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Release date: 12/28/2004.
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To see the collected illustrations of Lewis Carroll's Mock Turtle, I invite you to visit John Rickman's website at

"Hot mockturtle vapour and steam of newbaked jampuffs rolypoly poured out from Harrison's. The heavy noonreek ticked the top of Mr. Bloom's gullet.... Pungent mockturtle oxtail mulligatawny. I'm hungry too."
--James Joyce, Ulysses

"Of course I'm a Turtle
But am I real or Mock?
I leave it to
Hilaire Belloc."
--Ogden Nash (1931)

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Mock Turtle Soup

I'm happy for the turtles--but miss the extraordinary turtle soup I ate in my youth at the little grill across from Reading Terminal in Philadelphia (a reader has written in to remind me it was Kelly's Grill on 12th street--thank you!). Now that sea turtle meat is prohibited by law, this recipe makes a fair substitute. Interestingly, even when turtle meat was legal, it was terribly expensive. As a cheap substitute in the 18th century, therefore, recipes appeared in England that recommended the use of calf's head or even veal as being similar in taste and consistency. American cooks turned to beef or oxtails, when they couldn't get native turtle meat, and followed the British seasonings of allspice, sherry, and hardcooked eggs. Serve this meaty American version hot as a rich first course to 4-6 people, with little cruets of sherry on the side.

Brown onion in the butter and oil, add the oxtails and brown slightly. Add the spices and herbs, then stir in the flour until it bubbles, adding more butter and oil as needed. Pour in the hot water and stock and bring to a boil. Add the remaining ingredients, except the egg and sherry. Simmer for 2 hours. Remove the oxtail, cut the meat and marrow away--add back to the soup and discard the bones.

When ready to serve, chop the eggs coarsely and stir into the soup. Ladle into bowls, stir in a teaspoon of sherry to each, top with parsley...and put a cruet of sherry on the table, for atmosphere if nothing else.

Reader comments:
From "Klaus": The European mockturtle soup did indeed use the skin of a calf's head, boiled and cut into brunoise or juliennes. It was, however, a clear soup along the lines of a consommé. In fact, classical cuisine in Europe only knew the clear variety. It was generally served in a demi-tasse without any garnish or as Lady Curzon, gratineé with a dollop of curried whipped cream. Two very elegant soups, indeed, when made with real turtlemeat. Auguste Escoffier would be spinning in his grave, if he would be aware of the US version. We made our oxtail soups in that way and also produced a clear oxtail soup,served with cheesesticks."

From Suzanne of Olympia, Washington: This Mock Turtle soup is terriffic! I learned of turtle soup in Egg Harbor, NJ, a little log restaurant where my Dad took me and everyone that came to visit. I make this delicious soup far more often than one would think and so far have rave reviews. I do add 2TBS of kitchen boquet to darken it and 1/2 tea of Old Bay an occasionally 2 anchovies (if left over) But the recipe as is is wonderful."