Bread And Thread Episode 1 Oysters Transcript

opening music Liz: Hello! And welcome to Bread and Thread, a podcast about food and domestic history. I’m Liz Hazel: And I’m Hazel. Two people that studied archaeology and love social history Liz: So have you been making or baking anything this week? Hazel: Yeah I, did I tell you that I got a spinning wheel? Liz: You did not! Hazel: Yeah I have a spinning wheel now and it’s great. I can spin so many things, so many fibres. Um, I have been spinning some Jacob/Shetland wool Liz: ooh Hazel: Because, this is going to sound like the most village-y thing ever Liz: I mean you are the most village-y person I know Hazel: Guilty as charged. Um, the postman in our village is also a shepherd Liz: Naturally Hazel: And he has some sheep out on the level so I…I got a fleece and I’ve been spinning that and also doing some stuff with South Downs wool and I’m trying to spin it into a laceweight so I can do like a handspun version of a Shetland lace shawl Liz: Oh that’s cool. Shetland lace is…a whole thing. We should do an episode on Shetland Lace Hazel: Oh we absolutely should yeah. I am slightly regretting my decision due to how much work is involved. There is a lot – I mean it’s enjoyable but also like, there’s a lot! Liz: Yeah Hazel: Yeah. What have you made? Is it delicious? Liz: It is delicious. I’ve rediscovered my love for banoffee pie which is one of those classic “look we invented fridges” kinds of desserts Hazel: laughs It is very 1970s. In a nice way. I-I don’t like banoffee pie, I’m sorry Liz: I will forgive you Hazel: Ok Liz: It can be very sweet. But I have made some banoffee cookies, which are less sweet Hazel: That sounds nice actually, yeah Liz: Because rather than…because banoffeee pie’s got loads of caramel in it this more just, there’s little bits of fudge, and then there’s banana in the actual cookie dough so it’s…it’s like a grown-up banoffee pie Hazel: It sounds like a superior biscuit Liz: It is delicious. I will have to send you the recipe Hazel: I thought you were going to say you were going to send me the cookies and I got excited Liz: I don’t know how well they’d travel Hazel: Just roll them Liz: If I get a big enough slingshot, I can shoot them from Manchester to Pevensey Hazel: Yeah Liz: They’re probably quite aerodynamic Hazel: I’ll put a net in the garden and I’ll just catch me some wild sky cookies, it’ll be great Liz: I love it. So, this is our first episode, and we decided that I was going to do the research first, so I’m going to talk to you about oysters, and their journey from “terrible filler meat” to “expensive fancy meat” Hazel: Ooh, that sounds like an exciting journey of meat Liz: Have you ever had an oyster? Hazel: I actually never have. I can’t look, I just can’t get over how they look like snot Liz: They are quite slimy… Hazel: I…oh…ah, there’s a limit on slimy things that I want going down my throat and I’ve never been able to bring myself to get oysters down there, nah Liz: You can get smoked oysters though which are more…it’s kind of a livery, like pate-y type texture? But they taste really good, I recommend putting them in quiche with like a bit of broccoli Hazel: When did you make oyster quiche? Liz: When I lived with my very middle class parents Hazel: That is a ridiculous food item Liz: It was delicious though Hazel: Fair, I mean I’d try it I guess Liz: A combination of being northern and being middle class means I’ve eaten most things at this point Hazel: laughs Liz: But yeah so, oysters, getting back on topic, oysters in history Hazel: Ok yeah tell me about some oysters Liz: So, the way that we eat oysters now, with like a little bit of something acidic on, or some sort of fancy topping, has actually been a thing since the Romans, who used to import British oysters because they were so good and big, which is quite cool Hazel: Oh yeah everything’s big in Britain Liz: It’s well known, we’re the Texas of Europe, in that everyone secretly hates us Hazel: I think that we are, in like the worst kind of way, but um, oysters Liz: Yeah oyster shells have been seen almost as a filler material in buildings, like prehistoric right through to medieval Hazel: Oh! Liz: Like if you look at some of the medieval stone buildings, especially up in Scotland you can actually see oyster shells embedded in the walls sometimes Hazel: No way! Liz: Yeah I went to Mary King’s Close, which is this underground haunted street in Edinburgh, and there were oyster shells embedded in some of the walls Hazel: Were they haunted oysters? Liz: I feel like it’d be hard to detect an oyster ghost, is the problem. Like oysters don’t do much Hazel: I don’t know what a tortured oyster soul would sound like Liz: Just creaking shells Hazel: That would actually be quite terrifying. Ok cool Liz: You can tell from that that oysters were very much a working class food, there’s