Saturday, 28 April 2012

Samuel Pepy's Best Ever Dinner

A portrait of Samuel Pepys you may not know. He is shown as one of the bearers of the King's canopy at James II's coronation in 1685.
In the next couple of weeks I will be making a minor contribution to a television series that is intending to plot the evolution of our daily meals -  breakfast, lunch and dinner. This is very familiar territory to me, as in 2000, together with art historians Peter Brown, Andrew Moore and Gillian Riley, I curated the major travelling exhibition Eat, Drink and Be Merry, which surveyed the development of the English table and our meals in great detail through major paintings and the decorative arts. We recreated dinners, suppers, breakfasts and teatimes from many different periods using original tableware, silver, porcelain and glass as well as food. Just for the record I have not seen anything yet that matches the scope and vision of that exhibition in any of the British TV programmes that have so far touched on food history. Just to illustrate what I mean, have you ever seen anything like this on tellie?

My recreation  of the Duke of Newcastle's Garter Feast of 1698. This is the king's table, where he dined alone
For the section of the programme to which I am contributing, the makers are focussing on records of food and dining in the dairy of Samuel Pepys. They want me to cook some of the dishes he mentions. Pepys (1633-1703) started his diary in January 1660 and stopped making entries when his eyesight started to fail in May 1669. Throughout his journal there are numerous references to food and particularly to drink, of which he was of course very fond. Some of his observations are very useful to those of us interested in understanding the cookery of this period. For instance, on 13 January 1662, he described an ambitious and expensive dinner of which he was very proud, which included a 'rare chine of beef' roasted in front of the kitchen fire with his clockwork jack. Many of the dishes were prepared by a professional cook who was brought in for the occasion. Pepys expressed some doubt that the jack could manage to turn this large joint, but was pleased that it 'do carry it well'. He tells us that the chine was put down to the fire before six o' clock. Since he left his office at noon, it would seem that this dinner probably did not get underway until about 1.00pm. So the beef, which was served in the first course may have cooked in front of the fire for as long as five hours. It must have been a massive joint as the usual roasting time recommended for this cut in the cookery books was between three and three and a half hours. I have roasted large joints of this kind many times with a jack and I usually roast them for about four and a half hours.

Perhaps the most celebrated meals Sam describes are his annual 'stone feasts', held in gratitude for a successful operation he had for a painful bladder stone in 1658. An entry for Wednesday 26 March 1662, describes one of these meals. He says, 'I had a pretty dinner for them, viz., a brace of stewed carps, six roasted chickens, and a jowl of salmon, hot, for the first course; a tanzy and two neats’ tongues, and cheese the second; and were very merry all the afternoon, talking and singing and piping upon the flageolet.' A year later on 4 April, he had an even more ambitious feast, 'Very merry at, before, and after dinner, and the more for that my dinner was great, and most neatly dressed by our own only maid. We had a fricasee of rabbits and chickens, a leg of mutton boiled, three carps in a dish, a great dish of a side of lamb, a dish of roasted pigeons, a dish of four lobsters, three tarts, a lamprey pie (a most rare pie), a dish of anchovies, good wine of several sorts, and all things mighty noble and to my great content.'

Pepy's records of his food and drink are useful to the social historian, but in content they are rather scant and frequently only list those foods and dishes which he found notable. His accounts of his stone feasts are among his most detailed entries. His day to day comments on his diet tell us a lot about his food preferences. Since he mentions it nearly fifty times, one of his favourite dishes seems to have been the luxury meat venison, which he usually encountered in the form of venison pasty. Sam usually enjoyed this high status dish, but he also had some bad experiences, such as at a dinner on 1st August 1667 at the house of his next door neighbour, the parliamentarian and admiral Sir William Penn, 'Up, and all the morning at the office. At noon my wife and I dined at Sir W. Pen’s, only with Mrs. Turner and her husband, on a damned venison pasty, that stunk like a devil. However, I did not know it till dinner was done. We had nothing but only this, and a leg of mutton, and a pullet or two.'

Two venison pasties made from seventeenth century designs. They are both over three feet long.
Sam does not seem to have had a great deal of luck with the venison at Sir William's table. He experienced another rotten pasty on 28 August 1668, 'Betimes at my business again, and so to the office, and dined with Brouncker and J. Minnes, at Sir W. Pen’s at a bad pasty of venison,'

At yet another entertainment at the Penn household (Sunday 16 September 1666), he was displeased with the venison again, though this time it was baked in pans rather than in a pasty.  'At noon, with my wife, against her will, all undressed and dirty, dined at Sir W. Pen’s, where was all the company of our families in towne; but, Lord! so sorry a dinner: venison baked in pans, that the dinner I have had for his lady alone hath been worth four of it.' He was more than likely complaining because it was dry. Baking venison, a meat with very little fat does not make sense. Indeed,  according to his numerous records of the meat, the diarist only ever had it cooked this way on this one occasion. It was normally served to him in the form of a pasty, or more infrequently boiled.

