Below are some quotes from Wikipedia with some recipes for furmity. It's a dish that plays prominently in The Mayor of Casterbridge, a novel by Thomas Hardy. He's one of my favorite authors, even though he's quite melancholy . . .
fumenty (sometimes frumentee, furmity, fromity, or fermenty) was a popular dish in Western European medieval cuisine. It was made primarily from boiled, cracked wheat - hence its name, which derives from the Latin word frumentum, "grain". Different recipes added milk, eggs or broth. Other recipes include almonds, currants, sugar, saffron and orange flower water. Frumenty was served with meat as a pottage, traditionally with venison or occasionally porpoise (considered a "fish" and therefore appropriate for Lent). It was also frequently used as a subtlety.
|(Elizabeth Jane Henchard and her father, the Mayor)|
The dish, described as 'furmity' and served with fruit and a slug of rum added under the counter, plays a major role in the plot of Thomas Hardy's novel The Mayor of Casterbridge. It is also mentioned in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass as a food that snap-dragon flies live on.
|(Donald Farfrae from film, The Mayor of Casterbridge)|
It has been asserted that frumenty is "our [England's] oldest national dish."
A compendium of "traditional" "English" date-related activities includes three recipes for frumenty. They show considerable variation with place and time.
· 1 : The typical method of preparation was to parboil wholegrains of wheat in water, then strain off and boil in milk, sweeten the boiled product with sugar, and flavour with cinnamon and other spices.
· 2 : Take clean wheat and bray it in a mortar well that the hulls go all off, (this means that the hulls are broken off) and seethe it till it burst, and take it up (out of the water) and let it cool; and take fair fresh broth and sweet milk of almonds, or sweet milk of kine (cow's milk) and temper it all, and take yolks of eggs. Boil it a little and set it down and mess it forth ("mess" here in the sense of "plate and serve to table", the same root as naval mess) with fat venison and fresh mutton.
· 3 : Somerset-Wiltshire: About forty years ago (from an unspecified date) country women in shawls and sun bonnets used to come to the market at Weston-super-Mare in little carts carrying little basins of new wheat boiled to a jelly, which was put into a large pot with milk, eggs, and sultanas, and was lightly cooked; the resulting mixture was poured into pie-dishes and served onmid-Lent Sunday and during the ensuing week. Frumenty is still prepared at Devizes for Mothering Sunday.
A "healthy" dose of spirit is often mentioned as accompanying the frumenty.
"I always like furmity; and so does Elizabeth-Jane; and so will you. It is nourishing after a long hard day."
"I've never tasted it," said the man. However, he gave way to her representations, and they entered the furmity booth forthwith. A rather numerous company appeared within, seated at the long narrow tables that ran down the tent on each side. At the upper end stood a stove, containing a charcoal fire, over which hung a large three-legged crock, sufficiently polished round the rim to show that it was made of bell-metal.
A haggish creature of about fifty presided, in a white apron, which as it threw an air of respectability over her as far as it extended, was made so wide as to reach nearly round her waist. She slowly stirred the contents of the pot. The dull scrape of her large spoon was audible throughout the tent as she thus kept from burning the mixture of corn in the grain, flour, milk, raisins, currants, and what not, that composed the antiquated slop in which she dealt. Vessels holding the separate ingredients stood on a white-clothed table of boards and trestles close by.
The young man and woman ordered a basin each of the mixture, steaming hot, and sat down to consume it at leisure. This was very well so far, for furmity, as the woman had said, was nourishing, and as proper a food as could be obtained within the four seas; though, to those not accustomed to it, the grains of wheat swollen as large as lemon-pips, which floated on its surface, might have a deterrent effect at first. But there was more in that tent than met the cursory glance; and the man, with the instinct of a perverse character, scented it quickly.
After a mincing attack on his bowl, he watched the hag's proceedings from the corner of his eye, and saw the game she played. He winked to her, and passed up his basin in reply to her nod; when she took a bottle from under the table, slily measured out a quantity of its contents, and tipped the same into the man's furmity. The liquor poured in was rum.
The man as slily sent back money in payment. He found the concoction, thus strongly laced, much more to his satisfaction than it had been in its natural state. His wife had observed the proceeding with much uneasiness; but he persuaded her to have hers laced also, and she agreed to a milder allowance after some misgiving.
The man finished his basin, and called for another, the rum being signalled for in yet stronger proportion. The effect of it was soon apparent in his manner, and his wife but too sadly perceived that in strenuously steering off the rocks of the licensed liquor-tent she had only got into maelstrom depths here amongst the smugglers.
The child began to prattle impatiently, and the wife more than once said to her husband, "Michael, how about our lodging? You know we may have trouble in getting it if we don't go soon."
But he turned a deaf ear to those bird-like chirpings. He talked loud to the company. The child's black eyes, after slow, round, ruminating gazes at the candles when they were lighted, fell together; then they opened, then shut again, and she slept.
At the end of the first basin the man had risen to serenity; at the second he was jovial; at the third, argumentative, at the fourth, the qualities signified by the shape of his face, the occasional clench of his mouth, and the fiery spark of his dark eye, began to tell in his conduct; he was overbearing--even brilliantly quarrelsome.
The conversation took a high turn, as it often does on such occasions. The ruin of good men by bad wives, and, more particularly, the frustration of many a promising youth's high aims and hopes and the extinction of his energies by an early imprudent marriage, was the theme.
And thus, with a bowl of furmity, begins the tragedy of
The Mayor of Casterbridge.