Guest Author - Kathryn Kane - When Flowers Wore Shirts!

I have long been an admirer of Kathryn Kane as a writer and a meticulous researcher. Her generosity in sharing the fruits of her labour are legendary and can be found at the Regency Redingote. I am so glad Kathryn agreed to share this intriguing research which is reflected in her book Deflowering Daisy. Such a fun title!

For those who comment today, there will be a draw for two copies of The Duke's Daring Debutante, print or e.

When Flowers Wore Shirts by Kathryn Kane

Before I explain the meaning of the title I have given this article, I would like to thank Ann for her invitation to guest here today. I have long been a reader of Regency Ramble and I am honored to be here and have the opportunity to share some of the research which I did for my debut Regency romance novel, Deflowering Daisy.

As a play on the title of my novel, Deflowering Daisy I have scattered a number of snippets of floral history throughout the book. One of those snippets of flower history plays an especially important part in my story. The heroine, Daisy, uses this special technique to create a gift which she believes will raise the spirits of the hero, David, and convince him there is still beauty and joy to be found in life, even if one has to make it for oneself. Later in the story, David, in turn, uses the same technique to provide intense pleasure for Daisy. This particular bit of floral history intersects with the history of dessert.

At the turn of the nineteenth century, some French chefs developed a technique with which to decorate fruit in order to make it more attractive when it was placed on the dessert table. This technique was most often used on small fruits, including dwarf apples, plums, nectarines, cherries, strawberries, currants, raspberries and gooseberries. Fresh, ripe fruit was rinsed and set to dry. While the fruit was drying, lumps of sugar were nipped off a white sugar loaf. The lumps were then pulverized in a mortar and pestle until the sugar was very fine, similar to the granulated sugar we use today. This finely pounded sugar was spread on a plate, platter or other shallow dish, ready for use.

Next, an egg white was separated from the yolk. This had to be done very carefully, for even a small amount of yolk mixed in with the egg white would spoil the final effect. The transparency of the egg white was crucial. At this point, the surviving directions differ. Some call for the egg white to be whipped to a foamy froth, though not so stiff as to create a meringue. But most of the instructions direct that the egg white be used just as it came from the egg, without any whipping at all.

Once the egg white was prepared, each piece of dried fruit would be dipped into the transparent fluid, until it was completely covered. Then it would be rolled in the pulverized sugar until it was fully coated. The pieces of sugar-coated fruit were then placed on a tray, usually lined with a sheet of baking paper and left to dry for three to four hours. The sugar-coated fruit would then be used to make attractive arrangements to adorn the dessert course of an elegant dinner. The pulverized sugar which coated the fruit would catch the flickering light of the candles in the dining room so that it would glitter and glimmer, creating the effect of fruit coated with diamond dust.

This technique was known as fruit en chemise. Translated from the French, it means fruit "in [a] shirt." This technique soon crossed the English Channel to become popular in Britain in the years just before the Regency. But the English did not restrict the use of fruit en chemise to the dessert table. In some of the better homes, fruit en chemise would be found decorating breakfast tables as well.

The English had long loved flowers, and from the end of the eighteenth century, it had become fashionable to decorate the dessert table with arrangements of fresh flowers. Initially, fruit en chemise were incorporated into or around these arrangements, but by the early years of the Regency, English ladies decided to put shirts on their flowers. Though, in most cases, the family chef or cook took the responsibility to dress fruit en chemise, it was the ladies of the house who dressed the flowers. It soon came to be considered another artistic accomplishment for proper young ladies. An accomplishment which a doting mother would have made sure was displayed on the dessert table when potential suitors were invited to dinner.

Only certain flowers would be dressed en chemise. Roses, tulips and other flowers with tightly furled blossoms were not appropriate. Pansies, violets and daisies were all ideal candidates to be done en chemise due to their relatively flat blossom shape. Each flower would be dipped into egg white, then sprinkled with pulverized white sugar. The sugar-coated flower would be set aside to dry, though it was often necessary to carefully shape the partially dried bloom if it had become misshapen during the en chemise process. Once all the flowers were coated with sugar, shaped and dried, they would be assembled into an arrangement for the dessert table.

During the Regency, dessert was considered a special course which came at the end of the main meal. The table cloth was typically removed, an elaborate centerpiece was placed on the table and the dessert was served, very often on an ornate china dessert service. Since at least the eighteenth century, it was believed that a beautiful setting for dessert was a crucial factor in good digestion, so dessert was an important final course for any dinner. However, it was especially important for one which included guests, for whom a host or hostess was expected to make every effort for their well-being and pleasure.

