This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
The title "Restaurant," which is now applied to a high-class eating-house, was originally the name of a soup, as invented by a Frenchman, M. Palissy, in 1557. This soup consisted of fowl (finely minced), with broth (highly spiced), and containing cinnamon, coriander, etc. In 1765 a Tavern was opened in Paris under the above title "Restaurant" for the purpose of supplying the said famous soup of that designation; and hence the name has become handed down to an eating-house ever since. "Gerarde, the young Monk-student" (The Cloister and the Hearth, 1860), "when going to Rotterdam on his start in life, rescued by the wayside an exhausted old scholar with some soup which had been provided for himself by his thoughtful mother before he left home. ' Hippocrates, and Galen!' cried the resuscitated old man, ' 'tis a Soupe au vin, the restorative of restoratives! blessed be the nation that invented it, and the woman that made it, and the young man that brings it to fainting folk. Now this divine elixir gives in one moment force to the limbs, and ardour to the spirits; and if it had been taken into Hector's body at the nick of time it would, by the aid of Phoebus, Venus, and the blessed Saints, have most likely procured the Greeks a defeat.
For, note how faint, and weary, and heartsick I was a minute ago! Well, I suck this celestial cordial, through a straw, and now behold me brave as Achilles, and strong as an eagle.' "
It is quite a rational thing to begin dinner with soup, since the meat-extractives, and gelatin of a clear soup, are well calculated to promote a flow of gastric juice in the stomach, so as to further the complete digestion of the solid food which follows. As a French writer has said, "Soup should be to a dinner what the overture is to an orchestra, or what the porch is to a house." If a solid meal is intended, a light soup should precede it; but if the soup itself is to be the piece de resistance, then it should certainly be chosen "thick." But hot Soups in summer at the commencement of dinner are now becoming discouraged, and put out of favour; a small cupful of cold consomme, made from fine stock, is found to suit the digestion better; while thick Soup at this stage of the meal is almost entirely given up, the cold consomme instead being served in little cups, either of plain white ware, or of costly china. True consomme is strong broth obtained by boiling meat with vegetables, and concentrating the extract to the point of slight browning, or caramelization; it is then used for Soups, and sauces; the present habit of London cooks to call their dishwater Soups "Consommes" should be condemned by every lover of honest fare.
There is distinct evidence in favour of taking a moderate quantity of plain Soup at the commencement of a meal, as shown by the experiments of Schiff, and others; which have proved that solutions of dextrine, and of infused meat, favour the secretion of pepsin as a digestive of the meal which ensues. Abroad the first course sometimes consists of beer, with spices, and rusks, or, in summer time of strawberries, and milk, to both of which substitutes the name Soup is given.
It is to be remembered that the water used in making a Soup not only dissolves certain salts, and tissues, of the meat-substance by the action of heat, but it also hydrates, or forms into water-combinations (with altered qualities) some of the constituent elements of the ingredients used. Foods are foods only by reason of their chemically-combined water in various proportions.
Par excellence Turtle Soup, as served at the Lord Mayor's Dinner in London, on the ninth of November, takes the lead amongst these concoctions. It consists of Green Turtle, with basil, marjoram, thyme, parsley, cloves, allspice, mace, nutmeg, and sherry.
"Beautiful Soup, so rich, and green, Waiting in a hot tureen; Who for the dainty would not stoop? Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup! Soup of the evening! beautiful Soup!
Beau------ootiful Soo - - up!
Beautiful Soup! who cares for fish,
Game, or any other dish? Who would not give all else for two-p,
-ennyworth only of beautiful Soup?
Pennyworth only of beautiful Soup? "
(Refrain as before).
Of all Soups that which is most highly esteemed, both for its supreme restorative qualities, and for its exquisitely luscious flavour, is that made from the Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas), either when combined with costly adjuncts, and spicy condiments for the Aldermanic gourmet, or when delicately prepared, as a concentrated form of the most highly sustaining Invalid Turtle for a patient in desperate strait. "Grata testudo dapibus deorum," said the Roman poet Horace concerning this amphibious reptile, so beloved by epicures, - "Food fit for the gods!"
Its dainty parts are the calipash, or large shield of the back, and the calipee, or shield of the belly (plastron); also Turtle steak, and Turtle fin. When plainly cooked Turtle flesh is easy of digestion. It was during the early part of the eighteenth century that Turtle Soup became a standing dish at civic banquets. Dr. Pereira has described Turtle flesh as "an appetizing, and wholesome aliment, nutritive, and light of digestion, yielding by decoction highly restorative broths which are much to be valued in consumptive diseases, and in other illnesses requiring concentrated light support." The Green Turtle is plentiful about the Island of Ascension; it lives upon vegetable substances, mostly seaweeds, and furnishes a very pure limpid oil, which is employed for various purposes, one being for burning in lamps. The flesh contains less fat than would be supposed; it consists of three parts water, and in the remaining solids fat occurs only in the proportion of about one-half. The flesh when cooked is rich in gelatine, poor in fibrin, and yielding little, or no osmazome; the green fat is of a greenish-yellow colour, giving this Turtle its distinctive name.