actually a line from “The Pickwick Papers”, which is Dickens. “Look here, sir; here’s a oyster-stall to every half-dozen houses. The street’s lined with em. Blessed if I don’t think that when a man’s very poor, he rushes out of his lodgings, and eats oysters in regular desperation” Hazel: That’s wild! Like considering how much of a posh food they are today Liz: Yeah! Like, they would be used as a bulk ingredient? Like you’d get a beef and oyster pie, and the oyster was a trash ingredient Hazel: Oh no! Liz: Or you could just straight up buy them pickled on the street Hazel: “Oh the beef’s gone rotten boys we’d better wang in some oysters”. Ok so how, how did that happen? How did it get from like trash street food to extremely fancy Liz: I need you to imagine the jazz-hands here. Overfishing! (both laugh) Hazel: That’s the cheery version Liz: Yeah. So basically oyster beds in the Thames would grow from the shells of other oysters, like latch onto them. Kind of like a reef…made of…your grandparents’ bones, I guess…would be closest comparison Hazel: Yep, that is the first comparison that springs to mind Liz: So basically because they were fishing them so much out of the Thames there weren’t these beds any more so they just, ran out of them? Um, so then they started fishing for oysters, like, on an industrial scale in Essex and Sussex, and then it happened there as well Hazel: I see Liz: And then you add in the Industrial Revolution. Because oysters are an indicator species so they basically only grow in relatively clean water? Hazel: Mm-hmm Liz: So when you think about the Thames being so bad that The Great Stink was a thing Hazel: Oh yeah Liz: It was just so full of sewerage that the warm summer made parliament have to abandon the building Hazel: uncomfortable noises Is that what it takes? Liz: They were not very…good for you Hazel: Yeah, I would not want to eat an oyster out of the Thames, like even today, probably Liz: Yeah…But there’s a story, in 1902 the mayor of Winchester served oysters at a banquet. Multiple people died from these toxic oysters Hazel: Oh! Oh boy! Liz: But because by this point they were rare it was also, it was still a fancy thing. Like it’s a risk, but it’s rare so we’ve got to have it, because we’re fancy Hazel: Oh gosh, that’s an aspirational thing right there, dying of oyster poisoning Liz: Well yeah. And then now people expect them to be expensive even though we can absolutely farm oysters Hazel: Oh like manufactured scarcity? Liz: Yeah Hazel: Ok Liz: Which, interestingly a similar thing happened with lobster in the US Hazel: Oh I think I heard a bit about that, that lobsters used to be really working class food Liz: But then they started shipping it to the rich people in the city, who then went to the east coast as tourists and wanted fresh lobsters and like, I feel it’s more justifiable in lobsters because they’re difficult to farm? Like, as far as I could tell there are not lobster farms, but again it’s that like expectation that it’s going to be expensive Hazel: I guess so. I mean yeah I can see how it’d be difficult to keep them in the fields, you’d need very low fences Liz: Can lobsters dig? I feel like they must be able to dig Hazel: I feel like there’s one way to find out, and that is by removing a lobster from its habitat and getting it to dig a hole in your garden Liz: That’s fair Hazel: For science Liz: So yeah that’s my potted history of how lobs—how oysters because a luxury food which Hazel: Thank you Liz: I just think it’s wild how like, this is dangerous, but it’s also rare, so we’re gonna make it the newest conspicuous consumption Hazel: It is like, it’s slightly inconceivable how something so aesthetically repulsive could become the new fancy food Liz: Especially because tripping over words oysters have been farmed in France since the 18th century Hazel: Oh, ok Liz: There is no reason for them to still be this expensive beyond we expect them to be Hazel: I guess it’s just a thing now like “what did he die of?” “oyster poisoning” “ah how refined” Liz: It does make you think though of like, you know like rich people diseases in book and things “ah too much port and now you’ve got gout aren’t you fancy” Hazel: Ooooh, yeah gout Liz: Or like, when medieval kings died of eating too many lampreys I’m wondering if it’s a similar thing it’s like “well, if you’re gonna go, at least you were eating the fancy sea food” Hazel: If you’re gonna die do it as expensively as possible Liz: I mean those are words to live by, which is why I plan to die doing all of the drugs while skydiving Hazel: Oh great Liz: You have to admit it’d be interesting to see what happened Hazel: It would, from the ground Liz: Maybe with an umbrella Hazel: I like the image that you will be 105 years old while doing this Liz: I mean it’s entirely conceivable that I would get that far Hazel: Imagine being