May 282015
 

As promised, today’s guest post is by Kimberly Walters, author of the excellent “A Book of Cookery” which I mentioned yesterday. Over to you Kim!

z1 Hospitality for those in the 18th Century was well known and a way of life. I first became interested in historic foodways several years ago while watching a Jane Austen movie – most in particular “Pride and Prejudice.” I really just wanted to sit at a table elaborately decorated, dressed in my finest gown, and eat and drink as they did. It wouldn’t hurt if Mr. Darcy was there too, would it? However, I was also curious as to how they cooked, what did it take to do it? How many did it take to cook some of those huge meals? How long to prepare and eventually serve that food on the table?

That had me reading the cookery books of the time. I did not always understand the terminology, and I found the measurements obscure. After delving into it more and finding a dictionary from 1775 on-line, understanding that they cooked over a fire, the equipment used seemed unwieldy and made of toxic metals, and the combination of ingredients of some recipes (also known as receipts) did not sound in the least bit delicious. Receipts are defined by Mr. John Ash’s dictionary of 1775 as being “…a prescription of ingredients of any composition.” That had me reading more and trying to find the answers. Once I really started to delve into this, I became almost obsessed with reading more and more. I did find that there was a lot of plagiarism as there were no copyright laws back then, so many books repeated themselves with the same receipts. A popular cookery book of the period, whereby I found an original which is in my small collection is “The Compleat Housewife: or, Accomplished Gentlewoman’s Companion.. By E. Smith.”

z2     Other cookery books that I have read and studied are those written by A Lady (Hannah Glass), Miss Eliza Leslie, Mrs. Harrison, Mrs. Raffald, Mr. Kidder, Mr. Vernal, T. Williams, and Mrs. McLintock to name a few. I own originals of some of these as well. There is nothing like holding a book and wondering who else has read from its pages – who also owned it?

So, I am questioning more and more. Why did the recipes have what seemed enormous amounts of ingredients? So I decided to figure out why. I have come to the conclusion that it was all about social status. The more you have on the table, the more ways it was cooked is how they showed the wealthier they were. This allowed the family to purchase or plant more as they had more help in which to do so and cook the items. This could have been in the form of slaves, indentured servants, convict servants, etc. The 18th and early 19th Century was all about etiquette, manners, and courtesy.

What appeals to me about Georgian dining is the type of dishes made. Some sound familiar, and some are very different and do not in the least seem appetizing. However, once the food was set on the table, it was done in a very deliberate way. I remember growing up and Sunday dinner was a special event for my family. We would cook a nice meal, transfer the food to the nice family china, and it was all laid on the table very nicely. We did this on special holidays and birthdays as well. This was a practice that I still do today. Back then, the dishes were laid out on the table symmetrically. It was a well-staged area where the dishes were placed accordingly. So, if you had one type of dish at the head of the table, you will have a similar at the foot, and so on. In some illustrations, you will see that a soup would be placed at one end of the table to be removed, and in its place is noted another dish which normally was a meat. I have been amazed to see the number of dishes served and how many courses they suggested. You can also find information in the diaries, Wills, papers, and newspapers if you wanted to find out more individual likes and dislikes versus a general cookery book. These works can mention and list the type of food being imported, equipment that was used, food and drink sold, types of vegetables being grown, or utensils and inventory left for those who passed away. I delved into reading and researching and was not disappointed with what I found. There is so much to know, and every bit as rewarding when you make a dish as they did and taste it. Even better when dressed in the right clothing.

First and Second Course Layout E. Smith 1741

First and Second Course Layout E. Smith 1741

No article about food can be left without providing a receipt. One of my favorites, which are provided in my book, is sure to please.

 

To Make an Apple Tansy.

TAKE three pippins, slice them round in thin slices, and fry them with butter; then beat four eggs, with six spoonfuls of cream, a little rosewater, nutmeg, and sugar, and stir them together, and pour it over the apples; Let them fry a little, and turn it with a pye-plate. Garnish with lemon and sugar strew’d over it. NOTE: Pippins are a type of apple either yellow or green. You can substitute any tart apple you wish.