So why were some of Sam's pasties tainted? In one entry for 10th July 1666, he indicates that a pasty made in his kitchen was sent to the bakers - "At noon home to dinner and then to the office; the yarde being very full of women (I believe above three hundred) coming to get money for their husbands and friends that are prisoners in Holland; and they lay clamouring and swearing and cursing us, that my wife and I were afeard to send a venison-pasty that we have for supper to-night to the cook's to be baked, for fear of their offering violence to it: but it went, and no hurt done." So it looks like Mrs Pepys occasionally tried her hand at making them herself. But a venison pasty was more often made by a cook on the estate where the deer had been hunted. A whole boned side was encased in a pastry crust (usually rye paste) so these pasties were very large. When cool they were stored in a larder, where under cold conditions they could keep for months. The thick pastry casing prevented bacteria from entering and causing decay, at least for a while. It was a process equivalent to canning. However, this technique of preservation sometimes failed, as Sam found out to his disgust at Penn's dinners. Pasties were often sent from the country seats where the deer had been hunted, frequently to London, where they were much appreciated as gifts. Some travelled great distances. There are sixteenth century records of these great pasties being sent to France. Sam and his neighbour William Penn probably got hold of them, as well as raw venison meat from noble friends who owned deer parks. Venison was not a meat you could normally buy from a butcher.

Venison pasty was on the bill of fare at an extraordinary feast which Pepys attended in 1685, many years after he stopped writing his diary. Most scholars have overlooked this meal in the many published discussions of Pepy's diet because they have tended to focus on his diary entries. This was the coronation feast of James II. Although we do not have a firsthand account by Pepys of the occasion, the king commissioned the herald Francis Sandford to write a comprehensive book on the event. This includes a detailed description of the feast, which compared to the everyday meals he describes in his diary, must have been the most sumptuous repast that Sam ever experienced.

Sam sat somewhere down this end of the bishops' table on the right hand side of the hall
As one of the barons of the cinque ports (five maritime towns on the south coast), he was not only entitled to help carry the king's canopy, but also to attend the feast in Westminster Hall. He sat on a table reserved for the Archbishops, Bishops, Barons of the Cinque Ports and Judges.

Pepys had been fairly intimate with James when he was the Duke of York. Here he is again supporting the royal canopy.
The commemorative silver gilt cup made for Creshald and Gawdon Draper.  Courtesy of V&A
After the coronation, Pepys was also entitled as a perquisite for his role as a bearer to a share in the silver stave mounts and bells from the canopy. We have no idea what he did with his silver, but two of his fellow barons - Creshald and Gawdon Draper, who were from the same family, pooled and recycled their portions. Their silver was made up into a cup engraved with an image of the king's canopy in the latest chinoiserie style. This remarkable object was recently acquired by the V&A. Creshald, who was a baron for Wincelsea bore one of the staves of the king's canopy, while Gawdon, who represented Rye, held a stave of the canopy over the queen consort Maria de Modena.

At Charles II's coronation in 1661 an unruly brawl broke out at the beginning of the feast, as the barons of the cinque ports struggled with some of the king's footmen, who were determined to take the canopy from them. 'But at the Vpper end of the ffirst Table sate the
 Bishops, & below them the Judges, & the rest of the
 long Robe, & at the Table of the Masters of Chancery sate the Barons of the Cinque Ports: ffor as
 soone as they had brought the Canopy over the King 
to the ffoote of the stepps & that the King was retired, some of the Kings ffootemen most insolently
 and violently seised on the Canopy, & the Barons endeavouring to keepe it as their just right, were
 drawne downe to the lower end of the Hall, still
 keeping their hold, where accidentally Mr Owen
 York Herauld, seeing the Contest, caused the 
dore to be shutt, & his Majestie being advertised of
 this Insolency, Comanded one of the Equerries to 
goe & cause the Canopy to be delivered to the Barons, who by this meanes, lost their place at 
the vpper end of the Table assigned them.'* 

James II's coronation feast in Westminster Hall was superintended by the king's master cook Patrick Lamb. The table at which Pepys dined was furnished with one hundred and forty four dishes. Most of these were meat and fish dishes, including lots of pies, but there were eighteen salads on the table and luxury items like asparagus, mango, bamboo, truffles and morels. Scattered among the dishes of puffins, pallets rago'd, whole roasted fawns and pettitoes, were tarts, jellies, blancmanges and other sweet dishes. The king and queen's table was lavishly embellished en ambigu with three tall pyramids of sweetmeats and fruit. Sam's table had twenty-seven dishes of sweetmeats ranging down the table, so like the salads they were easily accessible to the diners. In the table plan below, the green dots represent the position of the salads; the red ones the dessert sweetmeats. The centre of the table must have been a riot of colour.

In addition to the eighteen salads arranged down the middle of the table, there were two more on the table, a salmagundi and a lemon salad, the positions of which I have also marked in green above. In Royal Cookery, (London: 1710),  a book of recipes published in Patrick Lamb's name after his death, there is a recipe for Salmagundy.  It was a type of salad made with lettuce, finely chopped chicken and anchovies, garnished with small poached onions and scalded grapes. With a whole host of spelling variants over the next hundred years, including Solomon Grundy, it went on to become a popular dish. There are versions of Lamb's original recipe in later cookery books, such as that of Hannah Glasse (1747).

Patrick Lamb's Salmagundy on a blue dash charger

In the seventeenth century, the word menu was not in use in this country. The term that was in common usage was 'bill of fare'. However, at James's great feast, the long list of dishes was referred to as a 'catalogue'. Here is the full catalogue of the dishes on Sam's table from my copy of Sandford's book. A venison pasty is listed as item 144. I am not sure whether he got to sample it, but if he did, I hope its was sweeter and more toothsome than the one at Sir William Penn's 'that stunk like a devil.' 

A catalogue of the several meats on Sam's table from Francis Sandford, The History of the Coronation of the Most High, Most Mighty, and Most Excellent Monarch James II (London: 1687). All the other black and white images are also from this book.
* Sir Edward Walker, A Circumstantial account of the Preparations for the Coronation of His Majesty King Charles the Second. (London: 1820), p. 122.