Flowers in shirts, that is, flowers en chemise, were considered an artistic accomplishment for many young ladies during the Regency. There are no records that this art was taught in ladies' finishing schools. Instead, it appears that ladies learned the technique on their own, perhaps from observing a chef or cook preparing fruit en chemise, or from their mother or other female relative, who might herself have learned from watching a chef or cook. There may have been at least a few governesses who imparted this skill to their charges as the Regency progressed. In many households, a mother and all her daughters might share in the effort of preparing a floral arrangement en chemise for a special dinner.

Arrangements of flowers en chemise appear to have been fashionable for only a relatively short period, from the Regency though about the end of the reign of King George IV. After that time, bouquets of fresh flowers were the standard decoration on most dining tables. At about this same time, the dessert course was no longer considered a separate part of the meal for which a special setting was required. Not to mention that the steady transition to gaslight would have spoiled the effect of flowers en chemise, since the sugar coating did not glitter and glimmer under the steadier gaslight as it had under flickering candle light.

Deflowering Daisy by Kathryn Kane

She cannot remain a virgin!

For so she was, after nearly a decade of marriage. When she was sixteen, Daisy had willingly, happily, married a man more than fifty years her senior, to escape a forced marriage to a man she abhorred. Though Sir Arthur Hammond had been a wild rake in his youth, he was so deeply in love with his late, beloved first wife that he never considered consummating his second marriage, certainly not with a woman he considered a daughter. But now, knowing he was dying and that he would be leaving sweet, innocent Daisy ignorant of the physical intimacies which could be enjoyed between a man and a woman, he felt that it was imperative she be given the knowledge which would prepare her for the life of a wealthy widow. Armed with the knowledge of physical intimacy, she would be much better prepared to deal with any fortune hunter who might try to seduce her into marriage for her money. And who better to initiate Daisy into the pleasures of the bedchamber than his godson. David had become nearly a recluse since a tragedy which occurred while he was serving the Crown against the forces of Napoleon Bonaparte. Prior to that, his skill as a tender and considerate lover had been bruited about in certain circles. Therefore, Sir Arthur believed that David was just the man to introduce Daisy to physical pleasure. And what might spending time with true and gentle Daisy do for David?

Purchase from:

Jupiter Gardens Press Print 
Jupiter Gardens Press eBook
Barnes & NoblePrint:
Nook Book

All about Kathryn

Kathryn Kane is a historian and former museum curator who has enjoyed Regency romances since she first discovered them in her teens. She credits the novels of Georgette Heyer with influencing her choice of college curriculum, and she now takes advantage of her knowledge of history to write her own stories of romance in the Regency. Though she now has a career in the tech industry, she has never lost her love of the period and continues to enjoy reading Regency novels and researching her favorite period of English history.

For more information about Kathryn and her books visit:
Blogs: Regency Redingote:

Regency Food

It has been a while since we did anything on food so I thought you might like a change. It could be that will all the festivities planned for the next little while, I have food on my mind.

While I know lots about meat, I thought I might do something of vegetables.  I found several recipes for a vegetable called a cardon in French, or in English a cardoon. It went "out of fashion" in the late 1800's.

It is new to me, but it is an artichoke thistle, related to the globe artichoke and has an artichoke like flavour. Since it has spines, care is needed.

The following recipe from 1822  would have been used as a second course dish.

Cardons a la Espagnole

This dish is the foremost of all the entremets of vegetables and requires great attention and no small share of skill. It is not much relished in England but in France it was held in the highest estimation.
In the first place you must select a few heads of cardons all very white. Cut each leaf into slices of six inches long with the exception however of those that are hollow which are tough and thready. Beard them of their prickles and blanch them by putting the thickest leaves into boiling water. When you have given these a few boils put in the leaves of the heart, turn the middle stalks into large olives and blanch them likewise.

Then try a piece in cold water to see whether the slime which is on the surface will come off by rubbing If so take them off the fire immediately and throw them into cold water as they are done enough or you may cool the boiling water by pouring cold into it till you are able to bear your hand in it to rub off all the slime.

This being done throw the cardons into a blanc, give them a single boil and leave them in the blanc. Whenever you wish to use them, drain a sufficient quantity. Pare both extremities and mark them in a stew pan with four spoonfuls of Espagnole and four spoonfuls of consomme a little salt and a little sugar. Let them boil over a sharp fire that they may not be done too much be sure to skim off all the fat.

Dish them nicely. Strain the sauce through a tammy before you mask (cover) them. Send them up to table quite hot with a cover over them to prevent their getting dry

Espagnole is a sauce, created this way. Besides some slices of ham put into a stew pan some slices of veal. Moisten the same as for the coulis sweat them in the like manner let all the glaze go to the bottom and when of a nice red colour moisten with a few spoonfuls of first consomme to detach the glaze then pour in the coulis. Let the whole boil for half an hour that you may be enabled to remove all the fat. Strain it through a clean tammy. Remember always to put into your sauces some mushrooms with a bunch of parsley and green onions.