A Cookery Book Title

wawaw You can learn more about my book on my website, K. Walters at the Sign of the Gray Horse . I also sell historically inspired jewelry and all proceeds go to support my four rescued and one Colonial Williamsburg adopted horse.

 

 

Thanks, Kim, and a reminder that ‘A book of Cookery, by a Lady’ is available via Amazon.co.uk and via Amazon.com

 

May 272015
 

One of the things which helps me identify with my ancestor is food – after all, he went to great lengths to record what he ate, what he drank and so on, and although he frustratingly never says whether he liked a particular meal – or bottle of wine – at least I can share with him a love of eating (and drinking, come to that)!

In one of his booklets he recorded this epigram about meals:

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He also wrote a lot about avoiding what he called “flatulums” – in other words, beans which made him suffer from wind! He consumed rather more red meat than I am partial to – and rarely any vegetables – and he consumed prodigious quantities of port (which I loathe because it gives me gout). Other than that many of his ‘receipts’ i.. recipes are worth trying, although his cakes and tartlets have so much sugar in them they are barely edible!

azazazAnyway, all this is a rather long-winded introduction to a splendid book which has been written by Kimberly Walters. Kim has agreed to do a guest-blog for me tomorrow, but by way of introduction to her I would explain that she lives in Virginia and spends a lot of her free time attending re-enactments, cooking on an open hearth fire, giving demonstrations, and teaching others how to cook using Eighteenth Century utensils and ingredients.

She has brought out a lovely book, entitled “A Book of Cookery” and it is described as being “by a Lady” (and who am I to doubt it!). It contains “above Three Hundred Receipts made at Hearth, Suitable for an Elegant Entertainment, or Common Fare for Preparing and Dressing Every Thing Suitable for Drinking and Dining at Any time of the Day including Receipts for Lent, Household Cleaning, and Remedies for Ailments.”

A Cookery Book Title

It really is a fascinating book, full of interesting facts and recipes, made all the more interesting because you know that they work. Kim has tried them, and indeed  started a hearth cooking guild at Historic London Town and Gardens in Maryland. The great news is that it is available via Amazon both in the UK (here) and in the States (here). Personally I don’t think it is any great loss that it is not available on Kindle – who wants to be reading Georgian recipes on an e-reader, for goodness sake! Instead you get 348 old-fashioned pages which you can thumb through, ear-mark, and enjoy. There are sections about selecting and buying produce, preparing food, how to place food on the table, what utensils were used, how to carve meat, as well as cookery terms and definitions. There are also several hundred recipes as well as those useful tips as to how to get rid of stains from silk, how to make a wash for the face and so on. I was particularly impressed to see that the ‘cure’ Kim gives for an upset stomach is almost identical to the one Richard Hall recommends (“take an ounce of beef suet and half a pint of milk …”)

There are a couple of lovely reviews of the book on Amazon, including these:

“Kim’s dedication to authenticity and her love of the colonial period and its food comes through in A Book of Cookery​ ​. This collection of recipes (or receipts to be more accurate), is the must-have for historic sites, people doing living history, food historians, and even the adventurous home cook…the best thing about Kim’s book will be eating the large variety of foods contained therein.” – Rod Cofield, Executive Director, Historic London Town and Gardens

“A Book of Cookery is a wonderful guide for novices and experts alike who love history, hearth cooking or anyone who dwells in the 18thC. It’s a refreshing book that combines all of the great recipes and techniques of the era in one easy to read guide…one handy book where it’s all at the ease at your fingertips.

Her commitment to historic preservation and love of the subject shines through…ideal not just for historical books, but also for anyone who wants to enjoy fresh cuisine from farm to table…”
Chef Walter Staib, Award winning Chef, Author, and TV Host of “A Taste of History”
awawawWhat comes across is that it isn’t just for re-enactors – anyone interested in the 18th Century will find something to tickle their fancy. Kim also has her own website – she makes and sells period jewellery (sorry, jewelry!) in order to raise funds for her beloved rescue horses. It is called “K Walters at the sign of the Gray Horse” and you can find it here. It comes as no surprise that Kim describes herself as ‘an avid horse woman, animal lover, amateur historian, and re-enactor’. She is a member of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, and is currently a member of the Fincastle Chapter of Louisville, Kentucky.
Tomorrow she gets a chance to say a bit about what got her interested in what I believe the Americans call “historic foodways.”