An online article on the James II coronation cup by Tessa Murdoch

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Battenburg Cake History Again!

Delving into the true history of our foods is always much more rewarding than blindly accepting the tired old clichés and myths that are often used to explain their origins. I have already in two earlier postings tried to unravel the complex history of the popular Battenburg Cake, but the more I look at this subject, the more puzzling it becomes. A popular theory about its origin tells us it was made to celebrate an important Victorian royal wedding in 1884. In a 2003 newspaper article, food historian Catherine Brown tells us,

'But there was nothing to compare with the German pastry cooks' sophisticated use of marzipan, colours, shapes, flavours and allegorical designs. The British were impressed. They tried their hand at the German techniques and some native pastry cooks became almost as good as the Germans. Such was their confidence that when Queen Victoria's granddaughter, Princess Victoria of Hesse-Darmstadt, married Prince Louis of Battenberg in 1884, it was decided that a celebration cake was required, in their own design of course, but appropriately German in style to celebrate the marriage. What else to call it but a Battenberg cake? It was to be unique: a cake to stun British cake-lovers. They took inspiration from the German rococo style of architecture which featured gold (marzipan) with pastel colours (pink and yellow sponge).'*

This all sounds plausible, but Brown does not inform us of her sources. I would love to know who it was who decided that a celebration cake was required. Until Catherine Brown can point out the primary sources for these statements, I am inclined to believe that she is simply repeating a popular anecdote which appears to have surfaced fairly recently and has no basis in fact. In a recent Great British Bake Off programme, the television historian Kate Williams repeated the same myth.

My good friend Robin Weir, knowing my interest in the Battenburg, was amazed to recently come across an illustrated recipe for an identical cake called Gateau à la Domino in a July 1898 edition of the Victorian food and housekeeping magazine The Table, published and edited by the remarkable Mrs Agnes Berthe Marshall. Although Mrs Marshall's four books on cookery and ice cream are now fairly well known, The Table is rarely cited, though it is one of the most extensive and richest sources on the domestic life and food of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. She launched it on 12th June 1886. There were 1690 weekly issues until June 1918. It was then renamed The Table and Housekeeper's Journal and was published fortnightly with 547 issues until its demise in September 1939. In its day The Table was the most important food magazine published in Britain. Mrs Marshall died in 1905, but The Table went on and on.

Mrs Marshall's recipe for Domino Cake appeared in 1898, the same year in which recipes for two almost identical cakes - Frederick Vine's Battenburg Cake and Robert Well's Neapolitan Roll were published. In appearance, Vine's cake is identical to Marshall's with nine panes of alternate pink and white genoese enclosed in an overcoat of almond paste. Well's cake on the other hand, with its four panes is closer to the modern version that we call Battenburg Cake today. If you have not read my earlier posts on this subject, here are some images to show you what these three cakes looked like. 

Mrs Marshall's Gateau à la Domino from The Table,  July 2nd 1898

Frederick Vine's Battenburg Cake from Saleable Shop Goods 1898 - nine panels


Wells does not illustrate his cake. so I made his Neapolitan Roll from the recipe he published in Cakes and Buns (1898). Unlike Marshall's and Vine's versions, Well's cake was dusted with pink desiccated coconut and has only four panes. 
It may be that there are other recipes. I have not had a chance to look through the late nineteenth century numbers of the trade magazine The British Baker and Confectioner, which was edited by Vine, so the jury is still out as to who first devised the recipe. To me however one thing is sure, that the myth about the cake having four sections to commemorate the four Battenburg princes is total rubbish. And I am also now very sceptical about the unsubstantiated claim that this cake was originally invented to commemorate the wedding in 1884 of Prince Louis of Battenburg to Princess Victoria. If this was so, why does Mrs Marshall twelve years after the wedding call it a Domino Cake and Wells a Neapolitan Roll?  Below is Mrs Marshall's full recipe, published here courtesy of Robin Weir, who is Britain's leading authority on this remarkable lady.  I have a nagging suspicion that Mrs Marshall may have invented the cake, but cannot prove it. With its vanilla and maraschino flavoured almond paste, her version is more sophisticated than either Vine's or Well's, whose simpler recipes were designed for the trade rather than the domestic cake maker. She also copyrighted her recipe - see below - and declared that it was new. Perhaps the other two pinched it and renamed it in order to disguise their source. So to take a terrible liberty with Gertrude Stein's well known phrase relating to a well known flower, "A domino cake, is a Neapolitan roll, is a Battenburg cake.'

Domino Cakes were normally small rectangles of genoese decorated with icing in the form of dominoes, as No. 4 in this fine chromolithograph by Kronheim from Mary Jewry, Warne's Model Cookery and Housekeeping Book (London: 1868).
What is overlooked in all the Battenburg Cake myths is that there were actually two weddings between English princesses and Battenburg princes. The first was that of Princess Victoria, Queen Victoria's grandaughter, to Louis of Battenburg in 1884. The second took place the following year, when Louis's brother Henry married Queen Victoria's youngest child Beatrice. The bride cake illustrated above is that presented to Henry and Beatrice at their wedding in 1885. When they cut this remarkable cake, I wonder if there was a pattern of red-white-red-white running all the way through it.
*Catherine Brown, Battenberg Cake; A celebration confection fit to grace a royal wedding. The Herald, March 29th 2003.

