The day all France ate vegetarian

Three dishes from the reign of Louis XIV

Guiseppe Arcimboldo - SummerJean-Louis Flandrin, who died in 2001, wrote in his posthumously printed book L'Ordre des mets that the reformation was had such 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 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 (this year 2 April) 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.

Another cookbook with vegetarian recipes for Good Friday is Le cuisinier from 1656, by Pierre de Lune (edition). But where La Varenne suffices mainly witth referring, Pierre de Lune went all out: no less than one in every six recipes in his cookbook is especially for Good Friday. 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, 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 authors of the recipes below 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 recipes
On this page you'll find recipes for a pottage, a tourte and a salad, all for Good Friday: Potage ou Jacobine (pottage with mushrooms and artichoke bottoms), Tourte d'épinards (tourte with spinach), and Salade de grenade (salad with pomegranate). Pierre de Lune provides full recipes for the potage and tourte, but salads are only mentioned, because that preparation belongs elsewhere: "Ami lecteur, je mets ici des salades seulement pour vous faire souvenir qu'en ce jour on en doit beaucoup servir; mais c'est une affaire d'office" ("dear reader, I just mention the salads here to remind you that on this day you must serve a lot of them, but that task belongs to the office", edition pp.431/432 - the first salad he mentions is Salade de grenade). As it happens, La gastronomie au Grand Siècle (a collection of French and Italian recipes from the 17th century, edited by Sabban and Serventi) offers some recipes for salads, including one with pomegranate.

The first two recipes are taken from Le cuisinier from Pierre de Lune (edition p.412 and 418). According to the editor the texts are printed in their version d'origine, but the French spelling is modernized. There is a printing error in the recipe title for the pottage, I have changed "potage ou jacobine" into "potage au jacobine".
The third recipe is from Le cuisinier méthodique (published anonymously in 1660), found in La Gastronomie au Grand Siècle (edition p.198). I don't know the context of this recipe, so am unable to determine whether this recipe was especially for Good Friday, but, as Pierre de Lune mentions a Salade de grenade, I thought it fitting to present it here.

Potage au jacobine
Faites mitonner croûtes de pain avec purée claire; hachez une douzaine de champignons et deux culs d'artichauts; semez sur les croûtes et y mettez aussi
fromage de Milan râpé; couvrez le plat, et passez par la poêle câpres, farine avec beurre roux, et un peu de purée, et mettez sur le potage; garnissez de citron.
Jacobin pottage
Steep pieces of bread in thin purée. Chop twelve white mushrooms and two artichoke bottoms. Divide over the bread, and also put cheese from Milan over it. Cover the dish, and sauté capers and flour with butter, and some purée, and pour on the pottage. Garnish with lemon.
Tourte d'épinards
Faites blanchir les épinards avec eau bouillante; secouez-les et les hachez bien menu; assaisonnez de beurre, sel, cannelle, sucre, écorce de citron râpée ou pilée, et faites pâte avec farine, beurre, vin blanc et sel, et la bardez; dorez la de même que l'autre; mettez sucre et fleurs d'oranger en servant.
Spinach pie
Blanch the spinach in boiling water. Shake it and chop finely. Season with butter, salt, cinnamon, sugar, grated or peeled lemon zest. Prepare a dough with flour, butter, white wine and salt, and stuff it. Glaze in the same way as the other [tourte in the previous recipe]. Sprinkle with sugar and orange blossom when it is served.
Salade de grenade
Mondez les grains de la grenade, & les dressez sur une assiette, & la garnissez de citron par tranches & pistaches entières, & se sert avec le sucre.
Salade of pomegranate
'Peel' the pomegranate pips and arrange them on a dish. Garnish with lemon slices and whole pistachios. Serve with sugar.

Modern adaptation of the recipes

Jacobin Pottage

Chances were that the mushrooms and artichokes used in this recipe were not fresh but from preserves. Artichokes are harvested in late summer and early autumn, mushrooms (specifically Agaricus bisporus) from May to October. But maybe La Quintinie could also produce fresh artichokes for the table of Good Friday. There is also a recipe for a delicious medieval version of a Jacobin pottage for meat days, with chicken.
For four persons as first course.