Other suggested sauces were marrow (as in bone), veloute, and sauce blanche.  Take your pick. 

Interesting, but not something I plan to rush out and buy from the grocery store.  Next time we will try something a little less exotic.

Until then Happy Rambles

Being Scotch

Did you think I had made a dreadful mistake? Or did you know I was talking about a drink, not a
person. I do of course mean Scotch whisky (and that too is the correct spelling).

My current work in progress is set in Scotland and part of my plot revolves around a whisky distillery. There are a number of discussions about the origins of uisge beatha, water of life (uisge sounds like usky anglicized to whisky).

Most experts believe the knowledge of distilling was brought from Ireland by the Scots in the fifth century A.D., along with the Gaelic language. Scotch whisky is made from barley malt and I will not delve into the actual process here.

Traditionally in the Highlands, whisky was provided before breakfast to sharpen the appetite, since it was seen as both a libation and as a health drink. It was given to infants and children too. It was offered to anyone who crossed a home’s threshold as a matter of courtesy at any time of day or night.

During the Regency there were huge numbers of illicit stills in the Highlands to avoid punishing excise taxes. Considerable quantities were smuggled across the border into England where ardent spirits were taxed at an even higher rate. Highland farmers used their sale of illicit whisky to pay the rents on their land, since often it was their only source of real cash income in addition to what was needed for their own consumption. The rugged Highlands provided great hiding places from the "gaugers" (Excise Officers). And the local populace delighted in the excise officers’ failures and mourned their successes.

When an illegal still was found, the equipment would be smashed and the owner of the still punished – if found.

An Act of Parliament passed in 1814 prohibited any still in the Highlands with a less than 500 gallon capacity. A fantastical size for that period of time. Moreover, thereafter all whisky produced in the Highlands could only be sold in the Highlands, effectively making the legal production and selling of whisky almost impossible. Needless to say it only served to encourage illicit stills
and an increase of smuggling. In 1823 14,000 illicit stills were discovered and smashed, but many more went undiscovered.

Scotsmen with vision knew this had to change and in this year a new act was passed making 40 gallons the minimum size for a still and setting the duty at a reasonable rate. Illicit production slowly dwindled away along with smuggling.

Of course how all this fits in my story has yet to be revealed to me, but I hope you enjoy reading a small snippet from my research. It is nice to know that this ancient Scottish skill has survived to produce one of the world's most popular drams. Slàinte

This post originally appeared on the blog at, but I wanted to record it here too, since I may have other posts on this topic.

Until next time, Happy Rambles

Flora and Fauna of Regency England

by Michele Ann Young

Our Naturist kindly tells us that rosemary blooms in April. Rosemary is a hardy evergreen plant and will live for up to twenty years, growing to a height of around three feet. It is a decorative herb originating from the Mediterranean and bears small, blue or white flowers in late spring. So this herb would be commonly found in kitchen gardens. My mum had a huge one. We had to fight with it to get the car door open in the drive. I loved the scent when you crush the leaves.

The nice thing about this is of course that we are very familiar with it today. I am going to pop it under food too.

April is the time for spring bulbs, tulips among them as reported by Robert Furber in his 1730 Twelve Month's of Flowers which could well have been a resource for an enthusiastic gardner in the Regency.

Tulips came from Turkey to Europe. Between 1634 and 1637, the early enthusiasm for the new flowers triggered a speculative frenzy now known as the tulip mania and tulip bulbs were then considered a form of currency.

This is a picture of an "old English Tulip" or a flamed tulip. The flaming or feathering apparently caused by a virus, and never the same two years in a row, if I understand my reading correctly. It is a variety which has almost died out, but this is what tulips would have looked like in the Regency. If you are interested in Old English Tulips, The Wakefield and North of England Tulip Society established in 1836 might be the place to start.

This bird exists and nests out on the heaths of England. It is a Stonechat. It is called a stone chat because its breeding and alarm call sounds like two pebbles being clinked together. Want to hear it? Go here. Isn't technology wonderful? This bird likes to nest in bushy shrubs like gorse in the early spring.

Well that is it from me. I have some writing to get done today. Almost at the end of this book, so I am hoping to finish it today. Always exciting. But then comes the editing.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Regency Food

by Ann Lethbridge

Just have to show what I cooked for Sunday's dinner. Comfort food. It was snowing again so pineapple upsidedown cake was the order of the day. Not that it is in any way shape or form associated with the Regency.

Definitely yummy though.

