Thursday, 13 January 2005

An ill wind

We spent New Year’s Eve with some friends who gave us at dinner (among much else) a gorgeous, delicate soup made from Jerusalem artichokes and cream.

I cannot resist quoting from another entry in The Oxford Companion to Food.

The Jerusalem artichoke does not come from Jerusalem and has nothing to do with the globe artichoke. It is a tuber, a N. American relative of the sunflower, itself native to Peru. It was brought back to Europe, first to France, where in 1613 members of a Brazilian tribe, the Topinambous, who had been brought back by a expedition, aroused much interest, so the tuber is called Topinambour by the French. "Jerusalem" is probably a corruption of girasole, the Italian name for the sunflower.

Apparently at first it had an enthusiastic reception in Europe but soon palled. In 1621 the writer John Goodyer noted that: …which way soever they be dressed and eaten, they stir and cause a filthy loathsome stinking wind within the body, thereby causing the belly to be pained and tormented…...

That we noticed no such effect can only be ascribed to the culinary skill of our French hostess. The tubers are popular in France but less so in England, where only rather up-market retailers stock them, and they are almost ignored in their native USA.

I have asked our local (middle-market) superstore if they will get some in but I am not optimistic.

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