The Experienced English Housekeeper

THE EXPERIENCED ENGLISH HOUSEKEEPER 001

My enthusiasm for old cookbooks continuing unchecked, I was delighted when I ran across a reprint of Elizabeth Raffeld’s THE EXPERIENCED ENGLISH HOUSEKEEPER, published in 1769. This book was researched by a gentleman named Roy Shipperton, who died before it was published. It was edited and brought to life by Ann Bagnell. Having written about Georgian era recipes before, I am no stranger to dishes that would be considered unusual by modern standards, such as ox palates (see an earlier blog here). I was intrigued to see that she included 3 recipes for ox palates. However, I was very interested to learn that she seemed particularly interested in cakes and flummery. In fact, she is known for producing the first written recipe for “Bride Cake”.

Her “Bride Cake” is a single layer and requires four pounds of flour, the same of butter, two pounds of sugar, mace and nutmeg, blended with thirty-two eggs. Being a fruitcake, significant quantities of currents, almonds, citron, candied orange and lemon are included, with a pint of brandy. Her directions are very clear on how to blend the butter, eggs and flour, and the process of pouring the batter over the fruits in layers into the pan. Once in the oven, the baking time is three hours. The icing is a two-layer icing, very similar to modern icing, for which the recipes are also included. I envision a very large cake indeed!

Flummery is a molded pudding made with cream, sugar, a gelatin and a starch. Elizabeth Raffald used ground almonds for the starch and calves’foot stock for the gelatin. Her instructions for preparation of the flummery, preparing the molds and for unmolding are very clear. She also included directions for coloring the pudding pink, yellow or green.

Elizabeth Raffald was a fascinating woman, about whom I have written a post that will appear on English Historical Fiction Authors’ Blog on Thursday, April 25 here. I hope you will watch for it!

Source:
Raffald, Elizabeth. THE EXPERIENCED ENGLISH HOUSEKEEPER with an introduction by Roy Shipperbottom, edited by Ann Bagnall. 1997: Southover Press, Lewes.
Image is a scan of my personal copy.

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Filed under 18th century England, Cookbooks, English Historical Fiction Authors blog, Georgian England, recipes, Women in business

A New Treasure

ROBERT MAY

I enjoy cooking shows, and was a fan of the Two Fat Ladies. In series 2, Clarissa Dickson Wright made a salmon dish based on a recipe from Robert May’s cookbook. Her version of the recipe is included in THE TWO FAT LADIES RIDE AGAIN, written by Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jennifer Paterson. During the episode, Clarissa gave a little information about Mr. May which intrigued me. Since I also enjoy old cookbooks, when I ran across a facsimile of Mr. May’s work, I ordered it and it arrived today. I’ve learned that he was born in 1588. His father was cook for Lord and Lady Dormer, and taught Robert how to cook. Robert was sent to Paris by Lady Dormer, where he studied cookery for five years before returning to become cook in the Dormer’s kitchen under his father. After several years passed and Lady Dormer died, Robert went on to cook for other nobility. He died in 1664.

Mr. May’s cookbook, THE ACCOMPLISHT CHEF OR THE ART AND MYSTERY OF COOKERY was first published in 1660 in London. He was chef for noble households (primarily Catholic) during the reign of Charles I, the English Civil War and Parliamentary era, and into the reign of Charles II. In today’s terms, Mr. May was something of a celebrity chef. Robert’s cookbook is very large, and includes his own recipes (as well as some borrowed from others, to whom he apologized). I obtained a copy of the 5th edition published in 1685, which is pictured above. The cookbook was dedicated for the use of master cooks and young hopeful cooks. It addressed carving and serving, and contained bills of fare for each season and special days, The recipes were arranged in alphabetical order and the book contains a useful table of contents.

In perusing Robert May’s cookbook, I was able to find a recipe that I believe may be the one which inspired Clarissa Dickson Wright’s adaptation. (It must be said that hers, being geared for the modern cook, seems simpler to prepare as quantities are clear and it is designed for 4 people.) It involves cooking a thick cut of salmon from the middle of the fish in red wine with slices of orange, orange juice and spices and served with toast points. I have not yet attempted this dish, due (in part) to the logistics of acquiring the right cut of fish in my area. However, it sounds very different from other salmon recipes I’ve seen and I want to try it. It could be a delicious dish for a special occasion dinner. Robert May’s cookbook itself is another treasure, with its insight into another era.

May, Robert. THE ACOMMPLISHT COOK OR THE ART AND MYSTERY OF COOKERY. A facsimile of the 1685 with foreword, introduction and glossary supplied by Alan Davidson, Marcus Benn and Tom Jaine. 2012: Prospect Books, London. Reprinted 2018. (See recipe on page 232.)

Paterson, Jennifer and Dickson Wright, Clarissa. THE TWO FAT LADIES RIDE AGAIN. Clarkson Potter/Publishers, New York. Originally published in 1997 by Ebury Press in Great Britain. (See recipe on p. 39.)

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Filed under 17th century England, Cookbooks, Cooking, Old books, recipes, Stuart era

Dresser to the Queen: Miss Marianne Skerrett

Today on the English Historical Fiction Authors blog, we’re talking about Miss Marianne Skerrett, principal dresser and wardrobe woman to Queen Victoria.

