The alternate title to this post: Drawing Lesson.
Lily, in this case, refers to the plant family that asparagus belongs. Or did belong. Before things were reclassified. Asparagus, it seems isn’t really a lily.Anymore. Once, like onion and garlic, all part of one big Liliaceace, sperage/sparagus/sparrow-grass/asparagus is over in the Asparagaceae train, and the onions and garlic are on the Amaryllidaceae bus.
And what can make that spearage better? Butter!
Take two hundred of sparagus, scrape the roots clean and wash them, then take the heads of an hundred and lay them even, bind them hard up into a bundle, and so likewise of the other hundred; then take a large skillet of fair water, when it boils put them in, and boil them up quick with some salt; being boil’d drain them, and serve them with beaten butter and salt about the dish, or butter and vinegar.
1678, Robert May. The Accomplist Cook. (4th ed) Falconwood Press:1992. p. 255.
Here are several beaten butter/thick butter/drawn butter English sauces:
How to draw your butter thicke.
Put to every pound of butter, sixe spoonfulls of vinegar, a branch of Rosemary, a little whole mace, & a few cloves, put them into an earthen pipkin or a pewter dish, and set them vpon a few coales, and when the butter begins to melt, take a ladle and powre it vp a high till it be melted, and then it will bee as thicke as creame, and serve to butter any fresh fish.
- Murrell, John. A Booke of Cookerie. London: 1621. Falconwood Press:1990. p. 32.
To draw Butter.
Take your butter and cut it into thin slices, put it in a dish, then put it upon the coals where it may melt leasurely, stir it often, and when it is melted put in two or three spoonfuls of water, or Vinegar, which you will, then stir and beat it untill it be thick.
- 1653. W.I. A True Gentlewomans Delight. Falconwood Press (1991) p. 54.
To draw butter of only use in sauces.
Take the butter and cut it into thin slices, put it into a dish, then put it upon the coals where it may melt leisurely, stir it often and when it is melted put in two or three spoonfuls of water or Vinegar, which you please, then stire it and beat it until it be thick. If the colour keep white it is good, but if it look yellow and curdly in boiling it is noght, and not fit to be used to this purpose.
- 1664. Mrs Cromwell’s Cookery Book. (1983) p. 77.
This all sounds an awful lot like Buerre blanc, this melted butter/vinegar/emulsified butter sauce. Buerre blanc also has shallots, and was in theory invented in France in the 20th century ……
And it’s Samuel Pepys who provides the sparrow-grass reference on April 20, 1667:
So home, and having brought home with me from Fenchurch Street a hundred of sparrowgrass,—[A form once so commonly used for asparagus that it has found its way into dictionaries.]—cost 18d. We had them and a little bit of salmon, which my wife had a mind to, cost 3s. So to supper, and my pain being somewhat better in my throat, we to bed.