Read my other two posts on Battenburg Cake -

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Food for Jubilees and Other Royal Occasions

I used to think that the peg-footed creamware mould which I used to make this flummery honouring George III dated from the 1790s. But its motif of the king's cipher, crown and laurel wreath have convinced me that it was made to commemorate his 1809 Jubilee.
All over Britain, towns and villages are preparing for their street parties and other events on June 5th to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. The internet and the popular magazines are full of articles by food writers and chefs with suggestions for dishes for the great event. As well as such predictable comestibles as Coronation Chicken, Beef Wellington and mini pork pies, one writer suggests that old British standby - Wild Mushroom Lasagne! The Duchess of Cornwall is heading up a fun competition aimed at school children, who have been asked to design a 'menu fit for a queen'. The royal chefs at Buckingham Palace are going to turn the children's recipes into canapés, yet another ancient British dish! As has always been the case on these occasions, a great deal of merchandising is going on, even at a very high level. Balmoral Castle is marketing a Diamond Jubilee Shortbread Biscuit Tin at £12.95, with a design specially commissioned by the Royal Collection. Harrods have launched an 'exclusive' range of Diamond Jubilee edible gifts, including a Diamond Jubilee Chocolate Coin at £4.95 and a Diamond Jubilee Shortbread tin which plays Rule Britannia when the lid is removed at £11.50. The shortbread biscuits inside are of course stamped with the union jack. No doubt just as I am writing this, frenetic post-production activities are going on in the TV world, with celebrity chefs, domestic goddesses and other culinary high priests all devising special dishes for the day.

Merchandising for royal occasions has always been big business

But what did British people eat in the past to celebrate these important national occasions? It was certainly not wild mushroom lasagne or union jack cupcakes. Before I attempt to answer this question, it is important to point out that Golden and Diamond Jubilees of English monarchs have been very few and far between. The first recorded celebration of a sovereign's jubilee, was that of George III on 25th October 1809, when the 71 year old monarch had completed fifty years on the throne. This event was celebrated all over Britain and the Colonies - and as you will see, in much more lavish style than we manage today. It was to be another 78 years before there was another Golden Jubilee, that of Victoria in 1887. The interval between these two events was much longer than the life span of the average Victorian (about 40 years). So there would have been very few people alive in 1887 who could remember George's 1809 extravaganza. It had been such a long time since the last one that loyal British subjects were not sure what to do for the 1887 Jubilee. But help was at hand. In 1809 a little book entitled The Jubilee of George the Third had been published anonymously by (A Lady) the Wife of a Naval Officer.

In order to help with ideas for the celebrations of Victoria's Golden Jubilee, this scarce little volume was re-printed in 1887 to kickstart the national memory. On the title page of this new edition, it proclaimed that it offered, 'AN ACCOUNT OF THE CELEBRATION IN THE TOWNS AND VILLAGES THROUGHOUT THE UNITED KINGDOM OF THE FORTY-NINTH ANNIVERSARY OF THE REIGN, 25TH OCTOBER, 1809.' 

Unless good records are kept, the fine details of rare ritual occasions like coronations and royal jubilees are easily forgotten. Food events are particularly vulnerable to this form of national amnesia. Because a jubilee dinner was a transient affair, unless someone took the trouble to record a bill of fare, memories quickly faded. Having a book was a great help, so the 1887 re-issue of the account of George's jubilee was a boon to those wanting to organise celebratory events, because they could find out what had been done in their towns and villages seventy eight years before. 

Above - the 1st edition of 1809. Below - the 2nd edition published for Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887

A similar phenomenon happened at the time of the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. The most recent coronation, that of Charles I had been back in 1625. During the intervening thirty five years (coincidentally the average life expectancy of the period), there had been a civil war, a regicide, the abolition of the monarchy and an interregnum. Most of the records on coronation ritual and all the necessary regalia had been destroyed. As a result, Charles II's coronation on April 23rd 1661 was a rather improvised affair. In a record he kept of the occasion, Sir Edward Walker, Garter Principal of Arms, tells us,

'And because through the Rapine of the late 
vnhappy times, all the Royall Ornaments & Regalia heretofore p'served from age to age in the
 Treasury of the Church of Westminster, were
 taken away, sold & destroyed, the Comittee mett
 divers times not only to direct the remakeing such
 Royall Ornaments & Regalia, but even to setle
 the form & fashion of each particular; all which
 doe now reteyne the old names & fashion, although 
they have been newly made.

On the left, Francis Sandford holds a copy of The History of the Coronation of the Most High, Most Mighty, and Most Excellent Monarch James II (London: 1687). The only important 'festival book' published in seventeenth century England, Sandford's detailed work has been used to organise every coronation since, including that of Elizabeth II in 1953. Sandford and a fellow herald are depicted here in the coronation procession, walking on the 'flower-strewan way.'
As a result, there was no such lack of crowns, orbs and suchlike in 1685, when Charles's brother James II was crowned. But to ensure the continuity of the highly complex coronation rituals, James commissioned the Lancaster Herald Francis Sandford to make a detailed record of the event for posterity. Unlike Walker's account of Charles II's coronation, this was published by the Crown in 1687. Sandford tells us.

'all necessary Care having been taken, both before and immediately after the Coronation, to preserve the Exact Draughts and Admeasurements of all such Transient Things both in the Hall and Church.' 
Sandford's aim to 'preserue the
 Memory of this Glorious Solemnity, in all its Incidents and Circumstances, so nothing has been so much Endeavour’d, as to render it truly 
Useful to Posterity' was fulfilled, as his incredibly comprehensive account has been used to organise all the coronations since that of James II. Sandford gives a remarkable account of the coronation feast laid before James and his diminutive Queen Consort Maria de Modena in Westminster Hall. If you include the obligatory ritual dish of dillegrout, this feast consisted of 171 different dishes, just for two people! More on this particular beano in a future posting.

