Thursday, July 28, 2011

Are you going to eat that aspic? | Wonder of the World

When we started our read through for Wonder of the World, one of the first questions out of a cast member's mouth was: "Aspic?  What's an aspic?"

For those of us who haven't tried or heard of this international cuisine before, an aspic is a dish in which the ingredients are set into a gelatin made from a meat stock or consomm√©.  Almost any kind of food can be set into aspics - most commonly meat, fruit or veggies.  Typically, aspics are served on a cold or chilled plate to avoid melting the gelatin before eating.  Not a meat-eater?  Gelatin mixes can be supplemented for a vegetarian-friendly dish.

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Where on earth did this idea come from?  

Historically, meat jellies were made long before fruit or vegetable jellies.  The earliest know recipe hails from the 14th century in  Le Vandier or Le Vandier De Taillevent, a recipe collection largely credited to Guillaume Tirel.  

Aspics also turned out to be a great way to hold and store meat, as it would prevent them from spoiling by keeping out air and bacteria from the cooked meat.

Although eaten worldwide for centuries in countries like Poland, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary,  Nepal, Sweden and Finland, Aspics finally gained popularity in the North America in the 1950s when meat aspic became a popular dinner staple.  

Most recently, aspics made an appearance in the Julie/Julia project by Julie Powell.  She documents her recipe trials and tribulations with the first edition of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" by Julia Child, including make three different types of aspics.  Didn't read the book or catch the movie (Julie & Julia with Meryl Streep and Amy Adams)?  Check out the original blog entry for an amusing aspic anecdote.

Are you thinking that the word "gross" doesn't even begin to describe an aspic?  Don't worry - Kirk, our Artistic Director, agrees with you!

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