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:

aaaz

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.”