Playing cards that taught 17th-century cooks to carve meat (2019)

Playing cards that taught 17th-century cooks to carve meat (2019)




standard deck card games are great and themed decks can add a nice touch and inspiration for conversation while playing.


The salmon-cutting diagram makes me unreasonably angry. I guess we've learned a lot since then...


I have a hard time believing the “gosh we were so dumb back in the past” take on things. Especially when it comes to effective use of food, which was considerably more valuable back then.

I imagine there was a lot about the times that we aren’t privy to when we make our judgements. We’re not playing with a full deck of cards, if you will… ;)


Dissemination of information really is that much better now.

It's like, did you ever play a competitive video game with your friends as a kid? Smash bros or starcraft or whatever? And then when you grow up you find out that even the best of you is completely horrible compared to even a low ranked real competitor. It's almost like a totally different game.

Back then so many more things were like that.


So do I... usually. But seriously, look at that wavy line: what are we doing there? And those belly cuts? Did you gut this fish already (if not, ew), or are you serving salmon-steak-ends?


Oh yeah no, I’m with you. It’s perplexing. But I’ve got to trust there’s an explanation.


Care to explain more, for those of us who don't carve fish?


It appears to be a diagram to slice the fish up into a number of weird little steaks/cutlets vs the more traditional 'two half-fish filets'

I imagine that deboning that thing after is a right pain.


What do you mean "deboning", do you not pick the bones out as you eat the whoooole fish?


I like to roast, then filet. If you do it right, even the pinbones come out and you're left with a whole skeleton. The immense satisfaction of getting it out in one piece is why I'm so (self-mockingly) aggrieved.


To be fair, I am being somewhat (perhaps overly) dramatic. Salmon is just one of those foods I have opinions about. Of the three cuts presented in the more modern diagram [1], I think that pan dressed is superior to filet, and steaks are an atrocity.

[1] (Edit: link fixed)


diagram not found


Btw, the text that went with the cards is here:

Why they went for a scallop cut, I have no idea, but from my text it seems like they were aiming to break the salmon cuts down into grades.

And actually, I guess we should remember that these are 'table carvings'. The fish has already been cooked more or less whole, and the cards are telling you how to carve and serve at the table. So at that point I guess, the scallop cuts are just.. pure show.


My understanding is lower classes historically didn't eat much meat. They couldn't afford it.

In a college English class that covered poetry, decades later the only thing I remember clearly is the professor commenting on how "greasy Jane stirs the pot" meant there was meat, thus this was an upper-class meal, otherwise it wouldn't have been greasy and she was likely a servant. He went on about how elegant it was to convey so much info with a single word but it only does that if you know enough context, which means enough history.

So the existence of this pack of cards likely suggests rising wealth generally. It suggests a world in which people who didn't normally eat meat might begin to eat meat enough to need or want written instruction because their associates likely also didn't know how to carve meat or someone would just show them or tell them.


> My understanding is lower classes historically didn't eat much meat. They couldn't afford it.

Depends where and when, but while that may have been likely for the rural poor throughout history, cities were different. For example, as one can learn from commentaries on Chaucer’s society at the time of the Canterbury Tales, the 14th-century London masses were indeed eating lots of meat. Of course, this was largely poultry (and not always the choicest cuts thereof) instead of luxurious meats like beef, but nevertheless it was meat. A couple of centuries later, sausages were a common snack of the proles attending Shakespeare’s plays at the Globe Theater.


>Of course, this was largely poultry (and not always the choicest cuts thereof) instead of luxurious meats like beef

This comment comes as a surprise to me. My understanding is that historically, before the second world war, chicken was prohibitively expensive and considered a delicacy.


“Chicken was one of the most common meats available in the Middle Ages.[6][7]”

US cattle prices pre WWII were low because the US had huge tracts of cheap land and rail networks to move that meat into cities. Medieval Europe had a very different logistical situation.


That’s essentially the British social class system in a nutshell: very subtle accents, dress, and manners convey how high you are on the social hierarchy.

Everything is understated, dressing flashy or bragging is vulgar.


Agree on everything except accents.

If a person is from anywhere in the south of England, I find it really easy to read all kinds of details from their accent. I can hear what kind of area they grew up in, what kind of school they went to, the education level or profession of their father/parents, basically their entire social class.

I find it a lot harder with northern accents, though, due to lack of data.