One of the customers of this blog (a non-paying customer, of course) asked if I remembered Junket, a dessert of my long-ago youth that was occasionally served when gelatin products were not available, owing to the disturbance in Europe and the Pacific at the time.
Junket (a trademarked brand name) is still manufactured, believe it or not, in Little Falls, New York. It is made with sweetened milk and rennet. Rennet, from the Old English word rynet (“cause to run together”), is a digestive enzyme found in calves’ stomachs that curdles milk, producing a custard similar to the curds and whey of which Little Miss Muffet (but not I) was so fond.
In the Middle Ages, junket (not trademarked at that time) was a food favored by the nobility that was made with cream, not milk, and flavored with rosewater and spices.
The word's etymology is related to the Norman jonquette, a mixture of milk, egg yolks, sugar, and caramel--mmmm. Originally, a jonquette (or jonket) was a basket of rushes, in which the cream preparation was typically made. It derives from the medieval Latin word juncata.
Junket later took on the meaning of a feast of any kind of tasty food. Jonathan Swift’s instructive Directions to Servants in 1731 advised: “Whatever good Bits you can pilfer in the Day, save them to junket with your Fellow-servants at Night, and take in the Butler, provided he will give you Drink.”
By amplification, junket is now used to mean a trip (usually paid for by someone else) during which rich food and hearty drink are enjoyed, most typically by dedicated public servants on fact-finding missions to Las Vegas, the Caribbean, and the Riviera.
No one has offered the Bard of Buffalo Bayou any junkets—of whatever variety—lately, and if the following is any indication, it is unlikely that anyone ever will.
I feel so cool and mellow.
Each time that I eat Junket®™.
It tastes a lot like Jell-O®™.
Good gracious, who’d a-thunk it?
But it’s proclaimed just like a tenet
On each package that they sell it in
That Junket®™’s made with rennet,
And Jell-O®™’s made with gelatin.