The Continental blockade had serious culinary consequences for the French population, especially in terms of coffee and sugar, since these came from the tropical colonies and the commercial sea routes which brought them had been cut off from France. Coffee was an especially serious privation. In great contrast to its limited success on introduction at the end of the 17th century, coffee drinking in France had become widely popular at all levels of society, and during the First Empire, it was THE drink at the first meals of the day. Often cut with milk and sugar, it was seen as the nutritious ‘food' that would get you through the day and remained particularly popular amongst ladies, men still preferring a shot of the strong stuff first thing in the morning.
The way to replace coffee and sugar'Since France's position today has rendered her deprived of colonial products or at best having to pay huge prices for them, the good housewife would do well to procure some plants and another sort of sugar in order to provide adequate substitutes for the coffee and sugar she would normally have bought. These plants and that sort of sugar can all be found in France; and they will not cost more than the housewife already has to pay.' (p. 91)Every sort of substitute was sought – particularly amongst plants that grew in France – to make a coffee that would be more or less drinkable. The same was true for sugar, and from this came sugar beet derived from the juice of beetroots which has come down to us today.The present document provides the reader with another source for sugar, namely corn, a plant which in France is more often called Turkish corn. The author of the manual, Madame Gacon-Dufour, write about it as follows:'Turkish corn is infrequently cultivated in this county, and farmers are mistaken in this. The leaves grow in profusion and can be very usefully given to cows as fodder; the grain which comes from it is the best possible for fattening up ducks and geese, indeed even pigs, if you had enough to give them. But these are not the sole advantages to be derived from this plant.Messrs Parmentier and Bomare, who have had excellent results from almost all the plants upon which they have experimented, have extracted sugar from the stem of Turkish corn. And indeed, the sap therein is very sugary.When the stem is cut, crushed and pressed and mixed (it must be said) with some sugar, the resulting liquid is fairly thick and can be used in the preparation of desserts and drinks.Since this year I wanted to test the usefulness of this plant, I took the part of the stem closest to the ear, because I noticed that it was here that the most sugar was stored, and cut it into small pieces. I then sweated these pieces in a frying pan over a gentle heat, adding water from time to time. I then squeezed the pieces, and the resulting liquid was as sugary as water in which you have dissolved a good lump of sugar. I then cooled the water and mixed it with the juice of a redcurrant. The result was a redcurrant juice that did not require the addition of either syrup or sugar. I have decided, next year, to make more and boil it down to the consistency of syrup so as to be able to use it in the preparation of fruit purées, tea infusions or any other drinks which need sweetening.' Recueil pratique d'économie rurale et domestique, par Mme Gacon-Dufour, de plusieurs sociétés d'agriculture et littéraires. Paris, chez Fr. Buisson, imprimeur-libraire, rue Haute-feuille, n° 20, an XII (1804), p. 114-116History of the book: belonged to the Deuzel Collection of books and engravings related to gastronomyHeld at the Bibliothèque Martial-Lapeyre, Fondation Napoléon: shelfmark S 0 "2" gacon (Inventory N°: 9059)
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