 

May 252015
 

On one of my perambulations through the Museum of London’s on-line collection of prints I came across a series of fashion plates from the 1780’s through to the turn of the century  showing ladies head gear, on a year-by-year basis. Some of them are so wonderful as to defy description, others are so atrocious that I am not sure which is the front view and which the back.  They are however worthy of being repeated just so that one has the right image in the mind’s eye when considering what it was like to be truly fashionable or a la mode in the latter years of the 18th Century. For my money, I would go with 1786 any day….

Here goes (with thanks to the Museum of London website):

Fashions for 1784

Fashions for 1784

Fashions for 1782

Fashions for 1782

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fashions for 1786

Fashions for 1786 Fashions for 1790

Fashions for 1790

Fashions for 1794

Fashions for 1794

 Fashion for 1796

Fashion for 1796

 

Fashions for 1798

Fashions for 1798

and to end with, the very different styles in the new century:

Fashions of 1806

Fashions of 1806

May 162015
 
© The Trustees of the British Museum

© The Trustees of the British Museum

I came across this caricature on the Lewis Walpole site, but am showing the version on the British Museum website because it is in colour, and looks smarter! I rather like it, for a number of reasons:

It shows a prostitute leaning over the drunken figure of a soldier, his wig askew, while she relieves him of his pocket-watch and purse. The purse is one of those  tubular mesh items, later known as a sovereign purse.

She is wearing a splendid chapeau, entirely appropriate to the date of the print (1786). But I really like the depiction of the wallpaper and carpet – it is very evocative of the time. The soldier was perhaps intending to head for the pleasures of the four-posted bed, covered with a fine striped canopy, before he over-indulged in the contents of the punch bowl, which sits on the side table with his empty glass.

The theme – of the hooker stealing a watch from a client – was a popular one, and reflects the high number of cases appearing before magistrates at the time. Pocket watches were high-value, easy to conceal and dispose of, and in constant demand. But most of all I like the portrait of the young lady – she is elegant, well dressed and pretty. She is doing what she is doing because it is her only way to get on in life. She is a product of her time.

The print is called ‘Old Wheat Sheaf in the Trap of Venus and Bacchus’ and was published by Robert Sayer, described as a ‘Chart and Printseller, of No. 53 Fleet Street.’ It first appeared on 9 May 1786. I like it, and may well use it in ‘Sex Scandal and Satire – in bed with the Georgians’ when I send the manuscript off to the publishers in the summer. It helpfully illustrates the link between prostitution and petty crime in the 18th Century.

Sayer died in 1794, aged sixty-nine. He had been  a highly successful publisher, especially of maps and charts, and was a friend of the artist Johann Zoffany, who painted this conversation piece entitled ‘The Sayer Family of Richmond’, in 1781. It shows Robert Sayer, his son, James, from his first marriage, and his second wife, Alice Longfield.

a aac

 

May 122015
 

I remember outraging one of my former partners, a born-again Christian, by writing about the bible. No capital letter – and I was taken to task about not referring to it as The Bible.

What the heck, to me it is a book, and a fascinating historical record. I am lucky enough to have the original Geneva Bible which Richard Hall owned, printed in the 1560’s, and I had it re-bound recently in finest calf-skin in the hope that it will survive for another 450 years.

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But my interest is in the odd details of a biblical nature which Richard jotted down: let us be honest, you have to be a bit of a nutter to start counting words, or even worse, the letters in the Bible. (Three million five hundred and sixty six thousand four hundred and eighty letters to be precise, if you need to know for your quiz down at the local pub.) Not content with that, someone then calculated the number of times the word “and” appeared in the Old and New Testaments…. talk about being bored during a VERY long sermon!

