Category Archives: Custom

Conversation Custom Etiquette Love

The stars borrow light from your radiant eyes

I’ve been laughing out loud at a book of wooing and courtship from the late seventeenth century. Here are a few entertaining chat up lines for men. And yes, the book really does contain a section on how to woo in a cake shop.

An address to make known a man’s affection:

Madam, among all the dayes of my life I must accompt this the happiest above all the rest, wherein I had the honour first to know you.

Saying hello:

Save you, fair Lady, all health and your own wishes be upon you. All the toys the Gods delight in wait on you, fairest.

Complimenting her looks:

You are the beauty without parallel; in your Face all the Graces, and in your Mind all the vertues are met: he that looks upon your mild aspect were it the most savage creature, would derive a new nature from your beauty.

Your hair is like the Beams that adorn Apollo’s head. Your hair is as soft as new spun silk, curling with such a natural wantonness as if it strove to delight the fancy. read more »

Custom Dining Food Household

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
Custom Food

When the Pancake Bell rings we are free

From John Taylor’s Jack A Lent (1620)

The tradition of Shrove Tuesday, and in particular its association with pancakes, was well-established by the seventeenth century. Occurring on the day before Lent, Shrove Tuesday afforded the last opportunity to gorge on foods which were forbidden during the Lent fast. Below is an account of what we now call Pancake Day from John Taylor’s Jack A Lent (1620). This is followed by a couple of seventeenth century recipes.

Alwayes before Lent there comes waddling a fat grosse bursten-gutted groom called Shrove-Tuesday, one whose manners shewe that hee is better fed than taught. And indeed hee is the only monster for feeding amongst all the days of the year, for hee devours more flesh in fourteen hours, than this whole Kingdom doth in six weeks after.

On the morning of Shrove Tuesday the whole kingdom is in quiet, but by the time the clock strikes eleven, there is a Bell rung, call’d The Pancake Bell, the sound whereof makes thousands of people distracted, and forgetful either of manners or humanities. Then there is a thing cal’d wheaten flower, which the Cookes doe mingle with water, Egges, Spice, and other tragical magical enchantments, and then they put it by little and little into a Frying pan of boiling Suet, where it make a dismal hissing, until at the last by the skill of the Cookes, it is transformed into the forme of a flap-jack, which in our translation is call’d a Pancake which the ignorant people doe devour very greedily.

Thomas Dekker, in his play The Shoemakers Holiday (1600), references the holiday spirit of Shrove Tuesday:

when the pancake bell rings, we are as free as my lord Mayor, we may shut up our shops, and make holiday.

And even Shakespeare refers to pancakes:


As fit as ten groats is for the hand of an Atturney, as your French Crowne for your taffety punke, as Tibs rush for Toms fore-finger, as a pancake for Shrove-tuesday, a Morris for May-day, as the naile to his hole, the Cuckold to his horne, as a scolding queane to a wrangling knave, as the Nuns lip to the Friers mouth, nay as the pudding to his skin.
(All’s Well That Ends Well, 2.2.20-26)

Here are two recipes for making authentic seventeenth century pancakes, the first from The Art of Cookery (1654), and the second from the 1623 edition of Gervaise Markham’s Countrey Contentments.

How to make Pancakes
Take twenty Eggs, with halfe the whites, and beat them half an houre or more with fine flour of Wheat, Cloves, Mace, and a little Salt, Creame, a little new Ale, or a spoonfull of Yest being warmed, and beat them well together; make it so thin as to run out of your spoon or ladle without any stop: this being done, cover it and set by the fire halfe an houre, or more, stirring it now and then; fry them with a quick fire (but not too hot) with a little Butter; and after you have fryed one or two, you may fry them without Butter as well as with it, and will be better, if you love them dry; scrape Sugar on them and serve them up.

To make the best Pancake, take two or three Egges, and breake them into a dish, and beate them well: then adde unto them a pretty quantitie of faire running water, and beate all well together: then put in Cloves, Mace, Cinamon, and a Nutmeg, and season it with Salt: which done, make it thick as you thinke good with fine Wheat flower: then frie the cakes as thin as may be with sweete Butter, or sweete Seame, and make them browne, and so serve them up with Sugar strowed upon them. There be some which mixe Pancakes with new Milke or Creame, but that makes them tough, cloying, and not so crispe, pleasant and savorie as running water.

© 2009-2013 All Rights Reserved
Custom Dining Food

What with the flying Birds and skipping Frogs

Today’s post explores a fancy 17th Century Christmas banquet as described by the author of a popular cook book. Before describing the requisite festive courses deemed appropriate for impressing guests, he provides detailed instructions on how to make a truly baffling centrepiece, complete with gunpowder, live frogs, and a marzipan-esque castle.

