Thursday, 22 September 2011

Mrs Raffald puts on her cowboy boots and goes to Texas

Eighteenth Century table setting at Rienzi, MFAH, Houston Texas
I have just spent a week installing an eighteenth century table setting at Rienzi House Museum in Houston Texas. The table, part of an exhibition called English Taste: The Art of Dining in the Eighteenth Century was designed to act as a showcase for an assemblage of important English rococo silver by Paul de Lamarie, Paul Crespin, William Cripps, and Robert Tyrill. Elements of the celebrated Meissen Möllendorff Service, said to be designed by Frederick the Great, also appear on the table. The exhibition runs from September 17th 2011 to January 29th 2012.

The layout shows the second course of a typical high status English meal of the second half of the eighteenth century. It is based on a table diagram published by the Manchester confectioner Mrs Elizabeth Raffald in The Experienced English Housekeeper (Manchester: 1769). Although savoury foods dominate the setting, including a larded hare complete with head and ears, there are also a number of Raffald's novelty flummeries and jellies, such as her fishpond and Solomon's Temple.

Credit must go to my dear friend Tony Barton of Bendipeeze Ltd and his Bendy assistants for making much of the remarkable artificial food, including that crazy larded hare, the original of which was roasted on a spit in front of my kitchen fire. A rare image of the closely guarded secret method of making fake peas used on the Bendipeeze production line can be seen at the end of this posting.

It is a great pity that an exhibition of this kind has never been set up in Manchester, England, where Raffald worked. So hip-hurrah to Christine Gervais at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston for having the vision to invite me to do this. 

More can be found out about the exhibition at the MFAH website.

Mrs Raffald's Cribbage Cards in Flummery - rather impractical blancmange playing cards
Mrs Raffald's fishpond - gilded blancmange fish swimming in Lisbon wine

Frantic preparations at the Bendipeeze depot. The Bendies have
heard a rumour that Mrs Rafffald herself is about to visit the factory.
This blog is created by Historic Food. Go to the Historic Food Website.


  1. The spread made quite the splash at a Punch Party we had yesterday! Really enjoyed meeting you Ivan, and thanks for posting the video.

  2. Thanks Joel. I am sorry I missed the Rienzi Punch Party. I think I started the tradition when I was in Houston three years ago. Perhaps I will make the next one. The video is lovely - shows the table, the food everything really well.