To return to the little book about the celebrations surrounding George's Jubilee in 1809 republished to help with the planning of one in 1887, what can it tell us about the celebratory food of the time? Well actually rather a lot. The most important national event was held in the town of Windsor on the ancient playing field of Batchelors' Acre, where an ox was roasted for the royal party. The king did not attend this event, but at 10.30 in the morning, Queen Charlotte and many of the other members of the royal family sampled the beef,

'Fifty Batchelors were ready, at the outside of the gate, which opens to the Acre: and when the royal party descended from the stand, guarded them at the fire-place, where the ox was roasting; they then proceeded to view the construction of the grates and walls for roasting the ox, which were so well contrived as to roast two whole sheep at the same time, and then returned to the booth. The butchers employed in managing the cooking of the whole animals, were dressed upon the occasion in blue frocks and silk stockings: they cut the first prime pieces from the ox and sheep, and put them upon silver plates, and the bachelors and butchers waited upon the royal party with them. They all tasted and appeared highly pleased with the novelty.' 

After the jubilee service in St George's Chapel, Queen Charlotte returned for a second helping,

'The Duke of Sussex, with his hat off, held the 
tray from which Queen took two or three pieces of beef and bread. The Duke of Clarence distributed the plum pudding.' 

Although this event was attended by the royal family, the original intention of the ox roast was to feed the Windsor poor. The whole extravangaza was paid for by the Prince of Wales and his brothers. I am very pleased to report that Windsor is one of the very few places in Britain that keeps up the tradition of roasting an ox for the jubilee celebrations. One was roasted there in 2002 and another one is planned for this year. Well done Windsor! Hundreds of similar ox roasts took place all over Britain in 1809. All were aimed at feasting the poor, the oxen and other animals usually being donated by a rich squire or landowner. Local butchers prepared and roasted the beast, a process that could last up to 29 hours. Unlike, modern 'hog roasts' where a pig is rotated over burning charcoal or gas flames, these animals were roasted properly in front of a large temporary fireplace. It is amazing how the British have almost completely forgotten how their national dish was originally cooked. These affairs were highly ritualised, as can be seen in this account of the 1809 ox roast in the city of Chester,

An ox, the gift of John Egerton, Esq. of Oulton Park, which had been slaughtered for the purpose of roasting whole, was paraded on the preceding evening being ready spitted, with horns and tail gilt, decorated with ribbons and attended by a band of music, with the colours of the several clubs of the city. Behind the ox, on the same carriage, rode the butcher, with knife drawn; thus the procession proceeded to Power Field, near the walls of the city, where a building was erected for the purpose of roasting. The fire was lighted at two, and the ox put down at eight on the Tuesday evening; by twelve o’clock the next day it was as well and as regularly roasted as any joint of meat could have been done by the most experienced cook.

An ox about to be prepared for the spit to celebrate Victoria's Golden jubilee in Skipton in 1887
Ten years later an ox roast at Batley Carr near Leeds in 1897 to celebrate Victoria's Diamond jubilee. The temporary brick roasting range is behind. Two workmen are turning the spit with a large wheel over a dripping pan.
A souvenir plate from the Batley Carr ox roast above

An even more patriotic ritual took place at Norwich, when the mayor and corporation sat down not to a whole roasted ox, but to a 'royal baron of beef',

" At five o'clock, the
 company, invited by the Mayor to partake of a roast beef dinner 
assembled at St. Andrew's Hall; and soon after the joyful note of 
preparation was given, by the drum and fife playing " O the roast
 beef of old England," at the head of a royal baron of beef, weighing 
172 lbs. surmounted with the Union flag, which was brought in by
 four grenadiers, who carried it twice round, and then placed it at
 top of the hall. The company seated themselves at three tables, 
which extended the whole length of the middle aisle, which was 
brilliantly lighted up with chandeliers, &c.
On the baron of beef being placed under the picture of Lord Nelson, the curtains were drawn up."

It was customary to decorate the royal baron of beef with the British Standard and adorn it with flowers
At Garnons in Herefordshire, Sir J. G. Cotterel regaled 'several thousands of the local peasantry' with a massive feast,

'On the preceding evening, a large ox was set down to roast in a temporary building erected for the purpose, with more than a bushel of potatoes in his belly, which being ready by one o'clock on Wednesday, was distributed, with great quantities of plum pudding, many other smaller articles of provisions, and five hogsheads of cider, among the crowd who assembled to partake of the bountiful and hospitable fare on the lawn, in front of the Mansion House.' 

Similarly at Itchen Abbas in Hampshire,

'The whole of the poor of the parish of Itchen
 were regaled by A. R. Dottin, Esq., of Itchen Abbas. Three sheep,
 stuffed with potatoes, were roasted whole; puddings, ale, and a tub
 of punch, were served to all the happy villagers in great abundance,
 and a sum of money distributed to the poor females. The King's 
health was drank with three distinct cheers, and several other loyal 
and patriotic toasts.'

So ox roasts were the order of the day throughout Britain in 1809. Local bakers often donated bread and plum puddings. The butchers always took care of the hearth construction and roasting.The scale of these events was often huge. Sometimes thousands were fed. I have found no images of any gatherings for Jubilees, but below are two images of dinners for the poor given in Lewes and Wisbech in 1838 when Victoria was crowned.  After overseeing the distribution of meat and bread to the poor, the wealthy patrons of these events usually had their own private parties in their own dining rooms. These consisted of much more sophisticated fare than roast ox and plum pudding.

