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Soup and bouilli facts for kids

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Soup and Bouilli in England is a dish of boiled beef and root vegetables based on the traditional French dish pot-au-feu. The name comes from the general method in France of serving pot-au-feu as two courses - la soupe et le bouilli. In England as in France bouilli referred to the boiled meat.


Early references to Soup and Bouilli in English are from books by Tobias Smollett. In The Adventures of Roderick Random published in 1748, a meal in Rheims, France, is described as "some soup and bouillé, a couple of pullets roasted, and a dish of asparagus"., and in The Adventures of Ferdinand, Count Fathom, at Hotwells Spa, "a mess of broth" made with mutton chops is referred to as "soup and bouilli". Also of note in this book is Sir Stentor Stile calling the bouilli "bully", a presage of the later use of the word to describe tinned meat.

In 1778 in The Camp (play), by Richard Sheridan, a waiter at an Inn in Maidstone, Kent, proposes "soup and bouilli" as an entree.

A recipe for Soup and Boullie was included in the The Ladies Assistant by Charlotte Mason in 1773,with the spelling changed to Soup and Bouillie in later editions, and another dish called Bouillie Beef was in The Experienced English Housekeeper by Elizabeth Raffald in 1778. In both recipes the soup and the meat were served as separate dishes.

These recipes were soon copied into other books. With acknowledgements to Mason and Farrald, Mary Cole's The Ladies Complete Guide of 1788 includes both recipes and Bouillie Beef appears in John Farley's, "The London Art of Cookery" from 1783 and Soup and Bouillie is in the 1789 and later editions. The Cook's Oracle by William Kitchiner contained versions of both dishes.

Preserved Soup and Bouilli

The commercial canning of food began in England in 1812. The company was Donkin, Hall and Gamble and amongst their first products were canisters of Soup and Bouilli.

By 1813 they were supplying the Royal Navy and in 1814 Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane recommended that "the Patent Prepared Meats and Soups......., especially the Soup and Bouilli sent out here [Bermuda] for the sick on board ships of the squadron", beginning the practice of serving soup and bouilli to the sick and convalescents.

Over the next century preserved Soup and Bouilli in tin canisters would be produced by many manufacturers and become a staple on long sea voyages for crews and passengers. In 1910 it was still the "most used soup".

Scale of Medicines

From 1835 merchant ships sailing from the United Kingdom were required to keep on board a Supply of Medicines and from 1845 these were itemised in a schedule, The Scale of Medicines. This became The Scale of Medicines and Medical Stores in the Merchant Shipping Act 1867 and from 1 January 1868 Preserved Soup and Bouilli was included, even though Thomas Spencer Wells had noted in the 1861 edition that "the soup and bouilli for the emigrant ships the very worst kind of provisions that could be selected, as ...the captain does not know how much meat he is supplying to his men or passengers".

There also had been an earlier proposal by Christopher Biden in 1849 to add to the Merchant Shipping Act a requirement for ships to carry a Scale of Provisions which included Soup and Bouilli.

Soap and Bullion

As noted above it was not only the amount of ingredients that could vary but also the quality as revealed in 1852 in the Goldners Meats scandal which resulted in some seamen retaining "an invincible prejudice against preserved meats" from the time when " much of the meat was no better than carrion or the vilest offal"

On long sea voyages passengers too developed an antipathy to the dish. It was seen as one of the "ills appertaining to cheap voyaging" and was pitched overboard from the sailing vessel Norman Morison going from London to Vancouver in 1849-50. In theatres and music halls in Australia in 1860 the mention of Soup and Bouilli would raise a laugh from what would have been a mainly immigrant audience. It would still amuse one old colonist in 1912

William Clark Russell who spent many years in the merchant navy wrote of its 'disgusting flavour' and that "canned meat or tins of soup and bouilli... purchased in the cheapest markets may produce distempers more terrible than the scurvy they are supposed to combat". It was the "most disgusting of the provisions served out to the merchant sailor" and referred to by sailors as soap and bullion

Soup and Bouilli

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