Thursday, July 5, 2018
Food in Queen Anne's Reign 1702- 1714 by Rosemary Morris
About Rosemary Morris
I live in Hertfordshire, near inspirational countryside and within easy access of London, which is useful when I want to visit places of historical interest in the capital city.
My historical romances, rich in facts, are written in my office, aka the former spare bedroom, furnished with a large waxed oak desk and an 8ft by 6 ft bookcase which contains my historical non-fiction for research, some of the classics, favourite novels and books of poetry.
To enhance my novels, I enjoy researching food and costume, politics and economics, social history, religion and other topics.
Although, as the saying goes, they did things differently in the past, emotions have not changed, but the characters in my novels are of their time, not 21st century people dressed in costume. Before I begin a new book, I name my main characters and fill in detailed character profiles. By the time I write the first sentence, I can visualise them and know the hero and heroine almost as well as I know my friends.
My novels have themes which modern day readers can relate to. For example, in Tangled Love after her father’s death, the heroine’s greedy, unscrupulous half-brother makes two shocking announcements which she is determined to do her best to disprove.
Food in Queen Anne’s Reign 1702 – 1714
At the beginning of the century people ate thick pottages familiar to their medieval ancestors and it was believed that ‘the roast beef of old England made plain, stalwart Englishmen’, a concept which as vegetarians my family and I cannot relate to.
Fresh meat cooked over the fire in the hearth was the favourite method of cooking. The second was boiling it in cauldrons suspended from chains over the fire. Stews and sauces, which required gentle heat, were cooked in charcoal chafing dishes on the bottom of the hearth.
Most people liked plain food - roast and boiled meat, savoury puddings and pies. As a rule, only two courses were served at dinner. For example, for the first, they ate savoury pudding and roast beef or boiled beef either option served with dishes of carrots, cabbage and turnips or other root vegetables well peppered and swimming in butter. For the second, fowls, pigeons, rabbits and what were regarded as other dainties were served. If anyone desired it, they partook of broth made with some oatmeal, flavoured with herbs and accompanied by bread to crumble into it and turn it into a type of pottage.
Wealthy noblemen ate after the French fashion and some had both English and French cooks. If they were on the menu soup was served first followed by fish. The first course of roasted, boiled, stewed and fried meat and sauces was served next. When it was removed, it was replaced by the second course of less substantial dishes of meat, fish, sweet pies and puddings. Throughout each course, bread, and side dishes of biscuits, pickles and sauces remained on the table. Finally, if they had not accompanied the previous course, after the tablecloth was removed, jellies sweetmeats, fruit, nuts and cheese were served.
At the beginning of Queen Anne’s reign sugar improved the taste of food, but many spices as well as food colouring such as ambergris and saffron were no longer fashionable, neither were potherbs such as daisies and violets. Sauces were simplified; the favourite was a lavish helping of butter sauce. Vinegar and pickles replaced the raw green sauces and mashed herbs of the previous century.
By the end of the 17th century, when more people could read, cookery books nearly all middle-class families could afford at least one. Most people scoffed at French recipes intended for royalty and the aristocracy. In those recipes, or receipts as they were then called, ingredients such as truffles and morel, were expensive. Women wrote popular cookery books with receipts for plain food. In them were plenty of variety and even elegant receipts to choose from. For example, ‘How to dish up a Dish of Fruits with preserved flowers’ Some receipts are no longer in vogue, for instance Spinage Tarts made with a handful of spinach, marrow and hard eggs, cloves, mace, nutmeg, finely shredded lemon peel, currants, stoned raisins, and shredded candied orange and citron peel. The mixture was sweetened to the cook’s taste after which it was sealed into little squares of puff paste and baked or fried.
The English national dish, the pudding was extolled by an author called Misson. There were several sorts. The most common ingredients were flour, milk, eggs, butter, sugar, suet, marrow, and raisins. The puddings were either baked or boiled with the meat. He wrote: blessed be he that invented pudding, for it is a Manna that hits the Palates of all Sorts of People who are never Weary of it.
The Thames provided a habitat for good fish, and, inland, people were dependent on fresh water fish, carp, perch etc. In London fish was sold at Billingsgate. Salmon taken out of season was destroyed. A little before Lent boats arrived loaded with salt cod. Native oysters were cheap but only considered fit to be eaten in the months with an R in them when they were sold by barrow men. Except for imported cheese, it was inexpensive and eaten by every class.
Poultry was cheap and widely available, but, like venison, game birds were the preserve of the upper classes. For relishes there were anchovies, neat’s tongues and Yorkshire ham. Bread was subject to legislation, the weight and price of white, wheaten and household bread was fixed.
Cows were kept in London, some were either milked outside a customer’s house, or milk was delivered by milkmaids. Asses milk was in great demand and milk asses made their daily rounds. Butter was supplied from the surrounding villages and imported from Ireland. On the 14th August 1705, thirty-eight casks of Irish butter were sold at the Marine Coffee House.
Vegetables and fruit were mainly supplied to Londoners from Lambeth Market gardens. As well as more humble ones, asparagus, celery and apricots were produced, and melons, the Spectator noted, were consigned by Mr Cuffe of Nine Elms to Sarah Sewell and Company, at their stall in Covent Garden.
Fruit and nuts only appeared on a few rich people’s tables but there was a wide variety, for example Bon Crestien, a modern variety of which I grow in my organic garden, Magedelaine Peach and a variety of apples, plums and cherries etc. Home grown oranges, which cost 2d each were a favourite, but Lisbon, China, sour oranges and lemons were imported.
At the foreign fruit market olives, raisins, currants, choice kinds of French dried fruit, pears of Rousselet, of Champagne, Prunes of Tours, a city I lived near with my children for four years, Muscadine grapes, Candied Maderas Citrons and Sweet Barbary Almonds were available.
2 pints – 1.1 litre water.
2 ounces – 50 grams pearl barley
1 ounce – 25 grams raisins
1 ounce – 25 grams currants
½ teaspoon ground mace
2 tablespoons – 30 milligrams sugar
2 fluid ounces – 50 milligrams of white wine
Simmer all the ingredients other than the sugar and wine until the barley is tender and only half the water remains. Add the sugar and wine then serve or put aside to reheat later.
Hannah Glasse: The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Simple
Extract from Tangled Love
Chesney strode to his estate office where he penned an invitation to Lady Isobel to bring her niece to dine at Field House before she returned to London.
After Finch dispatched a groom with the invitation, Chesney chose the elaborate courses to be served in the grandeur of the great hall. He also consulted his newly employed cook about desserts. Arranged in his dining room on a table decorated with flowers and greenery, they would test the Frenchman’s ingenuity. Smiling with happy anticipation, Chesney imagined the ladies’ gasps of appreciation when they saw a splendid centerpiece surrounded by a selection of puddings, tarts, jellies, and syllabubs, fresh and dried fruits, and bowls of nuts and comfits, which his cook had suggested.
Novels by Rosemary Morris
Early 18th Century novels
Tangled Love, Far Beyond Rubies, The Captain and The Countess
False Pretences, Sunday’s Child, Monday’s Child, Tuesday’s Child, Wednesday’s Child, Thursday’s Child – to be published in July 2018
Yvonne Lady of Cassio. The Lovages of Cassio Book One
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