The 5th Earl of Lonsdale's ox carving set - the knife is a massive 25.4 inches long. Photo - Michael Finlay

Open air dinner for the poor to celebrate Victoria's coronation in Lewes 1838
Open air dinner for the poor in Wisbech to celebrate Victoria's coronation. These extraordinary events are the true origins of our street parties
The 1809 edition of the book about George III's Jubilee celebrations and the creamware mould I used to make the flummery at the beginning of this post

The culinary equivalent of coronation mugs, these food moulds were marketed for the 1902 coronation of Edward VII 

Apart from the copper entrée mould, all these are for making ice cream crowns
A pewter ice cream pillar mould surmounted by a crown and cushion made to celebrate either the 1887, or 1897 jubilee. Photo Michael Finlay.
The two jellies at the back were made from moulds issued to commemorate the marriage of Edward Prince of Wales to Princess Alexandria of Denmark in 1863. Victorian edible kitsch associated with coronations, royal weddings and jubilees could be very elaborate.

The Alexandria Cross jelly on the left has the Danish flag running all the way through it. The Brunswick Star has the garter star in white running all the way through the jelly. This was achieved with special tin liners.
Jubilee edible kitsch 2012 - American style cup cakes - patriotic, but such a lack of ingenuity compared to the Victorian celebratory food illustrated above!
There were also many hundreds of ox roasts throughout Britain in 1887 and 1897. The great and the good may have looked on at these events with a sense of pride as they had usually financed them, but what they sat down to eat themselves was on a completely different plane. Complex dinners of many dishes in sophisticated Anglo-French style were the fashion at the time of Victoria's Jubilee entertainments. Here for instance is the menu for Her Majesty's Dinner for 1897 followed by some others from the period. Many nowadays think that Victorian food was over boiled and rather heavy on suet, but this is a terribly lazy and ignorant viewpoint based on poor and cliché-ridden research. Whether on the streets at on ox roast, or in the finest dining rooms in the land, Victorians knew how to dine. Just how many of you are going to sit down to a dinner like these on June 5th?

The menu for Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee banquet, held in the Ball Supper Room at Buckingham Palace

Her Majesty's Dinner

Tuesday, 21st June 1887

à la Tortue
Au Printanier
à la Creme de Riz

Les Filets de Soles farcis à l'Ancienne
Les Merlans frits

Les Petits Vol au Vents à la Bechamel
Les Côtelettes d'Agneau, Pointes d'Asperges
Les Filets de Canetons aux Pois

Les Poulets à la Financière
Haunch of Venison
Roast Beef

Les Cailles bardées
Les Poulets

Les Haricots verts à la Poulette
Les Escaloppes de Foies-gras aux Truffes
Sprütz Gebackenes
La Crème de Riz au Jus aux Cerises
Les Choux glacés à la Duchesse

Cold Beef
Cold Fowl

The previous day, the ladies who were to wait on the Queen and her Royal guests were treated to their own special celebration dinner.

The Household Dinner given at Buckingham Palace, on Monday, 20th June, 1887, to the ladies in attendance on the Queen and Foreign Royalties

À la Chiffonade.
Au Vermicelle à la Windsor


Turbot. Sauce Cardinale.
 Merlans Frits.

Croquettes de Volaille.
 Ris de Veau panés sautés aux Pois. 
Levrauts à la Crème.

Poulets garnis de Langue a la Jardiniere.
Selles de Mouton roties.
Boeuf Roti.

Canetons. Poulets.


Epinards au Veloute. 
Aspics de Galantine en Belle Vue.
 Bombes glacees au Chocolat. 
Condés fourrés à l'Abricot.
 Savarins au Curacoa.

Celebration dinners continued for much of June. Here is the menu for Her Majesty's Dinner on June 25th.  This lovely recipe card is published here courtesy of my dear friend and follower of this blog Janet Clarke.


28TH JUNE, 1887.


Aspics of Eels.
Aspics of Lobster.

Aspics of Fillets of Soles.

Salmon Mayonnaise.

  Spring Chickens.

Ox Tongues             York Hams.

Roast Lamb.                        Roast Beef.               Pressed Beef.

French Pies

Galantines of Capons.   Galantines of Veal.

Lobster and Plain Salads.

Neapolitain Cakes.

Wine, Noyeau and Maraschino Jellies.
Italian, Vanilla, and Lemon Creams.

Meringues a la Française.

Pastries.                    Maids of Honour.

Strawberries and Cream.              Hot House Grapes.

Lemon and Apricot Water Ices.

Fresh Strawberry Cream Ice.

However, my favourite menu from the 1887 jubilee is this one in verse,

'The following is a unique menu of a charming little
 dinner given to a party of twenty-two at Bryanston 
Square, on Thursday, June 23rd inst. : -' 

This is, my friends, the Bill of Fare,

Of your dinner to-night in Bryanston Square.

The Potages I need scarcely name;

They are Printanier and la Reine.

Of Fish, a double dish you'll find:
Saumon with Sauce Tartare combined;
And that delicious little Fish

Called Blanchailles is our second dish.

The Entrées next before us rise:

Des Cailles en Chaudfroid they comprise;

And what is even daintier still,

A Ris de Veau à la Buffalo Bill.

The Selle de Mouton now will come,

With Branches d'Asperges à la Yum Yum.

Les Canards Rotis then you'll see,

And Creme d'Homard à la Jubilé.

A Gelée à la Vin Madere,
A Macedoine de Fruits most rare,
And Boudin Glacé, best of Fruits,
Our little menu just completes.

