Veal in History

Origin the word : Veal

Date of Origin 14th c.

The Latin word for ‘calf’ was vitulus (it appears originally to have denoted ‘yearling’, for it is probably related to Greek étos ‘year’). Its diminutive form vitellus passed into English via Anglo-Norman veel, in the sense ‘calf-meat’. Its Old French cousin, veel, formed the basis of a derivative velin ‘calfskin for writing on’, which English adopted and adapted into vellum (15th c.).

Veal in History

The Romans taste for young calves reached the point where the Emperor Alexander Severus (222-235AD) had to issue a decree forbidding their slaughter, since the breeding stock was being deprived.

Wiener Schnitzel  -a  Viennese dish made from a thin slice of breaded and fried veal.A question exists as to who really created Wiener Schnitzel. While the Viennese (from Austria) are credited with this classic veal dish, the Milanese (from Italy) claim that as far back as 1134, when a banquet was given for the canon of Milan’s ancient Church of Sant’ Ambrogio, the menu included “lombolos cum panitio,” breaded veal scallops.

The Italians are also sometimes reported to have introduced veal into France via Catherine de’ Medici, the Italian-born Queen of France who reined from 1533 to 1589. It appears that Catherine did like veal, which was natural for anyone who came from Florence where veal was considered so luxurious that it was decreed if veal was served at a wedding dinner, no other meat could appear on the same menu. While Catherine did bring many Italian artists, poets, musicians, and dancing masters to France, historians counter that several veal recipes were located in France at least a century and a half (late 1300’a) prior to Catherine ascending to the French throne.

First Veal Cook books

In England, two fifteenth-century cookbooks offer recipes for veal dishes; and one for a veal pasty appeared in The Forme of Cury, the date is 1378.

During the mid-1700’s, veal was immortalized by the Jean-Baptiste Oudry, in his still life oil on canvas painting entitled Veal depicted a Quarter of Veal along with wine and fruit.

veal_stockThe famous French writer and philosopher, Voltaire, used an offer of veal stock instead of traditional fatty sauces, called gravy, to entice his friend to come and visit him, during the mid-1700’s. Voltaire wrote to his friend Saint-Lambert, “Come to Ciety [where Voltaire was living] where Madame du Chatelet [his cook] will not let you be poisoned. There is not a spoonful of gravy in her cooking: everything is made with blond de veau [obtained by boiling veal shanks in water with carrots, onions, celery and a chicken carcass. We will live one hundred years and you will never die.” [Voltaire did live to be 84.]

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