Lamprey Pie - History of Lamprey Pie
© copyright 2004 by Linda Stradley - United States Copyright TX 5-900-517- All rights reserved. This web site may not be reproduced in whole or in part without permission and appropriate credit given. If you quote any of the history information contained below for research in writing a magazine or newspaper article, school work or college research, and/or television show production, you must give a reference to the author, Linda Stradley, and to the web site What's Cooking America.
The Lamprey Pie consists of this baked eel-like fish, set in cool syrup and covered with a large raised crust.
Most royal families of England were particularly fond of lampreys, as it was considered a delicacy at the English Courts. The tradition was for the people to present the monarch with a lamprey pie every Christmas. Baked lampreys were cooked in a syrup inside the pie. When the crust was opened, the liquid was mixed with wine and spices, and then spooned onto slices of white bread in a dish warmed over a chafer or hotplate. The lamprey was then cut into "gobbets a thin as a groat," and placed on top of the bread and sauce.
The City of Gloucester, in token of their loyalty to the royal family, presented a lamprey pie annually at Christmas to the sovereign. This was sometimes a costly gift, as lampreys, at that season, are very rare. The custom was discontinued in 1836, except on the occasion of coronations, because of the cost.
1135 - King Henry I (1068-1135) of England was known for his lust of eating the lamprey and is reported to have died from a "surfeit of lampreys," as the chronicles said, although most historians believe that he died from food poisoning. According to Charles Dickens (1812-187) in his novel A Child's History of England:
1200s - So great was the demand for lamprey in the reign of King John (1167-1216) of England, that he issued a royal license to one Sampson, to go to Nantes to purchase lampreys for the use of the Countess of Blois. The same king issued a mandate to the sheriffs of Gloucester forbidding them, on their first coming in, to be sold for more than two shillings a piece. According to the Royal Cookbook, King John also levied a fine of 40 marks on the city of Gloucester for failing to"pay him sufficient respect in the matter of his lampern."
1230 - The website Gode Cookery - Tales of the Middle Ages, reports a royal order to the sheriff in Gloucester in the 1230s that stated:
1472 - Platina, a.k.a. Bartolomeo Sacchi (1421-1481), a humanist, author and historian, wrote the first dated cookery book in 1472. The first half of his book discusses all kinds of food and spices, their nature, and their cultivation. The second half is drawn primarily from chef Martino dRossi and his Italian cookbook (most of Platina's recipes were borrowed from a manuscript written by Martino, who lived during the 1450-75 period). In the English translated version of Platina's De honesta voluptate, by Elizabeth Buermann Andrews, he writes about an Eel Torta recipe, and also the fact that he doesn't like the pie:
1886 - Famous chef Charles Elme Francatelli (1805-1876), late maitre d'hotel and chief cook to English Queen Victoria (1819-1901), wrote the following on lamprey:
What's Cooking America© copyright 2004 by Linda Stradley - United States Copyright TX 5-900-517- All rights reserved. -