Jacobin Pottage for Good FridayIngredients
4 thick slices of firm white bread (pain de campagne)
150 gram (2 cups) white mushrooms (canned, or bought fresh and blanched)
2 artichoke bottoms (canned, or from freshly cooked artichokes)
75 gram (3/4 cup) freshly grated Grana Padano (or Parmigiano Reggiano, but in this recipe I prefer the Grana)
1 1/2 Tbs capers
2 Tbs butter
1 1/2 Tbs flour
3/4 liter (3 cups) thin purée
1 lemon

Preparation in advance
Prepare the purée. This was a 'thin (clear) pea soup', that was used during the many days that the consumption of meat (and meat stock) was prohibited by the church. Here is the recipe.
Chop the mushrooms and artichoke bottoms.
Drain the capers and pat them dry.

Lay one slice of bread in individual soup plates or bowls, or put them all in one large soup terrine. Pour a little heated purée over the bread, and sprinkle the chopped mushrooms and artichoke bottoms on it. Cover and keep warm (in the oven at 100 dgC/210 oF).
Melt the butter in a skillet, heat until slightly coloured. Add the capers and after a few seconds the flour. Mix until a dough-like ball forms. Then start adding the preheated purée little by little. Keep stirring. The purée has now thickened a little.
Just before serving, sprinkle the bread with grated cheese, than pour the thickened purée over it.

To serve
Finish with placing a thin slice of lemon on top, and serve at once, hot.

Spinach Pie

This pie is made with a simple dough, but it is special because the dough is prepared with white wine instead of water. You can easily change the amounts in the recipe, as long as the proportions remain the same (in weight flour:butter:wine = 2:1:1 - in volume 9:2:2). Other recipes for dough on this site.
To glaze the pie, the recipe refers to the previous one (for tourte de champignons). "La dorez avec lait et beurre fondu" it says, so that's what we'll do.
The amount of butter used in this recipe is large, but remember that in the seventeenth century butter was used a lot, and in classical French cuisine, it still is. Using less butter will cause the spinach stuffing to be too dry.
For eight to twelve persons as side dish, for four to six persons as vegetarian main dish.

ISpinach Pie for Good Fridayngredients
The dough:
300 gram (2 1/3 cup) flour
150 gram (2/3 cup) butter at room temperature
1 1/2 deciliter (2/3 cup) white wine
1 tsp salt
butter to grease the mould
The stuffing:
2 kilo (6 bunches) tender raw spinach or 1 1/2 kilo (4 1/2 bunches) winter spinach (has coarser leaf)
or 750 gram (3 1/3 cup) frozen blanched and chopped spinach (450 tot 550 gram (2 to 2 1/2 cup) is what you end up whith when the spinach is completely thawed and pressed to remove moisture)
80 gram (1/3 cup) butter
1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 to 1 1/2 tsp sugar
zest of 1/4 lemon
The glaze:
1 Tbsp milk
1 Tbsp melted butter
To serve:
sugar to taste
orange flower water to taste

Preparation in advance
First you prepare the dough: mix flour with salt, add butter and wine, and knead until a supple dough is formed. Keep kneading at least ten minutes, then wrap in plastic foil and let rest for an hour. Preferably not in the refrigerator, the butter will harden and make the dough too stiff to roll out.
Meanwhile, blanch the spinach, drain well and squeeze to get it as dry as possible. Instead of blanching, you can also stir-fry the spinach without adding any liquid, with a little butter. Chop the spinach finely. If you're lazy, just buy a package of frozen spinach, let it thaw and squeeze the spinach dry.
Pour boiling water over the lemon (even when using organic fruit, because these also have a wax layer to prevent them from drying out) and use a zester to get the zest of a quarter lemon, or use a grater or small flexible knife. Take care to use only the aromatic yellow, discard the white.