Make the likeness of a Ship in Paste board [a soft sweet mixture made from ground sugar and spices. Akin to marzipan], with Flags and streamers, the Guns belonging to it of Kickses [?], binde them about with packthred [twine], and cover them with course paste proportionable to the fashion of a Cannon with Carriages, lay them in places convenient, as you see them in Ships of War; with such holes and trains of Powder that they may all take Fire. Place your Ship in a great Charger [large dish or plate], then make a salt around about it, and stick therein egg-shells full of sweet water; you may by a great Pin take out all the meat out of the Egg by blowing, and then fill it with rose-water.

Then in another Charger have the proportion of a Stag made of course paste, with a broad arrow in the side of him, and his body filled up with claret wine. In another Charger, at the end of the Stag, have the proportion of a Castle with Battlements, Percuilices, Gates and Draw-bridges made of Paste-board, the Guns of Kickses, and covered with course Paste as the former. Place it a distance from the Ship to fire at each other. The Stag being plac’t betwixt them with egg-shells full of sweet-water (as before) place in salt.

At each side of the Charger wherein is the Stag, place a Pie made of course Paste, in one of which let there be some live Frogs, in the other live Birds. Make these Pies of course Paste filled with bran, and yellowed over with Saffron or Yolks of Eggs. Gild them over in Spots, as also the Stag, the Ship, and Castle. Bake them and place with with gilt bay-leaves on the torrets and tunnels of the Castle and Pies. Being baked, make a hole in the bottom of your pies, take out the bran, put in your Frogs and Birds, and close up the holes with the same course paste. Then cut the Lids neatly up, to be take off by the Tunnels.

Being all placed upon the Table, before you fire the trains of powder (!), order it so that some of the Ladies may be peswaded to pluck the Arrow out of the Stag, then will the Claret wine follow as blood running out of a wound. This being done with admiration to the beholders, after some sort of short paws, fire the train of the Castle, that the pieces all on one side may go off. Then fire the the trains on one side of the Ship as in a battle. Next turn the Chargers, and by degrees fire the trains off each other side as before. Let the Ladies take the egg-shells full of sweet-water and throw them at each other.

All dangers being seemingly over, by this time you may suppose they will desire to see what is in the Pies; where lifting first the lid off one pie, out skips some Frogs, which makes the Ladies to skip and shreek, next after the other Pie, whence out comes the Birds, who by a natural instinct flying at the light, will put out the Candles, so that what with the flying Birds, and skipping Frogs, the one above, the other beneath, will cause much delight and pleasure to the whole company. At length the Candles are lighted, and a banquet brought in, the music sounds, and every one is much delighted and content.

Having survived this table-piece, the guests are then treated to a staggering banquet:

A Bill of Fare for Christmas Day and how to set the Meat in order

A coller of Brawn
Stewed broth of Mutton marrow bones
A grand Sallet [salad]
A pottage of caponets [small capons]
A breast of veal in stoffado [stuffed]
A boiled partridge
A chine [back] of beef or sirloin roast
Minced pies
A Jegote [sausage] of mutton with anchovy sauce
A made dish of sweet-breads
A swan roast
A pasty of venison
A kid with a pudding in his belly
A steak pie
A haunch of venison roasted
A turkey roast and stuck with cloves
A made dish of chickens in puff-paste
Two brangeese roasted, one larded
Two large capons, one larded
A Custard

The Second course

Oranges and Lemons
A young lamb or kid
Two couple of rabits, two larded
A pig sauced with tongues
Three ducks, one larded
Three pheasants, one larded
A swan pie
Three brace of partridge, three larded
Made dish in puffe-paste
Bolonia sausages and anchovies, mushrooms and Caviare, and pickled Oysters in a dish
Six teels, three larded
A Gammon of Westphalia Bacon
Ten plovers, five larded,
A quince pie
Six woodcocks, three larded
A standing Tart in puffe-paste, preserved fruits, Pippins etc
A dish of Larks
Six dried neats-tongues
Powdered Geese

If you fancy your hand at authentic 17th Century mince pies, the author provides several recipes, including this one:

To make minced Pies

Take to a good leg of veal six pound of beef-suet, then take the leg of veal, bone it, parboil it, and mince it very fine when it is hot. Mince the suet by it self very fine also, then when they are cold mingle them together, then season the meat with a pound of sliced dates, a pound of sugar, an ounce of nutmeg, an ounce of pepper, an ounce of cinnamon, half an ounce of ginger, half a pint of verjuyce [juice of unripe grapes or sour crab-apples], a pint of rosewater, a preserved orange, or any peel fine minced, an ounce of caraway comfets [a small tablet of sugar enclosing a caraway seed], and six pound of currants. Put all these into a large tray with half a handful of salt. Stir them up all together and fill your pies, close them, bake them, and being baked, ice them with double refined sugar, rose-water, and butter. Make the paste with a peck of flour, and two pound of butter boiled in fair water, make it up boiling hot.

I’ll be following up this post with more recipes in the new year. For now, Shakespeare’s England wishes everyone a a very Merry Christmas.

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