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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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pottage the medieval term for a semi-liquid cooked dish, typically based on cereal, which in various forms was a mainstay of diet for many centuries.

The word comes from the French potage meaning something cooked in a pot. It thus has a very wide application. It is no longer in use in English, its function having been largely taken over by porridge, which is the same word, slightly changed and now having a more restricted meaning.

Pottages were a universal feature of primitive kinds of cookery and notice should be made here of the significance of the adoption of the cooking pot by mesolithic peoples. It enabled them to capture more foods for their diet, to cook them in a less wasteful, more nutritive fashion. The essential value of the pot meant that as centuries passed, elaboration might be embraced. In Roman times, apicius gave a recipe for a pottage (tisana was the name he used) made of barley with three kinds of pulses, eight kinds of leafy vegetables, four flavouring herbs, liquamen (fish sauce), and a garnish of chopped cabbage leaves.