What’s a “bain marie”?

As I mentioned last week, it’s a water bath (bain being “bath” in French). But then why do we use a French term and who the heck was Marie? I’ve wondered that for quite a while but have never found much on the subject. Leave it to Jim C. of Chez Jim to chime in with an answer.

Turning (OK, clicking) to the most authoritative online French dictionary, I find…that the bain marie – mentioned at least as far back as the 14th c. – was named for a very specific alchemist…Marie the Jewess, who supposedly came up with this technique. And you can bet she wasn’t making creme brulee.

It points out that Marie (Miriam) the Jewess may have been a reference to the sister of Moses and Aaron, a prophetess, and supposedly the author of works on alchemy. From there to an association of the Virgin Mary with esoteric mysteries of alchemy “succeeding to the Egyptian tradition of the myth of Isis.” One wonders: did [Carl] Jung ever investigate the bain marie?

Mighty deep thoughts considering a bain marie is such a shallow pan of water. Never let it be said that joepastry.com isn’t an intellectual community.

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