In the television series VICTORIA, Mr. Francatelli had a relationship and married Nancy Skerrett, known as Mrs. Skerrett, who was the Queen’s dresser. She was a young woman with a sketchy past who tragically died young. In real life, Miss Marianne Skerrett rose to be the Queen’s principle dresser, and was with Queen Victoria for twenty-five years. You can see multiple images of Miss Skerrett on the Royal Collections Trust Website. One can be found HERE

To read more about here, visit the English Historical Fiction Authors blog HERE

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Cook at Buckingham Palace: Charles Elme’ Francatelli

Over on the English Historical Fiction Authors blog, I wrote about one of my favorite characters on the series VICTORIA (season 3 now showing on PBS).

I have been enjoying the series Victoria on PBS. (It was so exciting that series 3 premiered in the U.S. BEFORE showing in the UK!) One character I particularly like is Mr. Francatelli, the chef in the palace. While it is true that Queen Victoria’s household did include a cook named Francatelli, there is a big difference between the way he is depicted in the television series and the known facts about him.

Charles Elme’ Francatelli is believed to have been born in London in 1805, to Nicholas and Sarah Francatelli. He actually grew up in France. He studied cooking at the Parisian College of Cooking, from which he received a diploma. He had the good fortune to study under the renowned chef Marie Antoine Careme (1784-1833), who served as chef de cuisine for the British Prince Regent (the future George IV) and was invited to Russia (although he left before cooking for the czar). When Francatelli returned to England, he cooked for various aristocratic households, until in late 1838 or early 1839, he went to work at Crockford’s. To read more, go HERE.

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In the bleak midwinter….

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Everywhere I look, I see predictions of record cold, windchill, snow and ice. Even in Florida, it’s grey and overcast, rainy and damp. It’s been weeks since the Winter Solstice on December 21, and it seems forever until the Spring Solstice on March 20. However, a bright spot is coming…

On February 2, which is this Saturday, we will celebrate Candlemas. This holiday marks the half-way point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Solstice. The Christian holiday celebrates the Purification of the Virgin Mary (a ritual of cleansing done 40 days after the birth of a child) which followed the Presentation of the infant Jesus in the temple. In celebration of this holiday, new candles are blessed and and set up in church. Blessed candles are distributed and processions carry them into the church. Ideally, the candles should be beeswax. As candles lightened the darkness in earlier times, they came to symbolize Jesus Christ as the light of the world, which is celebrated in this procession. People celebrate at home by putting candles in the windows.

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A festival of lights, it is not surprising that aspects of Candlemas have its roots in earlier, pre-Christian times. Marking the mid-way point of winter when nights were still very long and very dark, people would light candles to frighten evil spirits away. The Romans also had a mid-winter festival which was called the Amburbium (or Amburbale), which involved a lighted procession around the city to purify it. (Their festival may have included sacrifices.)

Weather was a big concern in earlier times, specifically how much longer the cold would last, and had a bearing on the mid-winter celebration. It was not uncommon for bears or wolves to stir from their dens in mid-winter. If the animal returned, it meant the cold winter weather would continue for at least another forty days. (In the US, we celebrate Groundhog’s Day on February 2 as a variation of this tradition.)

However we celebrate, the coming of February 2 with its warm candlelight reminds us that winter is approaching its end and spring is coming.

Sources:
SacredTexts.com Miles, Clement A. CHRISTMAS IN RITUAL AND TRADITION. (1912) Chapter XVI. “Epiphany to Candlemas.” HERE

Newadvent.org Catholic Encyclopedia. “Candlemas.” Kevin Knight Copyright (c) 2017. HERE

BBC.Co.UK RELIGIONS. “Candlemas.” Last updated 2009-06-16. HERE

ProjectBritain.com “Candlemas Day (the Christian festival of lights).” Mandy Barrow Copyright (c) 2013. HERE

Wikipedia.com “Amburbium”. HERE

Illustrations from Wikimedia Commons:

Annals of the road : or, Notes on mail and stage coaching in Great Britain, 1876. HERE (No known copyright restrictions.)

Photograph of a candle – version without reflection, HERE (Public domain)

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Filed under History, holidays, Religion

Royal Worcester Porcelain

Over on the English Historical Fiction Authors blog, I wrote about Royal Worcester Porcelain. Founded under the guidance of Dr. John Wall in 1751, beautiful porcelain was created for over 250 years. To read more, visit
the English Historical Fiction Authors blog HERE

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Cup c 1775-1790 in the collection of the Auckland Museum

Illustration: Wikimedia Commons Creative Commons HERE

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Bourton-on-the-Water: Venice of the North

In our travels in the United Kingdom, some wonderful friends took us on a day trip in the Cotswolds. We had never visited this part of the UK before, and found it to be even more charming than anticipated. One of the villages we visited that day was Bourton-on-the-Water. I wrote about it on the English Historical Fiction Authors blog. You can read about Bourton-on-the-Water HERE. IMAG1285
(Photo taken by Lauren Gilbert 2018)

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