Category Archives: Food

Curiosities Family Food Women Woodcut

Every day she nourisht him, with her most tender brest

Two intriguing early modern woodcuts which depict the breastfeeding scene from the story of Roman Charity recorded by Valerius Maximus. Pero secretly breastfeeds her father Cimon who is imprisoned and otherwise liable to starve to death. Her selfless act leads to her father’s pardon and release. The story appears to have been popular in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and even Rubens depicted the scene. Below are both woodcuts, the first dates from 1635, and the second from 1750. It’s interesting to note the same image inverted and changed in the second woodcut. These are the only examples of breastfeeding images in woodcuts I’ve seen to date.
 
 

From A worthy example of a vertuous wife who fed her father with her own milk, being condemned to be famished to death and after was pardoned by the Emperor. To the tune of Flying fame (1635)

 
 
 

From Roman charity: A worthy example of a virtuous wife, who fed her father with her own milk. He being commanded by the emperor to be starved to death, but afterwards pardoned (1750)


 
 
 

Roman Charity by Rubens (c.1612)


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
Clothing Colonies Exploration Family Food Household Travel

One large frying pan & three paires of Irish stockings

From John Smith’s The Generall Histories of Virginia (1624)

 

This post comes from a text published in 1622, advising prospective pilgrims travelling to the New World on the provisions they needed to take with them; ‘such necessaries as either private families or single persons shall have cause to furnish themselves’ to prevent the hindrance of the ‘Progresse of that noble Plantation.’ What’s particularly interesting is that the text sheds light not only on what may have been a typical family’s belongings, but also on the costs involved in purchasing everyday items such as shirts and wooden spoons. I’ve used the National Archives to gather the modern price equivalents: a penny in 1620 was worth about 40p, a shilling about £4.80, and a pound about £96.

 

Apparrell. Apparrell for one man, and so after the rate for more.

One Monmouth Cap — 00 li. 01 s. 10 d.
Three falling bands [collars] — li. 01 s. 03 d.
Three shirts — li. 07 s. 06 d.
One waste-coate — li. 02 s. 02 d.
One suite of Canvase — li. 07 s. 06 d.
One suite of Frize [woollen cloth] — li. 10 s. 00 d.
One suite of Cloth — li. 15 s. 00 d.
Three paire of Irish stockings — li. 04 s. — d.
Foure paire of shooes — li. 08 s. 08 d.
One paire of garters — li. 00 s. 10 d.
One doozen of points [laces] — li. 00 s. 03 d.
One paire of Canvase sheets — li. 08 s. 00 d.
Seven ells [one ell was c.45 inches] of Canvase, to make a bed and boulster, to be filled in Virginia 8. s.—
One Rug for a bed 8. s. which with the bed serving for two men, halfe is—li. 08 s. 00 d.
Five ells coorse Canvase, to make a bed at Sea for two men, to be filled with straw, iiij. s.—
One coorse Rug at Sea for two men, will cost vj. s. is for one—— li. 05 s. 00 d.

[sub-total] 04 li. 00 s. 00 d.

 

Victuall. For a whole yeere for one man, and so for more after the rate.

Eight bushels of Meale —02 li. 00 s. 00 d.
Two bushels of pease at 3. s.— li. 06 s. 00 d.
Two bushels of Oatemeale 4. s. 6. d. — li. 09 s. 00 d.
One gallon of Aquavitae — li. 02 s. 06 d.
One gallon of Oyle — li. 03 s. 06 d.
Two gallons of Vineger 1. s. — li. 02 s. 00 d.
[sub-total] 03 li. 03 s. 00 d.

 

Armes. For one man, but if halfe of your men have armour it is sufficient so that all have Peeces and swords.

One Armour compleat, light — li. 17 s. 00 d.
One long Peece, five foot or five and a halfe, neere Musket bore — 01 li. 02 s. — d.
One sword — li. 05 s. — d.
One belt — li. 01 s. — d.
One bandaleere [a broad belt to support a musket] — li. 01 s. 06 d.
Twenty pound of powder — li. 18 s. 00 d.
Sixty pound of shot or lead, Pistoll and Goose shot — li. 05 s. 00 d.
[sub total] 03 li. 09 s. 06 d.

 

Tooles. For a family of 6 persons and so after the rate for more.

Five broad howes [hoes] at 2. s. a piece — li. 10 s. — d.
Five narrow howes at 16. d. a piece — li. 06 s. 08 d.
Two broad Axes at 3. s. 8. d. a piece — li. 07 s. 04 d.
Five felling Axes at 18. d. a piece — li. 07 s. 06 d.
Two steele hand sawes at 16. d. a piece — li. 02 s. 08 d.
Two two-hand-sawes at 5. s. a piece — li. 10 s. — d.
One whip-saw, set and filed with box, file, and wrest — li. 10 s. — d.
Two hammers 12. d. a piece — li. 2 s. 00 d.
Three shovels 18. d. a piece — li. 04 s. 06 d.
Two spades at 18. d. a piece — li. 03 s. — d.
Two augers [tool to bore holes in wood] 6. d. a piece — li. 01 s. 00 d.
Sixe chissels 6. d. a piece — li. 03 s. 00 d.
Two percers [tool for boring holes] stocked 4. d. a piece — li. 00 s. 08 d.
Three gimlets [ditto] 2. d. a piece — li. 00 s. 06 d.
Two hatchets 21. d a piece — li. 03 s. 06 d.
Two froves to cleave pale [?] 18. d.— li. 03 s. 00 d.
Two hand-bills 20. a piece — li. 03 s. 04 d.
One grindlestone 4. s. — li. 04 s. 00 d.
Nailes of all sorts to the value of 02 li. 00 s. — d.
Two Pickaxes — li. 03 s. — d.
[sub-total] 06 li. 02 s. 08 d.