And while we are off topic, I receive my author copies of Wicked Rake, Defiant Mistress today. So it is true the book really exists. The cover is even nicer in the flesh than it is in the picture.

Just loving the colour of her dress.

All right so a bit of shameless promo. It just goes to show there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Now for the Regency food bit.

In the Regency during the Season in London, entertaining at home on a lavish scale was de rigeur.

There were dinner parties, card parties, routs, musical evenings, drums, venetian breakfasts.... and of course balls.

A ball had to be the best event of all. A chance for young men to flirt with the debutantes on the dance floor.

Every ball was expected to provide a supper around midnight.

So what did hostesses of the day serve to their guests.

Here is one menu for your perusal ~ From an 1808 cookbook

  • Ten hot roast Fowls
  • Almond Mould with Cream
  • Cray Fish
  • Ices Jellies (several dishes spread along the table)
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Ham
  • Escaloped Potatoes
  • Apple Puffs
  • Tartlets
  • Scotch Collops
  • Cold Chicken
  • Savoy Cakes
  • Blancmange
  • Beans a la Crème
  • Dressed Lobster
  • Asparag
  • Mince Pies
  • Custards
  • Escaloped Oysters
  • Cold Roast Lamb
  • Prawns
  • Cheesecakes
  • Sallad
  • Beans a la Crème
  • Fricasseed Rabbits
  • Cauliflowers a la Crème

Each of these dishes would be repeated several times until there was sufficient for the number of people attending.

What I found interesting is that many of these dishes would not be out of place on our tables today. I do find it odd the way they mix the savoury foods in with the desserts, but they did seem to eat vegetables and salads too.

A couple of explanations:

Scotch Collops are a traditional Scottish dish created using either thin slices or minced meat of either beef, lamb or venison. This is combined with onion, salt, pepper and suet then then stewed, baked or roasted with optional flavourings according to the meat used. It is traditionally served garnished with thin toast and mashed potato.

Here is a Savoy Cake. The outside is crusted with sugar.

Hope I didn't make you feel too hungry, or maybe you feel as if you have just eaten far too much.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Regency Food

by Michele Ann Young

Labeled Food, this article falls under the drinking part of eating.

The Georgian era was a time of gargantuan appetites for the men of the nobility.

These men rode 40 miles hunting a stag, raced phaetons from London to Brighton, ate massive breakfasts and gargantuan dinners. They had a love of life and little more to do than enjoy it.

Needless to say their health suffered as a result. The Prince of Wales in his twenties suffered much from the effects of over-indulgence and often ran a fever, the remedy for which was bleeding.

What did they drink with all this food?

Claret was a very popular drink of the nobility.

And a favorite of the Prince of Wales. Here is his portrait as a young man.

The Prince of Wales brother Frederick could easily consume six bottles of claret at a sitting. Claret is a red wine from Bourdeaux.

In the 18th century drinking claret helped the rich distinguish themselves from those below them. Port a more traditional drink with the gentry, and far cheaper. For example: John Hervey, the first Earl of Bristol, spent four times as much on claret as on port, whereas the tradesmen who gathered in the Barbers Hall in the City of London spent a mere £2 on claret as against £850 on port.

In “Every Man His Own Butler,” published in 1839, Cyrus Redding, a wine merchant and author, wrote “claret for a bishop, port for a rector, currant for a curate and gin for the clerk”

Another of the Prince's brother's was considered a moderate drinker, since he would only drinking a pint of sherry at dinner.

Other drinks served at Carlton House were:

Maraschino -made from marasca cherries.

Introduced to widely to Europe in the 18th century it was a sweet liqueur and a favourite of Napoleon Bonaparte after dinner or supper. George IV sent a naval fleet to collect a hundred Maraschino cases for the Royal court in London and for the governors of Malta and Corfu.

Cedrate: for which I have yet to find a description other than to know it relates to lemon or citrus fruits.

The Prince of Wales joined the Beefsteak Club in April 1784

As the The Times
said "he was known to be remarkably fond of rumpsteak" The club met at Covent Garden Theatre to "grill steakes over the original grate furnished for the purpose by the founder and to drink port, porter, punch and whisky toddy."

The Prince generously shared his own punch recipe with many of his contemporaries, and here it is.

* 1 bottle champagne
* 1 bottle burgundy
* 1 bottle rum
* 10 lemons
* 2 oranges
* 1 1/2 lbs. sugar

Chill the liquor before mixing.

Enjoy. But perhaps wait awhile for going off to ramble the countryside.
Until next time.

Regency Food

by Ann Lethbridge

What can we serve for breakfast?

Toast and marmalade of course.

