Helping the Historical Hostess Flavour her Food
Yes, ketchup. When I mentioned the topic of Regency ketchup to my husband, his reaction was “didn’t they think back then that tomatoes were poisonous? Wasn’t tomato ketchup invented much later?”
None of the Georges had heard of or used Heinz ketchup. But, being a food connoisseur, the Prince Regent no doubt used one of the Regency versions of this condiment.
And the story of ketchup in that era is told in fascinating detail in a post on the fabulous Regency Redingote blog, How the Regency Got Ketchup. Do check it out, and if you love fascinating historical details, sign up for the regular posts. (And, btw, you’ll find the answers to my husband’s questions there!)
The Lady’s Assistant
This is the Sixth Edition of this handy historical hostess’s guide, dating from MDCCLXXXVII. If I have my Roman numerology correct, that is 1787. It was “Originally Published from the Manuscript Collection of Mrs. Charlotte Mason, a Professed Housekeeper, Who had Upwards of Thirty Years Experience in Families of the First Fashion.”
I love historical cookbooks, though I never seem to get around to making any of the food. And, I’m always impressed by how resourceful people were in using everything (sweetbreads, anyone?). Our industrialized, stable, and abundant food supply makes us forget how close people lived to starvation in past times. Today, in places like the Sudan, Venezuela, or North Korea, I imagine people are eating whatever they can find.
If you’re trying to read the recipes, remember that the letter s is usually written like an f without the cross bar.
Here’s the full recipe for English ketchup:
Take a quart of white wine vinegar, put into it ten cloves of garlic, peeled and bruised; take also a quart of white port, put it on the fire; and when it boils, put in twelve or fourteen anchovies washed and pulled to pieces; let them simmer in the wine till they are dissolved; when cold, put them to the vinegar; then take half a pint of white wine, and put into it some mace, some ginger sliced, a few cloves, a spoonful of whole pepper bruised; let them boil a little; when almost cold, slice in a whole nutmeg, and some lemon-peel, with two or three spoonfuls of horse-radish; stop it close, and stir it once or twice a day. It will soon be fit for use. It must be kept close stopped.
Mrs. Mason has a recipe for Vermicelli, a food she first defines for the reader:
It comes from Italy. It is a paste rolled, and broken, in the form of worms.
She also tells how to cure hams the Yorkshire, Westphalia, or New England way and there’s a whole section on meal planning that I’ll share in a later post.
Meanwhile, do you have any favorite historical cookbooks? Please let me know in the comments. I’d love to check them out!
Images: Wikimedia Commons, and GoogleBooks