Preheat the oven to 200 oC/390 oF.
Grease a pie mould with butter. Roll out the first half of the dough. Before rolling, flatten the dough ball with your hands, sprinkle the worktop with flour, sprinkle also some flour on the dough. Roll out to a fairly thin sheet, drape this in the mould, let the dough hang over the sides.
Melt butter for the spinach, add to the greens together with salt, cinnamon, lemon zest and sugar, mix well. Scoop the stuffing into the piemould. 
Roll out the rest of the dough and drape this over the stuffed pie mould. Press the two sheets of dough together and remove overhanging dough. Decorate with leftover dough. Be inspired by seventeenth-century art, or anything that strikes your fancy.
Melt butter for glazing, add milk, and glaze the piecrust with it.
Place the pie about one-third from the bottom of the oven and bake thirty minutes until the top is nicely coloured. Check however from twenty minutes onward, because some ovens bake faster than others.

To serve
Just sprinkle some sugar and orange blossom water over the pie just before serving.
Of course you show the pie to your guests before cutting it, so they can admire your artistic handywork! Then divide into the desired number of slices. Eat the pie hot or warm, because the butter will solidify again when the pie cools down.

This pie can also be served as a vegetarian main dish, if you serve something like boiled or poeached eggs along with it. Do not serve with a salad with lettuce or other leafy greens (because spinach itself is a leafy green).

Pomegranate Salad

A brilliant salad, as if a jewel box is set in front of you! On top of that, it's almost obscenely healthy and very easy to prepare. I guess that pistaches entières means the shelled nuts, but unchopped.
As small side dish for 2 to 3 persons.

Pomegranate Salad for Good FridayIngredients
2 pomegranates
1/4 lemon
3 Tbsp shelled pistachio nuts (preferably 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.

To serve
This salad is a side dish. According to Sabban and Serventi (edition 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.

All descriptions of ingredients

Fromage de Milan - This is Parmesan cheese, according to the Encyclopédie Méthodique Commerce Vol..2 part 1 (1783), under the heading of Fromages Étrangers, p.467 "De toutes les espèces de fromages, celui d'Italie est le plus estimé. Il vient en grosses meules ou pains ronds, épais de cinq à six pouces, que quelques-uns nomment des pièces. Il sont du pois depuis 50 jusq'a 90 livres. Cette sorte de fromage se vend en France sous le titre de fromage de Milan ou de Parmesan". It is confusing that on the same page you can read that 'fromage de Parme, vulgairement apellé Parmesan', is mentioned as one of the (fromages de) Hollande. I imagine that is an editor's error.
Office - In the kitchen all warm dishes were prepared, but because of the heat of the fires it was too hot for cold preparations. Confectionery, distillation, cold meals, desserts and dishes like salads were prepared in the office, a smaller and cooler space then the cuisine (but the office also had an -elevated- hearth and oven).
Still life with pomegranates from 1771 by Luis Egidio MelendezPomegranate - Fruit with a respectable history. The Punica granatum originates from the Middle East, it's a small tree, indigenous in Iran (former Persia). The myth of Persephone is connected with it: she was daughter to the Greek godess of fertility, Demeter. Kidnapped by Hades, god of the underworld, she ate a pomegranate, despite her promise not to eat anything whilst down there. She remebered just in time and spit the food out, but because she had swallowed six pips, she has to stay with Hades six months every year. This is the origin of summer and winter. The pomegranate is also candidate for the fruit that caused Adam and Eve's expulsion from Paradise, and the start of the Trojan war (the apple Aphrodite offered Paris), but it has to share the honour with the quince. And maybe these were indeed just ... apples.
The red gemstone is named after the pomegranate because of its colour and brilliance, the weapon because of the way it shatters into shards like pomegranate pips. And grenadine, the sweet drink, is made from pomegranate juice. From a culinary point of view you only want the bright red pulp surrounding the pips (although these can be eaten too).
Mousseron - In English this mushroom is called St.George's mushroom, the scientific name is Calocybe gambosa or Tricholoma georgii. It grows in fairy rings, from the end of April to the beginning of June, and is associated with Saint George because 23 April (St. George's day, you know, the one with the dragon) is when the mushrooms first show their little hoods. This makes it one of the earliest edible mushrooms that can be gathered after winter.
Purée - A standard ingredient that was used instead of meat stock, especially during Lent. Mostly prepared with dried peas. Here are some recipes.
Tarte and tourte - In French you have tarte and tourte. The first is an open pie, the other closed.

The editions below are in my possession. Links refer to available editions.
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