I’m going to be teaching a workshop in June on Regency Food and Seasons because when you write historical romances you tend to end up knowing a lot of odd things. And I love this kind of trivia.
For example, sugar used to come in cones–you’d scrape off what you needed. And recipes usually did not have measures–a goodly handful is often give as amount to use.
Or that in the early 1800′s Nicholas Appert won 12,000 francs when he invented a method to preserve food in glass–Napoleon had wanted this for as a means to better preserve food for the French Army. However, this method was not widely used, and canning would not come about until well after the Regency.
Food preservation, however, is ancient, with the more common techniques being salting and smoking, or the use of vinegar to pickle food.
It amazes me, too, how modern folks often don’t think about an era when food was not always available. I garden so I’m always looking forward to my seasonal produce–but what you can grow in England during its seasons is a different world from California or New Mexico where I now live.
Food tastes, too, are quite different.
Captain Gronow remarked on how London Inns always served “‘the eternal joints, or beef-steaks, the boiled fowl with oyster sauce, and an apple tart.’” Hmmm…maybe that’s not too different from modern London pub grub. The English at one point used to eat a lot of lamb (and mutton), too.
For Leg of Mutton, Mrs. Rundell’s recommendation is, “If roasted, serve with onion or currant-jelly sauce; if boiled, with caper-sauce and vegetables.” Personally, I would swap in lamb for the mutton and opt for roasting it. My grandmother who came from Yorkshire insisted on boiling all meat, and nearly made vegetarians out of all of her sons.
But I also love digging out bits and pieces such as a “recipt against the plague” given by Hanna Glasse in The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy. She also offers not one, but two certain cures for the “bite of a mad dog, one of which is both given to the “man or beast” bitten as well as recommending to be bound into the wound. Makes you wonder how big of a problem were mad dogs? Perhaps a large one given that there were no rabies shots.
Back in the 1800′s the day had a different pace to it–lunch was not a common meal, and you have servants for almost all classes except the poor. This makes for a lot of advice coming out in the mid 1800′s for how to deal with servants–one of those lovely problems we all wish we had. Oh, to have to supervise the house maid and oversee the cook instead of having to do for oneself.
All of this makes for a lovely bit of trivia to share.