D’Artagnan’s trip to London: Saint Omer, April 1625

And both, with free use of the spur, arrived at St. Omer without drawing bit.  

At St. Omer they breathed their horses with the bridles passed under their arms for fear of accident, and ate a morsel from their hands on the stones of the street, after they departed again. 

Alexandre Dumas, The Three Musketeers, 1844

D’Artagnan and his squire Planchet are headed to London, via St Omer–let’s not forget that Porthos was left behind in Chantilly, Aramis in Crèvecoeur, and Athos in Amiens.

The St Omer of 1625 is part of the Spanish Netherlands. Ignored by the Pyrenean Treaty of 1659, it will only be given back to France in 1678 with the ratification of the Peace Treaty of Nijmegen.

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Map showing St Omer as a part of “Belgium”. Leo Belgicus. KAERIUS, P. [Amsterdam, 1617]

The spoken dialect was Flemish, and the food D’Artagnan enjoyed on the stones of the street was probably equally influenced by the Spanish-Dutch presence. The food business was big in these times since not everyone had an oven at home, especially among the poorer members of society. Pies and pasties were the perfect street food. They contained meat or fish and a good amount of ginger, saffron, and white pepper. (See The Medieval Cook by Bridget Ann Henisch, 2009).

medieval-pie

15th century illustration of street bakers

Still in existence today, another traditional dish of the area is the Tarte au Libouli. The Libouli or boiled milk designates the cream that covers the tart. The tradition of making tarts in the Flanders-Artois began at the end of the Middle Age, and was associated to familial reunions and special events. Women would cook the tarts in a baker oven, and since most families did not have enough money to buy a pan, the tart was placed directly on a tray with the leavened dough coarsely folded over the edge to stop the cream spilling out. There are many recipes available online for this tart, here is a good one.

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Tarte au Libouli, courtesy eatmeplease.canalblog.com

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