And finally, Her Majesty's Dinner from the 1897 Diamond Jubilee, reproduced here once again courtesy of Janet Clarke Antiquarian Books. Janet specialises in gastronomy. Janet Clarke's website.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Lady Ann Fanshawe's Icy Cream

Lady Ann Fanshawe's  Icy Cream on a 1660s blue dash charger - the original family brick

In the late seventies, I placed a successful bid on a mixed lot of books in an auction. There were five volumes in the lot, including the two eighteenth century cookery books I was actually hoping to buy. At first I thought the other three were of no interest to me. However, I started skimming through one of them and after a few pages realised that it was a fascinating read. I had accidentally bought a book that was to become far more important to me than the two fairly pedestrian Georgian recipe collections in the same box. It was Sir Nicholas Harrison Nicolas's edition of Lady Fanshawe's Memoirs (London: 1829). I had never heard of Ann Fanshawe (1625-80). Nor at the time did I realise that  as well as her memoirs, she had written a collection of recipes, which I now believe to be one of the most important of the Stuart period. 

Lady Ann's Memoirs first found their way into print in 1829 in this volume edited by N. H. Nicolas

I got so hooked on the life and adventures of this remarkable woman that a few years later I spent a day examining the original 1676 manuscript of her memoirs in the British Library (Add. 41161). However, it was many years later before I realised the Wellcome Institute Library had another Fanshawe manuscript in its collection  - Lady Ann's handwritten book of medical and cookery receipts (Wellcome MS. 7113). Ever since I bought the Nicolas edition of her memoirs. this remarkable lady has haunted my life in some extraordinary ways. Let me explain. In a later illustrated edition of her memoirs (1905) edited by Beatrice Marshall, the art historian Allan Fea mentions two paintings - one of Ann and another of her husband Richard, both after Sir Peter Lely. Fea describes them as belonging to a Captain Stirling. Although I had seen the well known portrait below by Cornelius Johnson, on which the engraved frontispiece above by Meyer is based I could not track these other portraits down. 

Cornelius Johnson. Portrait of Lady Ann Fanshawe. c. 1660.
Then last year, I was giving a talk about seventeenth century cookery books in the library at Ardgowan House near Inverkip in Scotland and happened to glance up at the wall. I could not believe it. Lely's portrait of Ann was staring down at me! A conversation with Ardgowan's owner Cindy Shaw Stewart, revealed that the painting was on loan from Pollok House, which had once been in the ownership of Sir William Stirling! The portrait after Lely of her husband Richard is at Ardgowan too. Problem solved, and in such an ironic way too -  at an event called The Art of Dining! An hour before spotting the portrait I had actually described Lady Ann's recipe for ice cream in my lecture as the earliest one in Europe! Talk about synchronicity! In the Ardgowan 'Lely', Ann is considerably older than in Johnson's celebrated portrait above. She is wearing a diamond jewel at her breast. Interestingly she describes such a jewel in her memoirs as having been given to her in 1665 by Queen Elisabeth, wife of King Philip IV of Spain, when Ann's husband Richard was Charles II's ambassador to the Spanish court. 

Lady Anne in later life - after Lely. I copied this from Beatrice Marshall's 1905 edition of the Memoirs. The painting, together with another of Sir Richard Fanshawe, is at Ardgowan House, Inverkip.

She may have also learnt about iced refreshments at the Madrid court. In her memoirs she describes watching King Phillip and Queen Elisabeth at table in 1665,

'The King and Queen eat together twice a week in public with their children, the rest privately, and asunder. They eat often, with flesh to their breakfast, which is generally, to persons of quality, a partridge and bacon, or capon, or some such thing, ever roasted, much chocolate, and sweetmeats, and new-laid eggs, drinking water either cold with snow, or lemonade, or some such thing.' 

The earliest known recipe for ice cream in a section of Ann's receipt book dating from the mid 1660s.
© Wellcome Collection. 

Chocolate is mentioned a lot in her memoirs of Spanish court life. In her receipt book, she gives some instructions for preparing it. She also gives us a drawing, which I suspect is the earliest English depiction of a chocolate pot and mill.

© Wellcome Collection. 
The House of the Seven Chimneys in Madrid. Lady Ann's home when her husband was ambassador to the king of Spain
Ann also spent some time at the court in Lisbon. Her husband Richard was sent there by Charles II in 1662 to negotiate for the hand of Catherine of Braganza. A recipe in Portuguese for paõ di lo, the celebrated sponge cake still made in Portugal must date from this time. As far as know, this predates the first recipe printed in Portuguese in the second part of Domingos Rodrigues' Arte de Cozinha. (Lisboa: 1680), which contains a recipe for Paõ de ló amendoas. Anne was very much an international woman and her recipe collection reflects that she was interested in the food of the countries she visited as an ambassador's wife.

Paõ de ló. © Wellcome Collection. 
As to her Icy Cream, unfortunately her recipe does not work, because she or her clerk (the recipe is not in her hand) forgot to include a crucial ingredient - the salt or saltpetre which acted as the refrigerant when added to ice or snow. But I think this is an oversight, because everything else rings true about the recipe. Ann tells us that her husband served Charles II at his first garter feast at St George's Hall, Windsor in 1661. There is no surviving menu from that occasion, but the bill of fare of another garter feast ten years later in 1671 was fully documented by Elias Ashmole, who tells us that one plate of ice cream was served during the banquet course, but only on the sovereign's table. We will never know what the king's ice cream was really like on this occasion, but I suspect it was made along the same lines as Ann's Icy Cream.