Last week I handed in two books, which left me at a bit of a loose end. So, since my husband sneakily bought home some Seville oranges, I decided to celebrate meeting the deadlines by making marmalade. I thought it particularly fitting, because marmalade was indeed Regency food since it was first produced in Dundee in 1797 and can therefore show up on our Regency heroine's breakfast toast.

This is something any Regency cook would be able to make in her kitchen, since it requires nothing but Seville oranges, which are sour and bitter and lots and lots of sugar. Along with a fair bit of elbow grease. I was lucky, my daughter was home and took an interest so I had my scullery maid to help out.

Here we have the squeezed skins already for chopping. These particular oranges turned out to be very juicy, full of lovely pips and the rind was almost perfect.

I added a couple of lemons for extra zip, but it could have been all oranges.

I like to use an old-fashioned glass squeezer, as you can see in the picture. The glass edges really make a good job of crushing the pulp out of the juice and it catches the pips. In making marmalade pips are very important.

Here you can see the juice in the pan along with a muslin bag full of... yes pips.

The sticky juices that come out of the pips is natural pectin, it requires 2 to 3 hours of simmering in the juice from the oranges and 15 cups of water, and all those peels we chopped. Pectin is what makes the preserve set, you know so it looks like jelly rather than juice.

That's a lot of simmering, my friends, steamy windows, cups of tea, and gossip. And of course you need to be sterilizing the jars and writing the labels during that time too.

And when you are done all the simmering there's this icky sticky job of squeezing the warm muslin bag. Such fun. And just to prove it here I am. Not looking my best, but by this time I'd been working for hours. Still, I am smiling. You can see the simmered peel in the pan. by this time it is soft.

Then 15 cups of sugar gets added, and there's a lot of stirring and putting drops onto chilled plates to see if it's set yet. Very nerve wracking trying to see if thick juicy stuff is actually wrinkling when you push it with a fork or not.

I must say I was a bit shocked at the amount of sugar that went in there. Almost appalled. But even with all that sugar the end result was not all that sweet. The other thing to remember is to only spoon a small amount on your toast, because it has a wonderful flavor and it is quite strong.

We made the final marmalade in three batches. And to one of them I added chunks of crystallized ginger. Yummy. the first picture at the top is the finished result of a whole day of hard work. I'm glad I don't have to make everything from scratch, I'd never get any writing done.

I'm going to try to keep some of it for hostess gifts, but we've already polished off one whole jar. It even ended up on ice cream as dessert the first evening - it was still warm too.

I wish I could share it with you. Nothing quite like home made, especially when it is authentic regency food. So if you ever pop by for breakfast don't forget to try the marmalade.

Until next time, which will be next week, happy rambles.


Regency Food - Part III

Well, RWA was wonderful. The drive to Washington DC from Toronto was long, but beautiful scenery and lots of conversation, during which time a short story came to fruition.

The best part of the conference was meeting writers and editors in person who I talk to on line all the time. Here you see Tessa Shapcott from HM&B and the famous Julia Justiss, and of course me. We had a fascinating discussion at lunch.

I also attended some interesting workshops, some about the business side of things, some on craft and then of course we partied. Oh how we partied. But was happens at RWA ..... well you know.

Partying reminded me of food. Which reminded me of a promise to put up more information about regency food.

I decided to look up all of the food in Georgette Heyer's books and provide the information as a regular monthly feature. Today's reference comes from The Talisman Ring.

As we know from our Regency slang, all things "green" are young and innocent. For example a "green girl" might well be taken in by a rake. Or a "green'un" would be fleeced by a card sharp.

So it is with our goose. If the goose is a green, it is young, about four months old. Its feathers were probably white. They would most likely be eaten in May, June, and July i.e. later in spring, before they grew up. Mention of a green goose for Sunday dinner appears in Samuel Pepys' diary for July 3, 1664, so this goes way back.

In case you wondered, an older goose would be known as a fat goose.

Here is a recipe from The British Housewife or, the Cook, Housekeeper and Gardiner’s (sic) Companion (1756)

Chop some sweet Herbs, and grate some Bread: grate in some Nutmeg among the Herbs and strew upon them some Salt and Pepper; moisten the Bread with rich Cream and mix all these together.
Then cut small the Liver of the Green Goose, mince some fine Bacon, mix these together and add them to the rest; when all is mixed fill the body of the Goose with the stuffing then spit it and warp it round with Bacon ; lay it down at some distance from the fire and when it is nearly enough, strew over it Crumbs of Bread and brown it up. The proper sauce is very rich gravy; and see it be sent up throughly hot.

And there we are. A new monthly feature for you to look forward to and lots of reading and re-reading for me. Until next time ~ Happy Rambles

Happy Easter

Posted by Michele Ann Young

Today, Good Friday, my daughter and I are making hot cross buns.

