[ul][li]Cranberry sauce with Turkey[/li][li]Applesauce with roast pork[/li][li]Mint jelly with roast lamb (ugh!)[/li][li]Baked or fried apples with goose [/ul][/li]I come from a firmly meat-and-potatoes background, yet we always had these fruity accompaniments with these particular meats. They do seem to go together (except the mint jelly & lamb) but maybe that’s only because I grew up with them. Where do the traditions come from? What purpose, nutritional or gustatory, do they serve? Why only these meats? Why is there no fruity side dish for beef, veal, chicken, fish, or shellfish?
I remember reading some cultures mix fruit and meat because protein is better utilized when vitamin C is eaten at the same meal. I don’t think this can explain the combinations above because apples are a poor source of vitamin C. Besides, you can get the same effect by eating fruits rich in vitamin C as dessert, and not as a side dish.
I found a related thread, pork chops and applesauce but it doesn’t answer my questions except that pork and applesauce is a common combination among people of Polish and German extraction and that at least one person served applesauce with tuna souffle (double ugh).
Well, I know that the mint jelly is meant to offset the gaminess of the lamb, so perhaps the other combinations are meant to do the same? Pork doesn’t seem too gamy to me, but perhaps it did to those who were used to eating beef all the time.
But there are sweet/fruit side dishes for all of them. I can send you recipes if you like. I don’t think there’s any purpose or reason for it other than taste. Oh and historically, it could have been a very good idea to have something sweet and rich in flkavour to hide the taste of old meat, or make chewing tougher meat more palatable.
We (UK) don’t tend to eat mint jelly - we have mint sauce. Jelly - sweet jam like stuff? Ugh! The only jelly I know of being used with lamb is redcurrant jelly (& scarily (since I don’t like redcurrants as fruit) I actually like it). We also have apple sauce with pork chops or roast, so I think the german/polish thing from the original thread is way too limiting.
Do you eat roast beef with Yorkshire puddings in the states? If not, I think one of the original thread posters was British, but just forgot to say where posting from.
I think, in the not-so-recent past, people tended to draw fewer distinctions between sweet and savory dishes. A lot of old recipes combine meat with fruit–mince pie originally had beef in it (you can still find it made that way).
I think that European types may have picked up the habit during the crusades. A lot of middle eastern dishes combine meat with raisins and other fruits.
I recommend a recent article in the August Scientific American on the historical development of the modern (European-style) diet. There was a change in the mid-17th century in theories of nutrition and health that led to a change from sweet/savory stews and hot, spiced wine to roast meats, salads and cool, sparkling wines.
The Middle East and North Africa never adopted the new theories, which is why they have much more sweet/savory combinations and one bowl meals like couscous.
As to why modern cooks still use sweet/savory combinations, I think it mostly has to do with balance of flavors. Chocolate-covered pretzels, anyone?
The combination of sweet and savory goes back as far as the Romans–they loved to combine flavors–and you used as much fruit as you could, because, if you were wealthy, you could afford to do it.
The trend has continued through the ages; some of these sweet/savory combinations have been around for centuries. The Pennsylvania Dutch have a tradition of having 7 sweets and 7 sours on the dinner table, as a reminder of the sweet and sour in life; in Indian cooking, sweet fruit chutneys are served along with spicy items to offer contrast and balance. There was a mention about the Crusades bringing this combination–they did bring back other things, but not this idea; dishes at this time already had the combination of sweet/savory–40%of the savory recipes that exist from the time have items such as dried fruits, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves–what seems sweet or strange to us was common then.
Today, a chef uses the combination to add variety and interest–there needs to be contrasts on the plate to make a dish interesting: soft/crunchy, bright/light colors, strong/subtle flavors, and sweet/savory items.
I know that in the Middle East there isn’t the distinction between sweet and savory that there is in America. A friend from the Phillipines taught me how to serve plaintains with pork, and that’s sort of sweet.
The paucity of spices that Americans use is scandalous. Read any cookbook about Indian or Turkish food, and if you’ve never visited a speciality grocery store, many of the ingredients will be completely unfamiliar.
Most of us recognize to tastes, salty and sweet, and that’s it!