The bill of fare for Charles II's banquet course at the 1671 Garter feast from Elias Ashmole, The Institution, Laws & Ceremonies of the Most Noble Order of the Garter. (London: 1672).
Charles II eating the second course of this Garter feast. A detail of an etched illustration by Wenceslaus Hollar in Ashmole's book.

In 1977, about the time that I first read the Fanshawe memoirs, I found a recipe for ice cream in a manuscript among a small collection of books in the Herb Society, where I often lectured. I realised that this book was written in the 1690s by Grace, Viscountess Carteret, later known as Countess Granville (1654-1744). At the time I was unaware of Ann Fanshawe's 1660s recipe, so thought that Grace's was the earliest English recipe for ice cream. Viscountess Carteret gives more detailed instructions and tells us to mix the refrigerant chemicals roch alum, bay salt and saltpetre with the ice. So her recipe, unlike Ann's does freeze very well. In fact I tried it out and served it to some friends in London at the time. They all liked its creamy texture and orange flower flavour, an unusual treat in seventies London!

Grace Granville, Lady Carteret's Ice Cream recipe c. 1690.
John Smith (after Johann Kerseboom).
Grace, Viscountess Carteret and Countess Granville.
The name Carteret crops up a few times in Lady Fanshawe's memoirs. This was in connection with the time in 1645 when the couple accompanied Prince Charles on his flight to France via the Scilly Isles and Jersey. When in Jersey, the future king and the Fanshawes all became very friendly with George Carteret, the lieutenant governor of the island and his wife Elizabeth. Lady Fanshawe gave birth to her second child, her daughter Anne on Jersey in March 1646. When the couple left Jersey in August that year to go to France, they left baby Anne in the care of Lady Carteret. When Charles II eventually rewarded George Carteret for his hospitality in Jersey with a small parcel of land in the Americas, Carteret named it 'New Jersey'. Charles also intended to make him a viscount, but Carteret died before this could be done and since his son Philip (1641-1672) had predeceased him, the title went to his grandson George (1669-1695) instead, who became the 1st Baron Carteret in 1681 in recognition of his grandfather's career. This latter-day George married Lady Grace Granville, the authoress of our second seventeenth century ice cream recipe. Both Ann Fanshawe's and Grace Carteret's recipes are very similar. Both are flavoured with orange flower water, though Anne's also has the option of ambergris. Because of the strong family connection I have often wondered if the two recipes are linked. Both are also pretty well identical to the earliest printed European ice cream recipe, published by Audiger in La Maison Reglée (Paris: 1692). Grace Carteret's recipe is more or less contemporary with this, while Lady Ann's is nearly thirty years earlier. Audiger's ice cream is also flavoured with orange flower water. So don't let anyone tell you that England was a culinary backwater at this period.

Audiger's 1692 Crême glacée

Take a chopine (pint) of milk, a half septier (8 oz) of good sweet cream, or else three poissons (12 oz – more usually spelt posson) with six or seven ounces of sugar and half a spoonful of orange flower water, then put it in a vessel of tin, earthenware or other (material) to freeze it. 
Both Lady Fanshawe's and Lady Carteret's ice creams were frozen in a metal box embedded in ice and salt

I made Lady Ann's Icy Cream at a recent presentation I gave at Clarke Hall in Wakefield, though I used Lady Carteret's modus operandi to ensure it froze properly. I served it on a 1660s blue dash charger decorated with a motif of Prince Charles's vessel returning him back to England for his restoration to the throne. At the time both Richard and Anne Fanshawe were on board with the prince, so I thought this was an appropriate plate upon which to serve her icy cream. I flavoured it with mace, orange flower water and ambergris as per her instructions. Although it was frozen in a brick shape, it was not hard and grainy, as the many people who tried it at Clarke Hall will testify. In fact it was delicious and very creamy.

To give you some idea of what initially drew me to this remarkable woman, here is a brief, but tragic description in her own words of the various fates of her lost children. She gave birth (or miscarried) twenty times.  Despite this almost unbearable burden and the additional death of her beloved husband Richard in Madrid in 1666, through out her memoir Ann never complains about her lot.

“My dear husband had six sons and eight daughters, born and christened, and I miscarried of six more, three at several times, and once of three sons when I was about half gone my time. Harrison, my eldest son, and Henry, my second son; Richard, my third; Henry, my fourth; and Richard, my fifth, are all dead; my second lies buried in the Protestant Church-yard in Paris, by the father of the Earl of Bristol; my eldest daughter Anne lies buried in the Parish Church of Tankersley, in Yorkshire, where she died; Elizabeth

The ruins of Tankersley Hall near Barnsley in Yorkshire, where Richard and Anne lived for two years.
lies in the Chapel of the French Hospital at Madrid, where she died of a fever at ten days old; my next daughter of her name lies buried in the Parish of Foot's Cray, in Kent, near Frog-Pool, my brother Warwick's house, where she died; and my daughter Mary lies in my father's vault in Hertford, with my first son Henry; my eldest lies buried in the Parish Church of St. John's College in Oxford, where he was born; my second Henry lies in Bengy Church, in Hertfordshire; and my second Richard in the Esperanza in Lisbon in Portugal, he being born ten weeks before my time when I was in that Court.”

If you would like to read Lady Anne Fanshawe's memoirs, they can be downloaded from the internet.

A digital version of her manuscript receipt book can be read on the Wellcome Library website. 

Clarke Hall Website.

Come to our Art of Dining course (June 9-11th 2012) at beautiful Ardgowan House and see the Lely portraits of Lady Ann and Sir Richard Fanshawe.