Category Archives: Food

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.

© 2009-2013 All Rights Reserved
Dining Food

Disfigure that peacock

The Cook – Bernardo Strozzi (c.1620)

I stumbled upon these rather charming 17th Century cooking terms today.

To Carve is to Cut up a Dish of Meat, but according to the Meats, use these Terms for their Carving:

Break that Deer.

Leach that Brawn.

Unlace that Coney.

Chine that Salmon.

String that Lamprey.

Splat that Pike.

Sauce that Plaice and Tench.

Splay that Bream.

Side that Haddock.

Tusk that Barbell.

Culpon that Trout.

Fin that Chevin.

Transon the Eel.

Tranch that Sturgeon.

Tire that Egg.

Undertranch that Purpus.

Tame that Crab.

Barb that Lobster.

Dight that Crevis.

Rear that Goose.

Lift that Swan.

Sauce that Capon.

Spoil that Hen.

Frust that Chicken.

Unbrace that Duck or Mallard.

Dismember that Hern.

Display that Crane.

Disfigure that Peacock.

Unjoynt that Bittern.

Untach that Curlew, and Brew.

Allay that Pheasant.

Wing that Partridge, and Quail.

Mince that Plover.

Thigh that Pigeon, and Woodcock.

Cut up that Turkey and Bustard.

Break that Teal or Sarcel.

© 2009-2013 All Rights Reserved
Conversation Dining Food Household

Master Andrew, will it please you to eate an egg?

More from Florio’s charming English-Italian phrasebook, in which he gives characters everyday conversations in order that the reader might learn some useful phrases. The conversations reveal some lovely details about daily life in sixteenth and seventeenth century England. This time Aurelio and Pompilio meet on the street and go back to Pompio’s house to admire his lodgings, and following that, a dinner party conversation.

Pompilio: Good morrow master Aurelio.
Aurelio: And to you a good morrowe and a good year M Pomilio.
Pompilio: From whence come you in such haste?
Aurelio: I come from visiting a friend of mine.
Pomilio: Where dwells he, if a man may know?
Aurelio: Here by, in this streete.
Pompilio: Is it a hee or a shee friend, tell me in good sooth?
Aurelio: You goe about to make me blush.
Pomilio: Will it please you to goe so farre as my chamber?
Aurelio: Yes sir, but I would be loath to trouble you
Pomilio: Will you goe and see my lodging?
Aurelio: Honoured shall I be, if it please you to accept of my company?
Pomilio: What ho, Trippa, goe before and open the dore for us.

At the lodging:

Pomilio: Boy, bring hither some stooles, set a chaire there.
Aurelio: In good sooth, you are lodged verie commodiously.
Pomilio: To tell you the truth I am verie well here.
Aurelio: You have a daintie bed with verie fine household stuffe.
Pomilio: Here you may see verie farre.
Aurelio: Behold, it is a verie fine and pleasant prospect.
Pomilio: And delightsome, especiallie towards the Easte.
Aurelio: Is this a hyred chamber?
Pomilio: Yes sir, and I paie verie deare for it.
Aurelio: How much doo you paie a weeke for it?
Pomilio: I paie four crownes a moneth.
Aurelio: It is not very deare, being in London.
Pomilio: I must make as good shift as I maie.
Aurelio: In good truth you are verie well stored with bookes.
Pomilio: Those few that I have, be at your commandement.
Aurelio: Lend me this booke, for two or three daies.
Pomilio: Keep it so long as you please.

They then go on to discuss a sick friend, and which horses they will hunt with that afternoon, before arranging to meet at a church porch.

Next a dinner party, hosted by Simon, for his friends Nundinio, Camillo, Horatio, Melibeo, Taneredi and Andrew, waited on by Robert.

Robert: Master, dinner is readie, shall it be set upon the board?
Simon: I praie thee doo so, laie the board when thou wilt.
Robert: By and by, it shall be readie in less than a lightning.
Nundinio: My cravers [appetite], as the scots man saye, serves me well.
Simon: The meate is comming in, let us sit downe.
Camillo: I would wash first, if it were not to trouble Robert.
Simon: What ho, bring some water to wash our hands. Give me a faire, cleane and white towell.
Robert: Behold, here is one upon my shoulder.
Simon: My masters, drie your hands with this towell.
Taneredi: I praie you let us sit downe, for I have a good stomack.
Simon: My masters, the meate cooles.
Taneredi: My friend, I praie thee, give mee a messe of pottage, and a spoon also.
Robert: There be some upon the table, by the salt.
Simon: Bring hither that sallat [salad], those steakes, that legge of mutton, that peece of beefe, with all the boyled meate that we have.
Camillo: This may rather be called a banquet than an ordinarie dinner.
Simon: I praye you everie man serve himself, let everie one cut where he pleases and seeke the best morcels.
Taneredi: Truly these meates are verie well seasoned.
Camillo: In good sooth, you have excellent good bread here.
Nundinio: Good lord, how manie sorts of bread have you in your house?
Simon: Bring forth that loyn of veale roasted, and that quarter, whether it be of Kidde or Lambe.
Camillo: You are happie that have so good a baker.
Simon: Call for drinke when you please and what kinde of wine you like best.
Camillo: Give me a cup of beere, or else a bowle of ale.
Horatio: I love to drink wine after the Dutch fashion
Taneredi: How doo they drinke it I pray you?
Horatio: In the morning pure, at dinner without water, and at night as it comes from the vessell.
Melibeo: I like this rule well, they are wise, and Gods blessing upon them.
Horatio: A slice of bacon would make us taste this wine well.
Simon: What ho, set that gammon of bakon upon the boarde.
Taneredi: Of curtesie give me a little salt, I cannot reach it. I eate more salt than a Goate dooth.
Horatio: Give me a clean trenchar [plate].
Simon: Thou sillie wretch, give everie one cleane plates.
Nundinio: Let us make a lawe that no man put of his cap or hat at the table.
Camillo: An excellent and good lawe, for so shall wee not fowle our hatts.
Taneredi: Neither shall we be in danger to make the haires flie about the dishes.
Simon: Set that capon upon the table, and those rabbits, that hen, those chickens, that goose, those woodcocks, those larkes, those quailes, those partridges, and that pasty of venison.
Nundunio: Yonder is a most fine cubbord of plate
Simon: Andrew commeth. Have you dined or no?
Andrew: To tell you true, I am fasting yet.
Simon: Bring hither a stoole, and set a trenchar, a napkin, a knife, a forke, and a spoone there.
Andrew: Let no man stirre, I will sit here, by your leave.
Simon: Master Andrew, will it please you to eate an egg?

Andrew eagerly accepts the egg, and they go on to complete the meal with cheese, and fruit of every description, followed by marmalade and biscuits and caraway treats. They round off the evening with a merry game of cards and everyone has a splendid time.

More from Florio: Will you weare any weapons to daye? and Let us make a match at tennis


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