Hot cross buns,
Hot cross buns,
one ha' penny,
two ha' penny,
hot cross buns.

If you have no daughters,
give them to your sons,
one ha' penny,
two ha' penny,
Hot Cross Buns

The first recorded use of the term "hot cross bun" is 1733 although it is believed that buns marked with a cross were eaten by Saxons in honour of the goddess Eostre (the cross is thought to have symbolised the four quarters of the moon);
Others claim that the Greeks marked cakes with a cross, much earlier.

James Boswell recorded in his Life of Johnson (1791): 9 Apr. An. 1773 Being Good Friday I breakfasted with him and cross-buns. The fact that they were generally sold hot, however, seems to have led by the early nineteenth century to the incorporation of hot into their name."

As you can see, this was definitely an ongoing tradition and would have been part of an English family breakfast on Good Friday

Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Regency Food - Part II

I thought, during this time of Thanksgiving, it might be fun to do another post on food.

Special Celebrations deserve special things to eat and in the Regency era sculptured sugar will often be mentioned as the piece de resistance. Pictured above is a desert from the 1820's all made from sugar, known as pastillage. Can you imagine the work that went into it? And then to eat it!

Here is a mould and then the final result.

It was common to serve bonbonniere at the table in pastillage baskets. Here we see a pastillage basket containing 'jewell fruit', which are in fact vegetables, cauliflowers and cucumbers.

I was particularly enchanted by the following design. A sculpture where the ornaments hung from a central column and would have trembled as the guests touched the table.

I think we can see where the ideas of our fancy wedding cakes came from, don't you think.

I used to love helping make my mother ice our Christmas cake each year, and it was always my job to pipe on the royal icing decoration. Of course what I liked was getting to snack on the little silver balls when she wasn't looking and eating the left over icing in the metal tip that goes on the end of the icing bag. I always did have a sweet tooth.

In those days I had no idea about pastillage, and the designs of two hundred years ago. If you would like more detail on this check out this link.

Have a sweet week, and until next time, Happy Rambles

Regency Dining

This first picture means nothing. I just like it.

Since food was such a luxury in our era, dining or feasting was always a momentous occasion. I thought I would focus on one meal.

This is a description of "a most sumptuous entertainment" given by The Chief Magistrate of Chester (General Grosvenor) in the Exchange, to his cousin Earl Grosvenor, several gentlemen of the country, the Corporation and his friends in the city. This is the Chester Exchange, before it burnt down in 1865. What a busy bustling market square out front and this building is huge, much bigger than it looks.

"The town hall was most tastefully decorated with variegated lamps. The tables were laid out in the following manner: Two long tables down each side of the room, joined at the top in a semi-circular form; and in the intermediate area smaller tables were laid across; in the center was placed a fine baron of beef, ornamented with appropriate devices, encircled by the motto—"

“O! The roast beef of Old England, O! the Old English roast beef.”

"On its right was a Christmas pie, weighing upwards of 200 pounds, containing four geese, four turkeys, six hares, a leg of veal, a leg of pork, sausages &c.; on its side were the heraldic bearings of the house of Eaton, supported by those of the General, with the family motto; on the left of the baron of beef was a salad, tastefully displayed with the motto" “Prosperity to the trade of Chester.”

"This table was surmounted with two elegant transparencies representing the east and north gates of the city."

"About five o’clock dinner was served up to which two hundred sat down. The following is a copy of the:

Bill of Fare

—16 tureens of turtle; 8 boiled turkeys; 3 ham; 4 dishes of a la mode beef; 5 pigeon pies; 3 saddles of mutton; 13 plum puddings; 6 dishes of muranede pork; 8 French pies; 4 roasted turkeys; 8 dishes of rabbits; 3 legs of mutton; 4 geese; 2 fillets of veal; 10 dishes of chickens; 4 dishes of veal surprise; 3 beefsteak pies; 3 dishes of sweet breads; 6 hares; 6 venison pasties; 8 dishes of ducks; 6 oyster patties; 6 dishes of mutton casserole; 6 dishes of pig; 6 lemon puddings; 8 dishes of haricaed mutton; 4 neats tongues; 3 dishes of collard veal; a round of beef.

Removes—Ten haunches of venison; 10 necks of venison.

Sweets—30 salvers of whips and jelly; 20 moulds of jelly; 40 moulds of blancmange; tarts; cheese cakes; mince pies, puffs, &c."

I don't know about you, but this menu did not make me feel hungry. But why is it important? Why spend the time finding out exactly what they ate? Well, while I think I would not put neats' tongues in a book I might well want to put blancmange, and oyster patties, and jelly and mince pies. And by doing this little bit of research, I can happily put them on the table.