Anyway, just to share this obscure information, gleaned in the days before automatic word-count and word-search, here is Richard’s running total: (Just to make it clear, there are three columns in the first bit – Old, New, and Total and, most unusually for Richard, he has written across both halves of the page rather than making it as two columns, left and right).

aqaqaqa

It all seems a bit “never mind the quality, feel the width” – as if the book was to be judged by its length rather than its content. And why stop with counting “and” and “Jehovah” – what about “the”? How many donkeys? How many floods and tempests? I find it all very worrying, especially as you might just finish counting and then discover that some well-meaning fool has brought out a new and improved version, and you have to start counting your “ands” all over again….

May 072015
 

As daylight broke on 7th May 1765 there were scenes of frantic activity down at the docks at Chatham Dockyard: men with adzes were frantically hacking chunks of wood off the gate-posts at the entrance of the dry dock where a ship was waiting to be launched. Someone had got their measurements wrong, and without these last minute corrections there was no way that the launch could take place.

Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Image

HMS Victory, in all her painted glory

It was not a very auspicious start for a vessel which had already taken an absolute age to be built, and which was not going to see any action, or even go to sea, for some thirteen years. Her keel had been laid on 23 July 1759, nearly six whole years earlier. For three of those years her plans were simply moth-balled – the end of the Seven Years War meant that there was no urgency to see the vessel launched, and the frame was left, under cover, while the timber slowly seasoned. Even when the ship was launched, through gates which had been hacked back nearly five inches on each side, there was controversy, on account of her name. After all, the Victory was a name previously held by a ship which had gone down in a violent storm in the Channel in October 1744, with the loss of all on board. She had been the flag ship of the Channel Fleet, and it was rumoured that she had been wrecked off the Casquets, a rocky group of islets northwest of Alderney. It was an area known as the graveyard of the English Channel, and her loss led to the court-martialling of the keeper of the Alderney lighhouse, who was blamed for not keeping his lights properly lit. Ironically, when the wreck of the Victory was finally discovered in 2008 she was found to have gone down more than fifty nautical miles away… .

Despite this unfortunate nomenclature, the Victory she was named. A ship without a cause, since Britain was no longer at war. She was moored up in the River Medway, and slowly left until her keel become home to all manner of marine life. She represented a total waste of the cost of construction – equivalent to more than seven and a half million pounds in today’s money. Years passed, and it was not until this white-elephant-of-a-vessel was finally commissioned, in 1778, that she started her illustrious career.

The Vicotry from three different angkles, painted by J M W Turner, shown courtesy of the Yale Center for British Art

The Victory, from three different angles, painted by J M W Turner, shown courtesy of the Yale Center for British Art

Admiral Keppel chose her as his flagship and she was sailed  round to Portsmouth to be fitted out, and over the next two decades she saw action particularly at the First and Second Battles of Ushent, the Siege of Gibraltar, and the Battle of Cape St Vincent in 1797. By then she was completely knackered and worn out, and the order was given for her to be withdrawn from service, consigned to an ignominious fate as a prison ship for captured French and Spanish sailors. But then the Admiralty had a change of plan and decided that the Victory should be re-commissioned. Work started in 1800, and was far more extensive (and expensive) than anticipated. But the Victory emerged from her re-fit, with 104 guns, in a new yellow-and-black livery, with a new figurehead, and with a new Vice-Admiral: Horatio Nelson, who raised his flag on board on 18 May 1803, just over thirty-eight years after she had been launched. And the rest, as they say, is history…

May 032015
 

My fortnight of blog and tweet abstinence is over – I have just returned from a stint as cruise lecturer on board the Fred Olsen ship The Braemar. It was great fun and the audiences were wonderfully appreciative! Doing five lectures in two weeks to potentially the same audience is very different to doing a handful of different talks on separate occasions to different people. Making sure that the talks did not overlap, could stand alone, and yet encouraged  guests to return, meant lots of revisions to draft scripts, and getting the timing spot-on was an imperative because … the Captain tended to burst in via the sound system at set times and an over-run would be somewhat awkward! I think I managed one talk with about five seconds to spare, with my closing words of “The Captain will be along in a moment” being followed by his own announcement about five seconds later!

