Beautiful Soup, so rich and green,
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for such dainties would not stoop?
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!
Carroll’s wacky invention of a living and breathing ‘mock turtle’ in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland couldn’t have failed to raise a smile among his contemporaries, and the creature’s ‘Turtle Soup’ song is a wonderful send-up of the Victorians’ predilection for mock turtle soup.
Mock turtle soup had its origins in the mid 18th century, when it was a cheap alternative to soups made with real turtle flesh. Offal and eggs were prepared to resemble the texture of turtle meat and served with a rich veal or mutton broth. By the time Carroll published Alice’s Adventures in 1865, it was no longer regarded as a poor man’s alternative – mock turtle soup had become a delicacy in its own right.
Egg balls and brain balls were popularly served up in a tureen with the soup, and this recipe from Kitchiner’s Cook’s Oracle shows how it was done:
Egg Balls (Brain Balls same way)
Boil four eggs ten minutes & put them into cold water. When cold, put the yolks into a mortar with the yolk of a raw egg & a teaspoonful of flour, same of chopped parsley, some salt (what will lie on a shilling) & a little pepper. Roll them into small balls (for they swell in boiling). Boil them a couple of minutes.