03/05/2020

Chewy!


Nougat!? Even the name is tricky. Is it pronounced “noo-gaa” or “noo-gatt”? It is a substance that can be difficult to make ending up either too soft or, more likely, too hard. Some nougat resembles the sort of material used on white washed walls and can have a similar consistency. Yet it endures, one of those foods that people generally love or loathe like Marmite or sprouts.  Still if you can’t manage to chew or even cut it, nougat can make a handy table leveller if you’ve an uneven floor.




There are three types- white nougat is made from egg whites, sugar, honey and nuts (the latter are generally almonds, hazelnuts or pistachios). Brown nougat has similar ingredients except misses out egg whites using caramelized sugar instead. The third version is German nougat which is made of just sugar, chocolate and almonds. The word itself is derived from an Old Provencal word “nogat” which means nut cake, an expression that can also be used as an insult in any language! The original derivation though is from the Latin word for nut which is “nux”.
A hint about the problems with nougat can be seen in the fact that although its origins are said to date back as far as the first century AD it didn’t become popular until the seventeenth century when the French took it on board. Given its Roman origins this is unusual, presumably Italians didn’t take to it as much even though there’s a Roman cookbook which mentions a nut custard made of honey, walnut and eggs.
There are loads of variations which seem to have originated separately in different countries over the centuries. An Italian nougat called Torrone was made in the shape of the bell tower of Cremona cathedral. In sixteenth century Provence in France two types of nougat originated - crunchy black nougat made without eggs and the soft white nougat such as the famous Nougat de Montélimar, whose ingredients are Lavender honey, almonds and pistachios in different ratios to other recipes. Spain has Turrón or Torró made mostly for the Christmas season. 


You might imagine there are no songs that mention nougat whereas there are actually quite a few that do. These are mostly unknown outside their country of origin so you’ll probably be thinking I’m making them up but nougat gets a name check in such songs as `Fete Continue` and `La Sampa`. Pulp referenced it too in their song `Wickerman` which talked of an old sweet shop while Shonen Knife have a song called `I Want to eat Chocobars` which mentions “nougat and nuts”. All told the site www.lyrics.com lists 56 songs which include the word!
There was a 2002 film called Nougat. It’s an eight minute cut-out animation short set at an elementary school. The premise is about the self -esteem issues Nougat has and how it resolves them. Nougat the Puppet is a sixty minute 2019 film in which a man who lives alone makes a puppet that sort of comes to life but ends up being a cat. I think. There’s a 1996 short film called Double Nougat that was made for BBC Scotland and there is an independent film making company named Monkey Nougat.  In the Harry Potter universe you can buy nougat at Honeydukes, a sweet ship in the wizarding village of Hogsmeade. Additionally there is an Android phone operating system called Nougat which was released in 2016. So there’s plenty of nougatty options more preferable to actually trying to eat it.


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