the person that was like, just kind of going about their day like, enjoying the park or something and suddenly like, a screaming elderly person drops from the sky Liz: It would be a story Hazel: Ok I…like kind of the only thing I remember about oysters is that there are lots of them found in prehistoric sites Liz: Yeah you get a lot of shell middens that have a lot of oyster shells. I think again in Scotland, actually Hazel: Did I read something about the beaker culture being associated with or was, am I making that up? Liz: It wouldn’t surprise me. I’m gonna do a quick google Hazel: Google! Liz: Well, not google, I use ecosia. I can’t find anything about it, but this is just from a quick search Hazel: Looks like I made up some archaeology! Liz: But I mean the main thing with the beaker people is that they liked to party didn’t they? They brought brewing to Britain Hazel: That is, I mean I salute them for that because like, yeah, got to hand it them, I mean, you wouldn’t have thought that just leaving out some rain water would turn it into delicious alcohol but they did it the mad lads Liz: I guess it’s easier once you’ve got the beakers Hazel: Yeah! Which do you think came first? Like, the beaker or the beer? Liz: Oh, that’s gonna haunt me. Like a Scottish oyster Hazel: laughs You’ll be dreaming of oysters, floating. I’m glad they did, because I made some blackberry wine recently and, it worked! I made alcohol Liz: I’m afraid my yeast experiments have been limited to bread Hazel: Oh no! Did you… Liz: But in my defence, I don’t drink Hazel: That is a good reason to not make alcohol Liz: So I believe you’ve been researching the pond pudding for our segment “Local Larder” where we talk about weird local foods Hazel: Are you calling my food weird? Liz: It’s got a whole lemon baked into it! Hazel: Ah, ok, well actually in the course of my intrepid researches, I found out that the lemon is in fact an intruder Liz: What, does it sneak in through the back door of the oven? Hazel: Yeah it burrows itself into the pudding Liz: Like an ant-lion Hazel: That’s not something I want to think about in my pudding. Ok um yeah, so, Sussex pond pudding is a kind of pudding that is traditionally associated with Sussex, which is my home county, and it’s basically like a steamed pudding or the kind that’s boiled, kind of like a Christmas pudding Liz: Is it like a suet kind of thing or? Hazel: Yeah it’s a suet, like a steamed or boiled suet pudding, and it’s got stuff in. And the “pond” part is because the, all the kind of, like, butter and syrup in it, when you cut it open, it kind of forms this caramel-y sauce that kind of leaks out and it’s like a little pond! Which is cute Liz: I never considered a pond of caramel to be an essential part of a dessert but you’re changing my mind Hazel: Yeah. Well I mean, considering, I’ve actually never had one of these despite coming from a long-time Sussex family but I guess they just weren’t nationalistic enough, and also like, it’s kind of effort. Like you have to make up this thing and then boil it for quite a while I think, and then Liz: Yeah I mean suet puddings are a lot of work Hazel: Yeah it’s the kind of thing you do like if you’re spending all day cooking Sunday lunch anyway. So this pudding is first recorded as a dish in a book from 1672 by Hannah Woolley called “The Queen-Like Closet”, which is a great name, and weirdly enough it was…the lemon was like a iconic feature of it, that it has this whole lemon baked inside but the lemon doesn’t appear until the 1970s Liz: 70s again! Hazel: Yeah, I don’t know what happens in the 70s but it was wild, apparently Liz: People needed something to do after they’d finished with all of the free love Hazel: After they started having to pay for love again, they turned to alternative methods, like puddings Liz: Pudding is love Hazel: So yeah it like, the original main ingredient of this pudding was not a whole entire lemon, it was in fact a massive slab of butter, like the original pudding was apparently just Liz: Butter pie! Hazel: Butter in suet pastry Liz: Wow Hazel: Oh yeah. I guess this was when people needed their calories for like, sweating in the fields for their feudal overlords Liz: I mean I guess? Probably easier to get hold of butter than lemons in 17th century Sussex Hazel: Yeah, yep, I’m sure. There was a lot of butter floating around. Yeah, and it seems to continue to be…it’s not called “Sussex Pond Pudding” at this point it’s just “a Sussex pudding” so apparently we were the first to invent just covering butter in an absolute ton of pastry, although I did once come across a recipe, Gervase Markham recipe for “a pound of butter curiously roasted” Liz: In what way is it curious beyond why it doesn’t melt? Hazel: I’m curious about why it doesn’t melt so…so that’s the origins of the Sussex pond pudding, it appears in a few cookery