 

Household Implements. For a family of 6 persons, and so for more or lesse after the rate.

One Iron Pot 00 li. 07 s. — d.
One kettle — li. 06 s. — d.
One large frying-pan — li. 02 s. 06 d.
One gridiron — li. 01 s. 06 d.
Two skillets — li. 05 s. — d.
One spit — li. 02 s. — d.
Platters, dishes, spoones of wood — li. 04 s. — d.
[sub-total] 01 li. 08 s. 00 d.

 

For Suger, Spice, and fruit, and at Sea for 6 men —00 li. 12 s. 06 d. So the full charge of Apparrell, Victuall, Armes, Tooles, and houshold stuffe, and after this rate for each person, will amount unto about the summe of 12 li. 10 s. — d.

The passage of each man is 06 li. 00 s. — d.
The fraight of these provisions for a man, will bee about halfe a Tun, which is 01 li. 10 s. — d.

So the whole charge will amount to about 20 li. 00 s. 00 d [c.£1920 today]

Nets, hookes, lines, and a tent must be added, if the number of people be gretter, as also some kine. And this is the usuall proportion that the Virginia Company doe bestow upon their Tenants which they send. Whosoever transports himselfe or any other at his owne charge vnto Virginia, shall for each person so transported before Midsummer 1625, have to him and his heires for ever fifty Acres of Land upon a first, and fifty Acres upon a second division.

 

From Thomas Hariot’s A Brief Report of the New Found Land of Virginia (1590)

 

 

Food Pudding Reviews

Save Me A Piece Of Marchpane!

 

© The British Museum Press

I was fortunate to receive a review copy of The Shakespeare Cookbook last week. Published by The British Museum Press, it’s the latest title they’ve produced to compliment The British Museum’s major new exhibition Shakespeare: Staging The World. Written by food historian Andrew Dalby, and his partner Maureen, an experienced chef, this lovely book is a treat for Shakespeare fans and historians alike.

Beautifully written and researched, The Shakespeare Cookbook presents over forty original recipes alongside modern equivalents created by the authors. The recipes are organised into chapters which draw on Shakespeare’s plays, so each recipe is not only presented in its historical context, but is supported with quotations and themes from the plays. The Romeo and Juliet chapter, for example, makes clever use of the banqueting scene at Juliet’s house to explore some seventeenth century party foods, such as Capons With Oranges Or Lemons, and Medlar Tart. Medlars are similar to little apples, they contain five large seeds and originated in ancient Europe. Their flesh can be mixed with cream and sugar, to produce a unique-tasting pudding. However, they are, according to the Dalbys, almost entirely inedible until they begin to rot at the start of autumn, hence the lines in As You Like It:

You’ll be rotten ere you be half ripe, and that’s the right virtue of a medlar.

(3.2.118)

 

Medlars 

Another party food enjoyed in Shakespeare’s England was the infamous marchpane, made from almonds, and usually mixed with pine nuts and rose water. Marchpane was often moulded into a large cake, and served as a centrepiece at a fancy banquet. It could be decorated with caraway seeds, sculpted figures, and even gold leaf.

‘In 1561-2, just before Shakespeare was born, Queen Elizabeth I received three presents of marchpane. One, made by George Webster, her master cook, took the form of a chessboard (alternate squares perhaps being gilded); a second, from Richard Hickes, Yeoman of the Chamber, was ‘made like a tower, with men and sundry artillery in it’; a third, from John Revell, Surveyor of the Works, was a replica of the old St Paul’s church.’

The Shakespeare Cookbook

 © JW. San Gimignano: Panforte (Flickr)

In addition to dessert recipes, there are many recipes for meat, fish, and poultry. One which caught my eye was roast mallard. According to the authors, most of us eat mallard when we eat duck, something which I admit took me by surprise, since I hadn’t equated Duck A’L'Orange with Duck A L’Pond. Here is one of the original recipes for roast duck reproduced in The Shakespeare Cookbook:

To Boyle A Mallard With Onions:

Take a mallard, roast him half enough, and save the dripping, then put him into a fair pot, and his gravy with him, and put into his belly six or seven whole onions, and a spoonful of whole pepper, and as much abroad in your pot, put to it as much mutton broth or beef broth as will cover the mallard, and half a dish of sweet butter, two spoonfuls of verjuce, and let them boil the space of an hour. Then put in some salt, and take off the pot, and lay the mallard upon sops, and the onions about him,and pour the uppermost of the broth upon them

The Shakespeare Cookbook

In addition to food, The Shakespeare Cookbook also provides recipes for Metheglin, a Welsh mead made with spices, and a very popular drink at the time, since it was tasty and reputed to have health properties. And posset, a drink made from milk curdled by the addition of wine or ale. The modern recipe in the book is a non-alcoholic version involving lemons.

Andrew and Maureen Dalby have done a wonderful job with this book. It’s informative, well-researched, beautifully illustrated, and a great read. In addition to the recipes, it contains a wealth of food history pertaining to the period, and lovely notes on original ingredients. The authors state in their introduction that their aim is to give readers the opportunity to ‘taste the same flavours that Shakespeare’s audiences tasted’. And that, I think, is where this book stands out. By following the modern equivalent of original early modern recipes, The Shakespeare Cookbook enables us to get closer to the real flavours of Shakespeare’s England. Not only would I recommend this book, I’m actually going to try some of the recipes. It is a lovely addition to early modern food history, and a neat addition to the historian’s bookshelf.

 
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