Jean-Louis Flandrin, who died in 2001, wrote in his posthumously published book L’Ordre des mets that the reformation had such rapid succes in North-West Europe because of the prohibition of butter by the catholic church during Lent. Southern Europe used olive oil anyway, but in the North-West suet, lard and butter were the favourite cooking media. During Lent all animal fat was banned from the kitchen, just as meat, cheese and eggs. So maybe it was to prevent an exodus from the mother-church that by the seventeenth century the use of butter during Lent was permitted in the catholic church.
On the other hand, in seventeenth-century France the diet was even more restricted during one special day in the year. Lent was the forty-day fast from carnival to Easter, in which no meat, eggs, milk and cheese were permitted. Fish was the food par excellence during these days. But in France on Good Friday fish also was prohibited. This was the day all France ate vegetarian.
Good Friday in cookbooks
The culinary consequences of this special day can be seen in some French cookbooks from that period. In my article on the recipe for Potage à la Reine I have already mentioned how this worked in Le cuisinier François from La Varenne (1651 edition). He dedicated two chapters to dishes for Good Friday, one on pottages and one for entrees. There are some recipes in these chapters, but more references to recipes elsewhere in the cookbook, in the chapters for fishdays (jours maigres) and Lent (Caresme) that were without fish anyway. He refers for example to a ‘salade en citron’ that is part of the Entremets pour les jours de viandes, which uses pomegranate pips as garnish (in the same chapter is a recipe for ‘salade de grenade’ wgich uses lemon as garnish). For my adapation I have chosen antoher recipe altogether, from Le cuisinier méthodique (1660). To be honest, this cookbook does not indentify recipes that can be prepared on Good Friday, but I liked the addition of pistacchio nuts.
Another cookbook with vegetarian recipes for Good Friday is Le cuisinier from 1656, by Pierre de Lune (edition). But where La Varenne suffices mainly with referring to recipes elsewhere in his cookbook, Pierre de Lune went all out: no less than one in every six recipes in his cookbook is especially for Good Friday. The Jacobin Sops and Spinach Pie are both from his cookbook. Another recipe from Pierre de Lune on this site: Salmon in red wine sauce.
Good Friday is part of the Easter cycle, which is dependent on the moon cycle. Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the beginning of spring. Carnival, Ash Wednessday, Good Friday, Ascension and Pentecost all change according to the date of Easter. Good Friday can be anywhere between 20 March and 23 April (see Wikipedia on the Easter date), but in the recipes of La Varenne and De Lune for that day asparagus are mentioned, as well as artichokes, spinach and lettuce. Were all these vegetables grown in greenhouses? Orangeries abounded, but hothouses to grow vegetables didn’t come into existence untill the nineteenth century. However, the gardener of Louis XIV at Versailles, Jean-Baptiste La Quintinie, was a master in forcing and prolonging the growing season of vegetables as green peas (petits pois) and asparagus, and he could serve fresh strawberries in March and lettuce in January.
Both La varenne and De Lune also teach how to conserve vegetables; Pierre de Lune has a chapter on this immediately preceding the chapters on recipes for Good Friday. Thus we are instructed on how to preserve asparagus, artichokes, cardoons, lettuce, cucumber, garden peas and white mushrooms, and instructed on drying morilles and fairy ring mushrooms.
The original recipe
On this page is the recipe for pomegranate salad from Le cuisinier méthodique (‘The methodical cook’. 1660, 1662, see bibliography). The two recipes from Pierre de Lune for Jacobin Sops and Spinach Pie are now on separate pages.
Mondez les grans de la grenade, & les dressez sur vne assiette, & la garnissez de citron par tranches & pistache entiere, & se sert auec le sucre.
‘Peel’ the pomegranate pips and arrange them on a dish. Garnish with lemon slices and whole pistachios. Serve with sugar.
A brilliant salad, as if a open jewel box is set in front of you! Moreover, it’s almost obscenely healthy and very easy to prepare. I guess that pistaches entières means the shelled nuts, but unchopped.
Small side dish for 2 to 3 persons; preparation in advance 10 minutes; preparation 5 minutes.
4 Tbsp peeled pistacchio nuts (prefereably unsalted)
sugar to taste
Preparation in advance
Cut open the pomegranates and scoop out the pulp.
Remove the rind of a quarter lemon. Cut into thin slices.
Arrange the pomegranate pips on a decorative dish. Add the quartered lemon slices and pistachios. Sprinkle with sugar if you want, but be sure to taste it first without. If the pomegranate is sweet enough, you won’t need any sugar.
This salad is a side dish. According to Sabban and Serventi (zie bibliography p.198) it’s a perfect combination with roasted meat, but I think roasted fish fits equally well.
This recipe is an absolute favourite of mine: pure ingredients, refreshing, not too sour (even without added sugar), and very, very healthy.
This fruit grows on a small tree (Punica granatum) that is indigenous to Iran. You eat the pulp that is surrounding the seeds. This pulp is divied by uneatable membranes that have to be removed. The pips can be swallowed or spit out, what you prefer (or whatever the custom is where you live).
In ancient Greek mythology the pomegranate is connected to the change of seasons: because Persephone swallowed a pomegranate seed she had to remain in the underworld for a third of the year. During her stay with Hades it is winter on Earth. According to some, the apple in Paradise was a pomegranate, as was Aphrodite’s apple (which she offered to Paris, think Trojan War).
The red gemstone is named after pomegranate fruit because of the colour and luminescence, the grenade (the weapon) was also named after the pomegranate because it explodes just like the seeds of the splashed fruit. Grenadine, a soft drink, originally was made from pomegranate, but nowadays it only has the name in common.
From the culinary point of view only the red jelly around the seeds is used, although the seeds themselves can also be eaten. The seeds are inside seed chambers with tough inedible membranes. In the Northern hemisphere the season for pomegranates is from September to February; in the Southern hemisphere from March until May.
The editions below were used by me. Links refer to available editions.
- Le cuisinier méthodique, Où est enseigné la maniere d’aprester toute sorte de Viandes, Poissons, legumes, Gelées, Cresmes, Salades, & autres Curiositez (Paris, 1662). Online version.
- Jean-Louis Flandrin, Arranging the Meal: A History of Table Service in France (California Studies in Food and Culture) (2007, or. L’ordre des mets, Parijs, 2002).
- François Pierre La Varenne , Le cuisinier françois d’apres l’édition de 1651, Facsimile edition with an introduction by Philip and Mary Hyman. (Houilles, 2002).
- François Pierre, La Varenne’s Cookery: The French Cook, the French Pastry Chef, the French Confectioner. English translation with introduction and notes by Terence Scully (Prospect Books, 2006)
- Françoise Sabban en Silvano Serventi, La gastronomie au Grand Siècle. 100 recettes de France et d’Italie. Éditions Stock, 1998.
Recipe for pomegranate salad from the 17th century
This pomegranate salad is for Good Friday, the day on which during the reign of Louis XIV alle meat, fish and dairy were banned from the table in France