This year when we announced the Rare Books Bakeoff, I knew that I had to enlist my roommate Michelle because we both enjoy cooking and History. What better way to understand the past than to cook your way through it? Michelle perused The queen-like closet, or, Rich cabinet last month from Diginole and found the recipe “To Make a Bacon Froize,” suggesting we make bacon pancakes like Jake from Adventure Time.
Of course, I was only too happy to oblige. Reductive jokes aside, my background in French led me to question the etymology of “Froize” due to its pronunciation and construction. Accounting for a vowel switch in French language during the Early-Modern Period, Froize is similar to the modern French infinitive “Fraiser” meaning to knead or to mill. Since Michelle is my friendly neighborhood Middle English expert, we took a look at University of Michigan’s Middle English Compendium. Due to a non standardization of spelling it took a few tries to locate the entry for “froise” indicating “A kind of pancake containing chopped fish or meat.” Another french infinitive “froisser” denoting a crease or crumple was another path that I didn’t think would pan out at first. However, a 1799 Dictionary of the English Language led me to “Froise: [from the French froisser, as the pancake is cripsed or crumpled in frying] A kind of food made by frying bacon enclosed in a pancake.”1 Having confirmed that we were indeed makin’ bacon pancakes, we got to work.
To start, we took a look at the recipe:
After gathering our ingredients (huge shout out to Michelle for buying them), we cracked and whisked eight eggs together in a bowl. Realizing that historical recipes assume some knowledge on behalf of the reader, we did not know how much cream and flour to add to finalize the batter. What we ended up doing was adding each in small increments while we incorporated them with a few small test frys. The final measurements were somewhere around ⅓ cup of cream and a cup of flour to get the batter to a somewhat thin consistency resembling pancake batter. While doing this, we partially cooked the bacon in the oven. We added the strips and grease to a cast-iron skillet before pouring about half of the batter on top.
It took several minutes to cook through on the bottom and we had a little bit of difficulty flipping it when the time came. It took two people (and spatulas) to get it safely rotated. We poured about ¾ of the remaining batter back on top and let it cook again for several minutes. Although the recipe does not call for it, we did not want the bottom to burn and the top did not seem to be cooking much, so we flipped it again. After a few more minutes it was finally finished and time to taste! We sliced it into quarters and dove in.
While research led us to believe it would be like a pancake, it was really more like a frittata due to the heavy concentration of eggs compared to the other ingredients. We decided to manage our expectations of a modern pancake compared to this and the lack of sugar or salt in the recipe. In addition, we attempted to evaluate this based on our limited understanding of lived experience in that time period. The verdict was “it’s okay.” The texture was interestingly just like a frittata and the bacon brought salt and flavor to the whole dish. Otherwise, it was a little bland. However, were we people in the Early-Modern Period we would appreciate all of the protein in it. We were pretty full for a few hours after eating. Our final rating combined averaged out to a 6.75. It was okay! If you make this at home, perhaps try it with a bit of honey like I did.
1 Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language vol. 1 (London: J. Johnson, 1799), 503.