I found it a huge learning experience – I suspect if I do it again I will look at it more from a viewpoint of “what will make these people want to get out of bed at 9.45 in the morning to come and listen?” rather than “What would I like to talk to them about?” So I suspect that “Jane Austen’s World” will get an outing, as well as one on Royal Shenanigans (“From randy Regent to the King of Bling” went down well as an idea with the Cruise Director, who measures everything in terms of  how many people you can get to come to the talks, not on how good the talk is).

I had included a talk on gardening and gardens (Capability Brown et al.) which I may not bother with again – it wasn’t my favourite, not least because gremlins at the Ministry of Inanimate Objects  caused the lectern to collapse, sending my lap-top flying, just as the lights had dimmed and I had made my introductory remarks  (….’Houston, we have a problem’…) but all was soon sorted out. It didn’t half mess up my timings though, as I frantically tried to work out how much of the talk had to get the chop if I wanted to avoid to be drowned out by the Captain. But all turned out O.K.

Food and Drink (Regency banquets, etiquette etc) went down well, as did one on Philip Astley. I wasn’t sure about that, but it turned out to be so obscure –  in the sense that no-one had ever heard of him – that they found his story fascinating. Loads of lovely comments. Obviously you cannot win over everyone – I loved the comment my wife overheard from one lady who walked past the entrance to the lecture theatre as she saw the topic of the day’s talk: “The Eighteenth Century? No, I don’t think so, it was a bit before my time.” She went off happily to her Bingo and her Morning Quiz…

The cruise-line were great – they couldn’t have been more helpful and when I was not speaking, we were treated like ordinary passengers – with a few extra perks I won’t go into! Suffice to say I am now waiting to hear the customer feedback comments to see if I can expect another cruise either on the Braemar (which is a delightfully compact ship) or from one of the larger ones. What was quite obvious is that many of the passengers come back year after year after year, often coming on back-to-back cruises, or cruises in the spring, summer and autumn. So I suspect the more I do it, the more it gets to be like meeting old friends!

My wife and I also had enough spare time to have a go at knocking off another two chapters of  our book “An illustrated introduction to the Regency” – up until now I have done “my” bits on my own, but the bits on fashion, shopping, style and so on are joint ventures, based on Philippa’s research. I will only comment that co-authoring with your spouse is about as conducive to matrimonial harmony as trying to share the task of hanging wallpaper together when home decorating….

My Dear Lady Wife and I have managed to survive for 28 years together without murdering each other by following the simple rule: NEVER try to share wall-papering duties. That way there is no “You’ve cut it too short” or “Not that way up you idiot” or “Why didn’t you order the right number of rolls in the first place?”

Co-authorship was always going to be a challenging experience. I tried to explain to MDLW that it is an INTRODUCTION to the Regency, and that although it was fascinating for me to learn which were the best shops to go to in Regency London to buy, I don’t know, cosmetics, or carriage dresses, or riding whips, there wasn’t really going to be enough space to list all the emporiums, their opening times, and whether or not they had public toilets at the back…. Apparently I am a bully, and not a nice person to work with…. I know she is only annoyed because I have used up all the available space doing my pet subjects, leaving her with the tail-ends of each chapter, but hey, who said life was fair, least of all married life?

Talk about a minefield! But we survived, and that is another two chapters put to bed. We should be able to submit the manuscript to the publishers (Amberley) on time next month.

My only regret is that the particular cruise took me to the exotic splendour of …. Alicante. Which happens to be my home town in Spain and to me is about as exciting as any other city you by-pass on the motorway if you get half a chance! Talk about coals to Newcastle! But Seville was magnificent, and always worth a repeat visit, and I enjoyed seeing Malaga and Vigo again. But today, having sailed back to Britain from Alicante, I hop on a plane from Gatwick and head straight back out  – to Alicante, ready to give a talk to a local U3A on Thursday! A crazy world, and one which my ancestor Richard Hall would have  found quite incomprehensible!