Take a Peacock and cover with a sheet of Lard

 

 

I recently discovered a really delightful set of texts on seventeenth century household management. I plan to write a series of posts in order to share some of the more interesting and unusual snippets. Today’s offering from 1682: how to set a posh table, fold a napkin, wow your guests with a baffling peacock dish, and prepare entertaining egg dishes.

 

Setting a posh table:

Take a basket lined with a clean Napkin. Into it set ‘a Bason and Ewer, the Essay Cup, and Cadnet, Flagons, Salts, Plates, Spoons, Forkes, Knives, Riders for Plates, Table-Cloaths, Nakins; of the which two at least folded in the fashion of a broken Staff, with bread, and all other things necessary to the Covering of a Table and side Table.’

The Butler and the Servant must take the Basket ‘thus furnished betwixt them and carry it into the Hall or Chamber where they [the household and guests] are to eat; not forgetting the Pepper-box, and Cruet of Vinegar.’

When they arrive at the chamber or hall, they must ‘set down the Basket, and so begin to cover your side-Table first, with a clean Cloath, and then set on your Plate; first, your Bason and Ewer, and your Flagons ranged against the Tapestry-Hanging, mingled one amongst the other; then underneath compose another range of Essay Cups, Sugar-Castors, and Glasses with the Feet downward, and upon each of them put a Cover.’

This done, ‘the butler begins to cover the Table thus, first the Table Cloth, then the Salts, and the Riders for Plates, then the Plates with the Coat of Arms towards the middle of the table, so many as are necessary, but let them not touch the edge of the Table by three or four fingers. At the right hand of each Plate place a Knife, with the edge towards the Plate, then the Spoons, the brim or edge of the Spoon downwards, with Forks, but be sure not to cross or lay them the one on the other, then the Bread upon the Plate, and the Napkin upon the Bread, and so much for covering a Table.’

 

The author goes on

‘It is also necessary for him [the Butler] to know how to fold, pleat, and pinch his Linnen into all manner of forms both of Fish, Beasts and Birds, as well as Fruits, which is the greatest curiosity in the covering of a Table well, for many have gone farther to see a Table neatly covered than they would have done for to have eaten a good meal at the same Table.’

 

And here are his rather complicated and unfathomable instructions on how ‘To pleat a Napkin in the form of a Cockle-shell double’:

‘Take a Napkin crossways, and fold it in the middle, and make a band of a Thumbs-breadth near the middle, continue doing this till you come within half a Foot of the Hem. Then turn your Napkin on the other side, and make the bands again in the same manner as you did the former, then take it at its length, and pinch as much and as hard as ever you can, then raise up the pleats of every band with the point of a Pin or Needle, one after another. Do this on both sides, then open the under side of your Napkin that is not pleated and fasten a Loaf in it, and gather the pleats together again upon the Loaf, then raise up your Napkin at its hight, and lay it down in the form of a Fan that is open.’

 

Carving a Thrush after the Italian fashion

 

In addition to these Martha Stewart-style tips on impressing guests and hosting, the book contains some splendid recipes. This is my favourite meat dish to date. Making a peacock look like a porcupine:

‘To make Peacocks look Porcupine; Take a Peacock and cover them with a Sheet of Lard, and so make them roast; For your sauce take Rose-water and Vinegar with small Spice, Cinamon, and Cloves, and set this under your Meat in the Dripping Pan. When the Fowl is roasted, take Cinamon in long small pieces covered over with Sugar, and stick it into your Fowl all one way, that it may seem like points of Porcupines. Then make your Sauce boyl, and put it into your dish, and lay your Fowl upon it, but let not your Sauce touch the Cinamon that is stuck into the Fowl.’

 

Finally, two truly fantastically named egg dishes. Lost Eggs, and Eggs a L’Intrigue:

‘Lost Eggs, or Perdus: Take the Yolks of raw Eggs, and steep them in a little Rose-Water with some Crums of Bread, and a little fine Wheat Flower. Beat this all together, but not strain it, and fry it in a Frying-pan with some good Butter. But forget not to put in a little Salt in the baking of it, and some Sugar over it when it is baked.’

‘Eggs a L’Intrigue: Break a dozen and a half Eggs into a Dish, and beat them well together with almost two quarts of Cream, with Pepper, Salt and sweet Herbs minced very small together. Then put some clarified Butter into a Paty-Pan, set it upon a soft Fire, and when your Butter is hot, put in about the third part of your Eggs thus beaten, and when they are about half ready, then make a Bed, or lay Cheese slices, and Anchovies in pieces, then some potch’d Eggs that are done in Water. This done, put another part of your Eggs thus beaten over all this, and cover up your Paty-pan, till these Eggs be almost baked. Then repeat the thing again and make a Bed as before, and pour over it the rest of your beaten Eggs, with some little bits of Butter and grated Cheese, then give it a colour at the top, and so serve it away hot with the juice of Lemons.’

 

Inspiring ideas for carving flashy pears

Comments are closed.

All original content on these pages is fingerprinted and certified by Digiprove
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers:

© Shakespeare's England 2009-2014