good to eat, and wholesome to digest, as a worm to a toad, a toad to a snake, a snake to a pig, a pig to a man, and a man to a worm.” - Ambrose Bierce

Another very busy week comes to a close and tonight has me feeling rather sleepy and tired. We watched a program on Greek Satellite TV tonight called “Love Bites”. It is an inane show, but occasionally there was a gem or two of one-liners volunteered by the participants. The show is a blind date type of program where four young people each on a consecutive night have to cook for a member of the opposite sex, who then has to choose whom to take away on a trip. I was amazed by the lack of cooking skills shown and also the gaucheness and shallowness of these young people in their mid-twenties. The young woman who was the “guest of honour” in tonight’s show had meals cooked for her and the last fellow who had to prepare the dinner decided to cook an exotic Hawaiian meal, which unfortunately did not turn out too well. The young woman sampling it was disgusted by it and couldn’t eat it as the tastes were too “foreign for her.

I was wondering how I would have fared in a similar situation in my mid-twenties, but from what I remember, I think I would have done much better. It is interesting how we associate food with love, the old proverb must have an element of truth in it: “The way to a man’s heart is though his stomach” (well a woman’s too!).

On the subject of “foreign” and exotic tastes, living here in Melbourne, we are lucky to have a huge variety of cuisines to sample, in many cases prepared better here than in their country of origin. I was thinking what would constitute something really foreign and bizarre for me and I thought that instead of having to eat something from a distant geography and it tasting “strange”, I would rather have to go to a distant place in time. Most ancient and medieval dishes we would feel tasted bizarre. One factor in this would be the lack of many modern ingredients we take for granted, while another factor would be the propensity to mix very incongruously any number of ingredients to produce a melange of questionable appetising appeal.

Here is an example:

Puddyng of purpaysse
PERIOD: England, 15th century | SOURCE: Harleian MS 279 | CLASS: Authentic
DESCRIPTION: Stuffed porpoise stomach

.xl. Puddyng of purpaysse. Take þe Blode of hym, & þe grece of hym self, & Ote-mele, & Salt, & Pepir, & Gyngere, & melle þese to-gederys wel, & þan putte þis in þe Gutte of þe purays, & þan lat it seþe esyli, & not hard, a good whylys; & þan take hym vppe, & broyle hym a lytil, & þan serue forth.
- Austin, Thomas. Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books. Harleian MS. 279 & Harl. MS. 4016, with extracts from Ashmole MS. 1429, Laud MS. 553, & Douce MS 55. London: for The Early English Text Society by N. Trübner & Co., 1888.

Pudding of porpoise. Take the Blood of him, & the grease of him self, & Oatmeal, & Salt, & Pepper, & Ginger, & mix these together well, & then put this in the Gut of the porpoise, & then let it boil easily, & not hard, a good while; & then take him up, & broil him a little, & then serve forth.

Porpoise blood
Porpoise grease
One porpoise stomach

Combine the porpoise blood, porpoise grease, and oatmeal, and season it with salt, pepper, and ginger. This should be a thick and moist stuffing-like mixture. Stuff the porpoise stomach about half full with this, as the stuffing will swell during cooking. Sew up the stomach tightly or secure each end with string, and prick it all over with a large needle to avoid bursting. Put an upturned plate in the base of a pot of boiling water, stand the stomach on this and bring back to the boil; boil steadily for 3 to 4 hours. Cook until done; remove from water and drain well. Place in a broiler and cook for several minutes on both sides to slightly crisp the skin, then serve.

This recipe is essentially a porpoise haggis, as it uses all the elements found in the traditional Scottish haggis of a boiled sheep stomach with an oatmeal stuffing.

Bon appétit!


  1. Oh yuk! That sounds really disgusting. And a porpoise is like a dolphin, isnt it?
    I think I'll have some take out pizza instead!

  2. There is an amazing variety of things that people eat and which are culturally ingrained, arousing disgust in people brought up with a different set of norms, even in these days of cosmopolitan omnivorism.
    The concept of going back in time to see what people ate that we don;t any more is quite interesting! Haggis whether of sheep or porpoise is not to my taste.