bain-marie

Definitions

Food

  • masculine A dish to contain boiling or hot water in which other dishes are stood for cooking or to keep them warm at temperatures below boiling. May be specially made with appropriate containers.

Travel

  • noun a pan holding hot water into which another vessel containing food to be cooked or heated is placed

Origin & History of “bain-marie”

In its origins, the bain-marie was far from today’s innocuous domestic utensil for heating food over boiling water. It takes its name from Mary, or Miriam, the sister of Moses, who according to medieval legend was an adept alchemist – so much so that she had a piece of alchemical equipment named after her, ‘Mary’s furnace’ (medieval Greek kaminos Marias). This was mistranslated into medieval Latin as balneum Mariae ‘Mary’s bath’, from which it passed into French as bain-marie. English originally borrowed the word in the 15th century, in semi-anglicized form, as balneo of Mary. At this time it still retained its original alchemical meaning, but by the early 19th century, when English adopted the French term, it had developed its present-day use.
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