We return to a culinary theme with this picture that our artist painted of Blinia Crole. The picture is from Blinia’s own collection and is displayed with grateful thanks to her. Andeal chose to paint her seated in her old home working as she always had.
Blinia drifted into being a cook, but was handicapped by lack of capital. Her family home was in the more run-down part of Ropewalk. Some would even write it off as being part of the Warrens. So to have anything to cook she was reduced to purchasing worn out domestic fowl sold for a pittance for their feathers. She would pluck the fowl, sort the feathers, wash them, dry them and then sell them on to those who would use them to stuff pillows with.
With regard to cooking the fowl she was lucky that her mother had taught her well. Once plucked she would keep the carcass covered and chilled in a meat-safe for as long as possible to allow the meat to relax, up to a week in winter. Then she would leave it for a day in brine, and after that she’d rinse it off, cover it with clean water and allow it to simmer for anything up to twenty-four hours. Finally she’d allow it to cool, remove the bones (because the meat just falls away from them if you’ve cooked it properly,) and then add vegetables and all the other necessary ingredients for a stew. This would be cooked until the vegetables were ready.
The advantage of this system was she didn’t need to advertise. The smell of cooking chicken hung around her house because there was always chicken cooking! Then each day, just before noon, a queue would form of people clutching their own bowls and spoons. For twenty dregs you got a good ladle full of her thick broth. The local baker sent his son round with a tray of bread rolls and for a few dregs more he would sell you bread to go with your meal.
So far so good, Blinia’s customers were loyal and as old Mister Mumster would have said, her business was ‘steady away’. But she was wise enough to sit back and look at how she might improve things. One issue was fishing out the bones. She decided that given the amount of meat that there was on the legs and wings, they were more effort than they were worth. Still, properly brought up, she was loathe to throw them away. So as an experiment, while the chickens were cooking she experimented, leaving the legs and wings to marinate in various sauces and then roasting them. Much to her surprise they were a great success, especially those with the sweet and bitter herbs. Men would buy a couple of them to put in a pocket to chew while they worked.
The problem is that there are only two legs and two wings to each carcass. It was nowhere near enough. So she experimented.
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