Monday, March 23, 2015

Subtleties&Stuffe Menon Part I


The author known as Menon (écrivain culinaire) published a number of cookery books in France in the middle of the eighteenth century, including Les Soupers de la Cour ou l'Art de travailler toutes sortes d' aliments pour servir les meilleurs tables suivant les quatre saisons, (1755) and La Cuisinière bourgeoise suivie de l'office à l'usage de tous ceux qui se mêlent de dépenses de maisons (1746).  Anne Willan and Mark Cherniavsky in The Cookbook Library (2012) write Menon “was the most influential and prolific French cookbook author of the eighteenth century.” (p 218). They also credit Menon as being the “next big name to come on the confectionary scene in France…” after Massialot in the previous century. (p 166).

Again what we are interested in from Menon are the sugar stages. Menon is important because he details thirteen stages, taking the degrees of sugar boiling into the descriptive sphere of pig’s tails and pearls. Barbara K. Wheaton in Savoring the Past (1983) describes the sugar stages from Menon’s 1750 work La Science du maitre d’hotel. From various descriptions it appears Menon probably repeated this advice and the descriptions of the sugar stages in several different books. (Wheaton helpfully provides correlations of Menon’s sugar degrees to degrees Fahrenheit, and I have included those below.)
These descriptions appear in the second edition of the English translation titled:
 The Professed Cook: or the Modern Art of Cookery, Pastry, and Confectionary, Made Plain and Easy. Consisting of the most approved methods in the French as well as English cookery. ... [Translated from Les Soupers de la Cour; ... And adapted to the London markets by the editor. Translated [by B. Clermont.]]  2nd Edition. London, MDCCLXIX. [1769]. 303pp. Volume 2 of 2. [Available Online through: Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale, (EECO database)]
It should be mentioned there are bibliographies, catalogs, and also now the Internet, which credit Clermont as the true author of The Professed Cook and not as just the translator. The British Library catalogues one later 19th century edition as:

Returning to the 1769 English second edition of The Professed Cook: or the Modern Art of Cookery  (located through the invaluable EECO database), and the section heading “De L’Office of Confectionary” we find “The Names or Appellations by which the different Degrees of refining Sugar are distinguished….they are, in every Nation very secret in regard to the Preparations of Sugar. The Reason is very natural.” (506-507) After the customary instructions on how sugar must be clarified, the instructions continue with:

Premier Cuisson du Sucre, qui est le petit Lisse.

First Degree of refining Sugar called Small Lissi sleeked.

Put the clarified Sugar upon the Fire, to boil gently; you will know when it is to this first Degree, by dipping one Finger in it, and join it to another, by opening; if it draws to a small Thread, and in breaking, returns to each Finger in the Nature of a Drop, it is done. [p 508]

Le grand Lisse, Second Degree;

It is boiled a little more, and the Thread extends further before it breaks, and is proved after the first Manner. [p 508]
[Wheaton lists petit and grand lisse as being 215-220 degrees F. p 184]

Le Petit Perle, Third Degree;
It is still boiled a little more, until It does not break, by extending the fingers half as much as is possible to do; One Pound of Sugar is sufficient to make a Trial of all the different Degrees. [p 508]
[Wheaton lists petit and grand perle as being 220-222 degrees F. p.184]

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