HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ONE AND ALL.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ONE AND ALL.
Today is Independence Day, the anniversary of that fateful day
back in 1776 when representatives of 13 British colonies banded
together in Philadelphia and signed a one-page document wherein
they declared, on behalf of their fellow colonists, the right to be free.
Happy Birthday, United States of America
The annual National ALHFAM auction. Once again, the sheer quantity
of items offered was astounding. Everything from pottery and quilts
to aprons and bonnets to books and stone-ground cornmeal:
And yes, I scored a few useful goodies that were found amongst the six
or so tables displaying silent auction items:
A side trip was taken Tuesday to Lowell National Historical Park, in Lowell,
Massachusetts, where the Kirk Boott Cotton Mill and Museum is located.
Although time was rather limited, it was still fascinating to see the replica
set-up, the working machines, the end products, and to learn about how
life would’ve been for those working (men, women, and children of all
ages) in such an environment:
The daily schedule of workers was strictly regulated:
Mill work was not for the faint of heart, as six days each week, the day
began with breakfast at 6:15 a.m. and didn’t end until nearly 12 hours
later. For all my fellow foodways enthusiasts, note that the mid-day
meal is still referred to as “Dinner”:
Modern (alarm) meets the old (fire water bucket):
Sample bolts of the fabric that were made at the Boott Cotton Mill
during the early years:
And finally, the Annual ALHFAM Presidential Banquet, which was held one
evening in the refurbished and still-working historic Union Station (c. 1911)
in downtown Worcester. As always, business attire or historic clothing were
the de rigueur:
I think I can safely say that a good time was had by one and all
during the Conference. HUZZAH!
Well, it’s been quite a day (Saturday) here at ALHFAM 2010.
I just returned from the mostly-after-dark kiln firing at Old
Sturbridge Village, which was simply AWESOME by the way,
but my report will have to wait. Must get up early tomorrow,
so am gonna try to sleep if I can (nothing new on the A/C
issue). Plus the ol’ camera battery is dead, so will have
to wait on pictures.
I will return!
Conference activities and sessions will take place in various campus
buildings. Attendees are either staying in nearby hotels or in the WSC
dorm, Wayslean Hall:
Yep, I’m a dormer. I tell ya, after my first night here…. It’s a pretty decent
dorm as far as dorms go. Modern, clean, AIR CONDITIONED. We’re all in
multi-room suites, with living area, kitchen, shared bath. Now, it’s been
more than three decades since I’ve spent any amount of time in one of
these. In fact, my 35th (yikes!) college reunion is next week, but I’m here
instead of there (hope you appreciate it, ALHFAM!). After last night, however,
well, I sure do envy those folks staying at hotels! Am not sure how long I’ll
last…or if I do…I may join them. ugh Well, one thing is definite: it’s certainly
gonna be an adventure!
More later. Gotta go see if I can find a ride out to our host site, Old Sturbridge
Village. If not, there’s always the local Yellow Cab (have used it several times
already). I’d really like to spend some time there today, if I can. Didn’t come
early to not! Besides, I HAVE to be at OSV tonight. Why, you may ask?
Because I scored a ticket to the Kiln Firing! I can hardly wait. It’s gonna
be sooooo exciting. HUZZAH!
[note to Mary: See what you're missing?! Will hopefully get LOTS of photos!]
This past Saturday, I got up really early, went
into Manhattan, and boarded a New Jersey
Transit train. About an hour and a half later,
I arrived at my destination, disembarked, and
walked a mile or so up the road. I was headed
to Historic Speedwell, to participate in a hearth
cooking class led by Susan McLellan Plaisted,
of Heart to Hearth Cookery.
Now, usually, I’d share some pictures with you.
And not to brag, but I think I take some pretty
damn good photos, yes?! Nevertheless, I’d love
to be able to present a few now. Perhaps some
of the food being prepared and cooked. Maybe
several views of the finished dishes. Even one
or two of my fellow classmates hard at work
and having fun.
Unfortunately, however, I can’t. You see, just
a few days prior to the class, everyone was
sent an e-mail wherein it was stated:
…photography is not permitted.