While this is an image of the coronation banquet of George IV (yes our Prinny) I think it gives the flavor of what this Grosvenor feast must have been like. No balconies.

Until next time, Happy rambles.

Regency Dining

I thought we might continue on the theme of food. As I mentioned in my introduction, because they did not have refridgeration, foods tended to be in season.

Here is an interesting link showing food timelines that you might find helpful.

Meats like beef, mutton and pork and various kinds of poultry, pullets, capons, and chickens would be available most of the time. Those that we do not regularly find on our tables today, are things like pigeons and rabbits and leverets (baby hares).

Vegetables included cabbage, savoys, coleworts (what on earth are they? Ah.. a form of kale) sprouts, broccoli, and root vegetables that keep over the winter, potato, turnips and parsnips. But I also find references to things being forced -- strawberries and radishes, so these would have been grown in greenhouse conditions to bring them on early. The picture above is of a street vendor in London selling turnips and carrots, though I can't actually see the carrots.

In the eighteenth century, the main meal, dinner would normally be at what we would now consider lunchtime. By the Regency, at least for the aristocracy, dinner had moved to the evening. Not so with poorer folk who would still take their main mean at mid-day. Indeed, in England in many households it is still traditional to have Sunday lunch as the roast beef and yorkshire pudding meal we associate with England and certainly in many homes Christmas dinner is still served between 12 noon and 2pm.

Remember Joshual White of last day? He says about dinners "One of the greatest peculiarities in the diet of the people, is the quantity of meats which they use; and if excellence is their kind, (especially beef and mutton,) be any plea for the apparent superabundant quantity that is met with in most houses, they may offer it with truth, and boast of it with justice."

And Robert Southey had this to say. The quantity of meat which they consume is astonishing! I verily believe that what is drest for one dinner here, would supply the same number of persons in Spain for a week, even if no fast-days intervened. Every where you find both meat and vegetables in the same crude and insipid state. The potato appears at table all the year found: indeed the poor subsist so generally upon this root, that it seems surprising how they could have lived before it was introduced from America. Beer is the common drink. They take less wine than we do at dinner, and more after it; but the custom of sitting for hours over the bottle, which was so prevalent of late years, has been gradually laid aside, as much from the gradual progress of the taxes as of good sense. Tea is served between seven and eight, in the same manner as at breakfast, except that we do not assemble round the table. Supper is rather a ceremony than a meal; but the hour afterwards, over our wine and water, or spirits, is the pleasantest in the day.

And while we know of the wines, brandy and ales that people drank in those days, what about this advertisment from the Winchester paper.

For making Soda Water.
The Water made with this Preparation possesses all the Virtues of Soda Water in Bottles. Being portable, it will be found exceedingly useful to persons travelling; and as it will not injure by keeping, or change of climate, it is particularly recommended to Gentlemen going abroad.
Prepared and sold by William Randall, Chemist, Southampton, in boxes sufficient for one dozen half-pints of Soda Water, at 2s. 6d. Each.

Now I really thought soda water was a modern invention.

People also enjoyed homemade lemonade.
Pies always seem to be a feature of English dining, why there is even a nursery rhyme about four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie. These particular pies are a work of art. These days you are lucky if you get a couple of leaves plonked on top of a meat pie as decoration.

Here is the description of a dinner from a contemporary. I think you will see that Southey was right, there was indeed a large variety of meats.
The first course:Part of a large Cod. A Chine of Mutton. Some Soup. A Chicken Pye. Puddings & Roots &c.
Second course:Pidgeons and Asparagus. A Fillett of Veal with Mushrooms and high Sauce. Rosted Sweat-breads. Hot Lobster. Apricot Tart. A Pyramid of Syllabubs & Jellies.

A Desert of Fruit.

MadeiraWhite Port & red to drink as Wine.

At the risk of grossing you out, I thought the following was an interesting recipe. However, I do caution not to do this at home.

Tainted Meat

Meat tainted to an extreme degree may be speedily restored by washing it
in cold water, and afterwards in strong camomile tea; after which it may
be sprinkled with salt, and used the following day; or if steeped and
well washed in beer, it will make pure and sweet soup even after being

I am going to see if I can find a description of a dinner from start to end, something like the one above, but with more information. However, I probably will not be able to find pictures.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Regency Food - Part I

The Georgian era was a period of hedonism, self indulgence if you will. Not, if I might be so bold, unlike ourselves today. Look what a swelter we are in about recycling and reusing. But I digress.

What did they eat and drink?

No freezers, although we know northern inhabitants had long ago figured out the benefits of keeping food on ice. They did have ice houses, so things could be kept cool for a while.

