06 July 2011

Marzipan fruit and the Mistresses of Fancies

Anyone can make good marzipan or marchpane—given almonds, sugar (& according to Elinor Fettiplace "you must have gum dragon [tragacanth *] steep it in rose water all night" which might be easy but if not, eat your lips before succumbing to the repulsive charms of any "good basic recipe" that includes corn syrup and/or marshmallow cream), edible tints, paintbrushes, pounding, mixing juuust right, skill, artistry and time.

You too can make beautiful and realistic fruits, leaves—all the "conceits" and "fancies" you care to, even unto gnus. The most poorly developed beast will at least delight the palate if not the eye. I've never had the skill to do as good a job as these pictured beauties, though once I did make a batch of hairy marzipan noses and a pretty realistic whiskered sewer rat.

Fake fruits like these are so common round these parts now, that they rain down in a wind.

In addition to being made by the finest fake-fruit makers on earth, the Guild whose members made these were the first cooks to employ labour-saving devices. To make what is to them, the mere nursery food above, their technique is: turn your back on it, inject and forget.

These were made by members of that Guild of Mistress Chefs, called rather humanly,"wasps".

The gall of them
As with all food experts, in numbers, they can be pests. The Ophelimus sisters are the most infamous. Biological controls have been introduced to defeat them, an idea that should bear fruit elsewhere.

* Gum tragacanth (from Essence of Guinevere Tragacanth) is now known only as the dried sap from some mangy trees that grow in places very fashionable to write about. In purchased form, it looks like grains of sleepy. When combined with water, tragacanth is a gluey substance akin to rubber cement or nightmare gravy. The original Essence of Guinevere Tragacanth was made from reducing her stock, once she had been spiced with grains of paradise and boiled till her bones ran. Thus the archaic meaning of tragacanth as "tragically impossible to pronounce to everyone's agreement", for she was sacrificed (with a chicken) as a final fitting end to the War of Guin's Eye or Ear, Let Alone G or J, C or K, which broke out when she was to wed her cousin, Geoff Tragacanth, who, along with anyone named Baodab, was eaten after five years of bloody fighting between violent pronunciationists, by a dragon who was never caught, but was honoured in absentia. For further information, see accounts by the Veritable Bode.


Lucy said...

Unable as I am to taste the jewels you show here, I shall instead roll and savour in my mouth the words 'astralagus gummifer - gum dragon gum dragon gum dragon', a fine mantra I think!

anna tambour said...

Your mantra made my mouth water.