Now I’m sure this “new” rule is not dictated
by Historic Speedwell. I’ve taken four classes
at the site, and everyone has always been
allowed to take pictures during class. I’ve
even been there on other occasions, as well,
merrily snapping away, inside and out. No,
this is an instructor’s rule. I won’t go into it
here, but I know that to be the case. So,
despite the fact that the class and the site
are open to the public, we paid to participate,
we did nearly all the work, and we now would
like to show others (particularly folks back at
our own historic sites, or friends and family,
or heck, even blog readers) what took place,
Of course, I took my camera anyway (out of habit,
don’t you know) and got a few exterior photos
of this National Historic Landmark. (So shoot me!)
This is the building where the class was held:
The same house from the back. The class took place
in a large room just inside the lower level door (near
the center, at the bottom of the photo) at a modern,
reconstructed cooking hearth.
Here’s the building behind the one above:
Nearby is a completely restored barn-like structure,
known as the Factory Building. Inside are several
interactive exhibits that pertain to Speedwell’s role
in the invention of the telegraph. It was here that
the first successful demonstration of that ground-
breaking devise took place on January 11, 1838.
There is a working restored, 24-foot overshoot
waterwheel housed in the side extension, as well:
Another house, near the entrance:
During the hearth cooking class, seven early
19th century dishes were prepared. I mainly
worked on a curd dish called a “Devonshire
Junket.” It’s basically a pre-cheese concoction,
consisting of just the curdled milk and its whey.
A cooked cream sauce, spiced with sugar and
cinnamon, was dribbled on top. It reminded us
all of the first lines of the childhood nursery
rhyme (which naturally has British origins):
Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey….
Now I know what she was probably eating.
Minus the little creepy crawler, of course.
And I must say, I think it was the best dish
of the lot. HUZZAH!
Of course, it prompted me to do a little research
when I returned home. According to the Oxford
English Dictionary (OED), a junket is
a cream-cheese or other
preparation of cream
(originally made in a rush
basket or served on a rush
mat); now, a dish of curds,
sweetened and flavoured,
served with a layer of scalded
cream on the top. (Popularly
associated with Devonshire,
but answering to the ‘curds
and cream’ of other districts.)
In addition to a few similar receipts, I also found
quite a bit written by the late noted author,
Karen Hess,* including this marvelous line:
The English predilection
for curds is legendary.
Hess also mentions that curd dishes are members
of the same group as soft cheeses, syllabubs,
custards, and so on. Apparently, they were eaten
often during church-ordered fasting periods. As
those restrictions eased, however, they fell out
of favor, and all but disappeared at some point
during the 17th century.
Later, I discovered…um, well, uh…wait a minute…
Awww, what the hey! Rule, schmule. Yep, that’s
right, I broke it. I snuck a photo (or two). Dagnabit,
I’m gonna document my “Junket.” So, go ahead,
call the cops! Have me arrested!
Here now, is my contraband, my “stolen” treasure.
* See Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery,
transcribed by Karen Hess, p. 146-7.
Posted in Uncategorized, tagged British food history, culinary history, Hampton Court Palace, King Henry VIII, The Taste of the Fire, Tudor cooking, Tudor era, Tudor foodways on May 1, 2010 | Leave a Comment »
As you know, I finished reading The Taste of the Fire,
the Story of the Tudor Kitchens at Hampton Court
Palace, and I’ve been sharing various informative
bits with you. It’s certainly been a fascinating and
fun journey! Now, however, I must bid a fond
farewell to dear King Henry VIII and his foodways
at Hampton Court. I’m heading back “home,” back
to the early 19th century.
Before I go, however, here are a few more gobbits
(aka morsels) of information from the book:
Food supplies came
from a variety of sources,
including local farms and
gardens, town markets,
or the occasional hunt
on surrounding lands.
Much was also grown
or raised within Palace
walls. After arriving
in Hampton’s labyrinth of courtyards, it was all
then accounted for and sent along to be stored,
processed, prepared, cooked, or eaten in a series
of more than 50 different rooms, which spanned
a “staggering” 36,000 square feet.
For the most part, King
Henry VIII did not take
his meals with the other
600 or so members of his
court. Instead, he had
his own private kitchens
wherein a separate team
of cooks prepared his daily
fare, which he then ate
in private chambers that were far removed from others.
