Monday, April 30, 2007

Regency Dining


I thought we might continue on the theme of food. As I mentioned in my introduction, because they did not have refridgeration, foods tended to be in season.

Here is an interesting link showing food timelines that you might find helpful.

Meats like beef, mutton and pork and various kinds of poultry, pullets, capons, and chickens would be available most of the time. Those that we do not regularly find on our tables today, are things like pigeons and rabbits and leverets (baby hares).

Vegetables included cabbage, savoys, coleworts (what on earth are they? Ah.. a form of kale) sprouts, broccoli, and root vegetables that keep over the winter, potato, turnips and parsnips. But I also find references to things being forced -- strawberries and radishes, so these would have been grown in greenhouse conditions to bring them on early. The picture above is of a street vendor in London selling turnips and carrots, though I can't actually see the carrots.

In the eighteenth century, the main meal, dinner would normally be at what we would now consider lunchtime. By the Regency, at least for the aristocracy, dinner had moved to the evening. Not so with poorer folk who would still take their main mean at mid-day. Indeed, in England in many households it is still traditional to have Sunday lunch as the roast beef and yorkshire pudding meal we associate with England and certainly in many homes Christmas dinner is still served between 12 noon and 2pm.

Remember Joshual White of last day? He says about dinners "One of the greatest peculiarities in the diet of the people, is the quantity of meats which they use; and if excellence is their kind, (especially beef and mutton,) be any plea for the apparent superabundant quantity that is met with in most houses, they may offer it with truth, and boast of it with justice."

And Robert Southey had this to say. The quantity of meat which they consume is astonishing! I verily believe that what is drest for one dinner here, would supply the same number of persons in Spain for a week, even if no fast-days intervened. Every where you find both meat and vegetables in the same crude and insipid state. The potato appears at table all the year found: indeed the poor subsist so generally upon this root, that it seems surprising how they could have lived before it was introduced from America. Beer is the common drink. They take less wine than we do at dinner, and more after it; but the custom of sitting for hours over the bottle, which was so prevalent of late years, has been gradually laid aside, as much from the gradual progress of the taxes as of good sense. Tea is served between seven and eight, in the same manner as at breakfast, except that we do not assemble round the table. Supper is rather a ceremony than a meal; but the hour afterwards, over our wine and water, or spirits, is the pleasantest in the day.


And while we know of the wines, brandy and ales that people drank in those days, what about this advertisment from the Winchester paper.

OXYGENATED SODA POWDERS.
For making Soda Water.
The Water made with this Preparation possesses all the Virtues of Soda Water in Bottles. Being portable, it will be found exceedingly useful to persons travelling; and as it will not injure by keeping, or change of climate, it is particularly recommended to Gentlemen going abroad.
Prepared and sold by William Randall, Chemist, Southampton, in boxes sufficient for one dozen half-pints of Soda Water, at 2s. 6d. Each.

Now I really thought soda water was a modern invention.

People also enjoyed homemade lemonade.
Pies always seem to be a feature of English dining, why there is even a nursery rhyme about four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie. These particular pies are a work of art. These days you are lucky if you get a couple of leaves plonked on top of a meat pie as decoration.

Here is the description of a dinner from a contemporary. I think you will see that Southey was right, there was indeed a large variety of meats.
The first course:Part of a large Cod. A Chine of Mutton. Some Soup. A Chicken Pye. Puddings & Roots &c.
Second course:Pidgeons and Asparagus. A Fillett of Veal with Mushrooms and high Sauce. Rosted Sweat-breads. Hot Lobster. Apricot Tart. A Pyramid of Syllabubs & Jellies.

A Desert of Fruit.

MadeiraWhite Port & red to drink as Wine.

At the risk of grossing you out, I thought the following was an interesting recipe. However, I do caution not to do this at home.

Tainted Meat

Meat tainted to an extreme degree may be speedily restored by washing it
in cold water, and afterwards in strong camomile tea; after which it may
be sprinkled with salt, and used the following day; or if steeped and
well washed in beer, it will make pure and sweet soup even after being
fly-blown.


I am going to see if I can find a description of a dinner from start to end, something like the one above, but with more information. However, I probably will not be able to find pictures.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.