Here is a picture of an ice house that I took at Gnoll House in Wales, in February. The house is gone but the ice house and the cellars are still there and the grounds are quite stunning. The first picture is of the entrance which was some little distant from the house.

The second picture is taken through a grill with my camera pointed straight down. They would have brough the ice from the various fresh lakes in the grounds in the winter, piling it up week after week, packing it with straw, until it was full. It looks like a well. I assume you would climb down a latter to chip away at it as it gradually reduced and got lower and lower inside.

There were some greenhouses, called conservatories (that's where the debutante meets the hero and gets caught out when they kiss and then they have to marry.... oops digressing again, but only the rich had those. Glass was a luxury. And there were orangeries. Did I spell that right? I went to the one at Kensington Palace and had a cream tea. There is also a particularly fine one at Bowood House, they have a 360 degree shot from the inside, although there are only paintings there now. It is basically a long gallery with huge windows facing south where they grew citrus fruits. This is an outdoor scene of the orangery at Kew.

They stored root vegetables and hardy fruits like apples, remember Treasure Island and Jim Hawkins hiding in the apple barrel, and of course pickled and preserved soft fruits and vegetables. Jumping jellybeans, my old mum still makes her own pickled onions, marmelade and yummy blackberry and apple jam.

Some stuff grows wild. Blackberries (see jam above). I can remember going blackberry picking with my dad. He would stand in the biggest prickliest bush, push with his basket until he was almost inside the bush and pick and pick. Not the ones at the bottom though. It's like yellow snow - you don't eat those, especially not if you know how many people in England walk their dogs everywhere.

Other stuff growing wild, mushrooms - gotta know the difference from a toadstool. This red spotty one would be easy. Others are not. Some are magic, I'm told (little joke). Elderberry. Now there is an interesting tree, you can use the flowers and the berries. And of course they grew wheat and oats and barley and cabbages.

They raised cattle and hunted wild game.

But all of these items had seasons. So what you might eat in January, would not be what you would eat in July.


Robert Southey had this to say in 1802 about English Breakfasts

The breakfast-table is a cheerful sight in this country: porcelain of their own manufactory, which excels the Chinese in elegance of form and ornament, is ranged on a Japan waiter, also of the country fabric; for here they imitate everything. The mistress sits at the head of the board, and opposite to her the boiling water smokes and sings in an urn of Etruscan shape. The coffee is contained in a smaller vase of the same shape, or in a larger kind of tea-pot, wherein the grain is suspended in a bag; but nothing is so detestable as an Englishman’s coffee. The washing of our after-dinner cups would make a mixture as good; the infusion is just strong enough to make the water brown and bitter. This is not occasioned by economy, though coffee is enormously dear, for these people are extravagant in the expenses of the table: they know no better; and if you tell them how it ought to be made, they reply, that it must be very disagreeable, and that even if they could drink it so strong, it would prevent them from sleeping. There is besides an act of parliament to prevent the English from drinking good coffee: they are not permitted to roast it themselves, and of course all the fresh and finer flavour evaporates in the warehouse. They make amends however by the excellence of their tea, which is still very cheap, though the ministry, in violation of an explicit bargain, increased the tax upon it four fold, during the last war. This is made in a vessel of silver, or of a fine black porcelain: they do not use boiled milk with it, but cream instead in its fresh state, which renders it a very delightful beverage. They eat their bitter bread in various ways, either in thin slices, or roasted, or in small hot loaves, always with butter, which is the best thing in the country.

According to Joshua White in his letters from England written in 1810, breakfast in Regency England was a miserable affair.

...generally very frugal, consisting commonly of tea, and muffins or hot rolls, with good butter. Coffee is less frequently used; and it is seldom good.

On the morning after my arrival, I observed on a small table large enough for one or two persons, a tea-cup and saucer, a tea-pot, milk-pot, sugar dish, plate, and a small catty with tea: the tea-kettle was boiling on an utensil with live coals; and presently a plate of warm rolls was brought in. The waiter said breakfast was ready. I asked where it was, and he pointed to the table.

You will have notice the mention of butter by both writers. It takes 21 pounds of fresh, wholesome cow’s milk to make each pound of butter like this pat of butter on waxed paper. Now just imagine how long it took to milk the cow by hand and then churn that teeny weeny pat.

Well, there we have it, and introduction to food, and the first meal of the day. I will continue on with this topic for a few more blogs, because it is good for me to study what my characters ought to eat during my stories and I best get it right, and of course I hope you find it of interest. I really like it when I can find observations from diarists of the day, but of course the writing is always a bit stiff. I have chopped these quotes a bit, but not so much that you do not get the flavor. And getting the flavor, is what food is all about.

Until next time~~~~ Happy rambles.