books. In Eliza Acton’s 19th century cookery book, and in the 1970s one, which was Jane Grigson’s English Food, and Clarissa Dickson Wright also mentions it in A History of English Food, which is a great book, and yep she puts a whole lemon in it so somewhere along the line Liz: I have to ask Hazel: Yes? Liz: Do you peel the lemon? Hazel: You do not peel the lemon. It needs to be unwaxed, and according to Clarissa, you need to scratch the lemon, so that the flavour bursts out while it’s being cooked Liz: See I’m now more confused by the inclusion of the lemon than I was originally Hazel: The lemon is a quandary, yeah. The lemon is an unidentifiable object Liz: An enigma wrapped in a mystery wrapped in suet pastry Hazel: Indeed. So I found a few like, modern versions of this recipe. It basically comes down to Mary Berry versus Heston Blumenthal, and you can tell me which one wins at the end Liz: I mean, I’m automatically siding with Mary Berry, or pretty much anyone against Heston Blumenthal Hazel: Ok, your loyalty is admirable. So yeah the Mary Berry one look nice actually, it’s got like, kind of a lighter suet pastry. The original suet was beef suet which like, a beef suet wrapped around butter. I feel like that would have had an interesting flavour Liz: Mmmm Hazel: Mmmm. But yeah this one, I mean you can use vegetable suet or like, you know butter would probably work, just need something fatty Liz: I do like the idea of making the pastry with butter as well so you’re basically just eating butter with some flour Hazel: It…yeah it’s just like, variations on butter Liz: I feel like suet gives a very different texture of pastry that butter Hazel: Yeah I feel like that’d be quite…hmm…I dunno…I mean…Hannah Woolley does suggest putting rose water on it, so, some flavour Liz: That tracks though, rose water’s a nice ingredient Hazel: Yeah. So, yeah the Mary Berry one is quite a nice sounding suet pastry, and then it’s filled with muscavado sugar, some butter, a whole lemon, and some apples, which is quite a nice addition. I feel like that makes it a bit more like Liz: So like a toffee apple thing Hazel: Yeah, that’s cool. And then you’ve got like a pond, aww they’d be like ducks in the pond, ducks that you can eat whole Liz: I mean that is the dream. I cannot overstate how much I love duck Hazel: Duck is good. Duck is good. Please don’t eat a whole entire duck Liz: At least not in one bite Hazel: Not in once bite live Liz: No Hazel: Don’t just go to the park and like, shovel some ducks Liz: It’s ok, my shovel’s in a different town Hazel: Do you know what? I can’t find my trowel actually, it’s causing me serious distress. And so, onto the Heston Blumenthal recipe, which, right are you ready for this? Liz: Is anyone ever ready for Heston? Hazel: I don’t think anyone is ever ready for Heston. I think Heston just like breaks your door down in the middle of the night and barges his way into your bedroom and like flings deconstructed raspberry foam on you or something. So, in this pudding, is almost a litre of golden syrup Liz: For how many servings? Hazel: 10, apparently Liz: That feels like a lot Hazel: That’s quite a lot of syrup. Yeah there’s like seven lemons, and there is not in fact a whole lemon in it, there’s like the zest of 7 lemons, and the juice Liz: That feels like a cowards way out Hazel: Yeah Heston Liz: Like if you’re gonna make a pond pudding, with lemon, just put the lemon in Hazel: Just get the lemon in your fist, and punch it into the middle of the pudding, that’s the traditional way. No-one would think any less of you for it, Heston. Just punch a pudding. Deck it one Liz: loses it Hazel: Just absolutely maul that pudding Liz: Vibe check Hazel: And that’s what we’re here for, just savaging pudding left and right. So, yeah. This recipe also begins with the words “make a buerre noisette” which Liz: Ah of course Hazel: As far as I’m concerned is like a thing that you use to open jars so I’m voting Mary, to be honest Liz: Oh definitely. Especially because she would probably call it “brown butter” rather than “buerre noisette” Hazel: She probably would, yeah. She’d probably just be like “melt the butter” Liz: Yeah, just not even bothering with the whole brown thing, like butter’s butter Hazel: Mary would punch the pudding Liz: She would. Ok! So Hazel: I guess that’s decided in favour of the Sussex pond pudding with apples and not a litre of golden syrup Liz: And a punched lemon Hazel: Yeah. And that is the modern twist that I am adding onto this recipe, it’s not a pond pudding unless you’re in Sussex and you have fully fist-fought the pudding Liz: So we hope you enjoyed today’s episode, if you want to suggest a topic or a strange local food, you can email us at Hazel: You can also find us on twitter at breadandthread and we’ll see you next time end music

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