Forks were introduced
from Italy during Henry’s
reign. They were welcomed
as a cooking and serving
tool, but not as one for
eating. The King would’ve
been the only person to
have one, and he used it
mainly for eating sweet
preserves. His fellow courtiers used a Court-provided
spoon, their own knives, and their fingers. They ate
off wooden trenchers, with their napkins laid across
the left shoulder instead of the lap.
If anyone would like a copy of this marvelous,
information-packed book, just click the website
here: Hampton Court Palace.
I highly recommend it!
Water was certainly never
a problem at Hampton Court
Palace, according to The Taste
of the Fire.* After having
been collected in large basins
just three miles away at springs
on Coombe Hill, it was piped
through lead conduits under
the Thames River and then
into the Palace. The difference in elevation between
the Hill and Hampton was such that enough pressure
was created, enabling the water to be piped to the
Palace’s upper floors. This supply system worked
so well, it remained in use until the 19th century.
* The Taste of the Fire, The Story of the Tudor
Kitchens at Hampton Court Palace
The other day, I heard a supposed “expert” proclaim
that people in earlier centuries never drank any water
because it was polluted, that if they did they’d get
sick and/or die, and so they drank beer instead.
Well, I was miffed, to say the least. I squirmed
in my seat, struggling not to leap up and shout,
“No! You can’t make blanket, general statements
like that! There are so many other factors you
have to consider. It’s just not that simple!”
This rather frustrating incident reminded me
of the following passage that I recently read
in The Taste of the Fire, The Story of the Tudor
Kitchens at Hampton Court Palace:
We have an image of the past
where people avoided drinking
water in favor of ale or beer.
This was true to a certain degree,
especially when travelling. Beer
and ale use water that has been
boiled and in effect sterilized,
making them safer to drink
than water from an unknown
source. This still holds true
today, when on holiday abroad
we are advised to only drink
bottled water to avoid unpleasant
side effects! This doesn’t mean
that people didn’t drink water
and local inhabitants built up
their own resistance to many
So yes, people in past centuries drank the water.
Even here in America! Most likely, people employed
common sense. If it looked or smelled bad, they
didn’t drink it. Otherwise, no problem. Remember,
too, modern-day germ theories weren’t developed,
or believed, fully until the late 19th Century or so.
Besides, there wasn’t much else available. Most
beverages that we consume daily today were
nonexistent. Sodas, fruit juices, coffee, tea, cocoa,
and the like were unknown until later (in some
cases, much later). Milk, when not considered
a drink only for the young and the sick, was made
into one of the preserved versions of itself, namely
either butter or cheese.
Of course, there was also ale. Beer, however,
didn’t arrive in England from Europe until the Tudor
years. It proved to be a big hit! But before you think
that everyone ran around
drunk all the time, consider
this: the ingredients of ale
and beer could be adjusted,
their proportional amounts
manipulated, thus making it
strong, weak, or somewhere
in between. Nearly everyone,
including children, drank “small beer,” which had a low
alcoholic content. Beer was often made at home,
particularly in this country.
Other drinks available in England during the Tudor
period included perry, cider, and assorted alcoholic
spirits. It’s possible, however, that some of these
may have been used for medicinal purposes only;
no one really knows for sure. Wines were imported
to both Britain and America, and therefore expensive,
so they were typically consumed only by royalty or
In any event, here’s hoping we can put a stop
to these wild and broad claims that no one ever
drank any water during previous centuries.
As I mentioned previously, I’ve been reading up
on the role of food during Hampton Court’s Tudor
years in The Taste of the Fire. I’ve discovered
a treasure trove of fascinating information. For
instance, Hampton Court’s multi-room kitchen
complex was built in 1530. Its staff, numbering
at more than two hundred, worked tirelessly
to prepare twice-daily meals for more than
six hundred people. There were cooks and
Master cooks, Porters, Clerks of the kitchens,
Clerks of the Spicery, and so on.
Of course, every food item imaginable was
prepared, cooked, served, and consumed.
These included vegetables and fruits, the
latest exotic spice from the Far East and
the newest food from the Americas, meat
and fish, and confections and pastries.
The quantities of any and everything were
simply staggering. Consider:
The annual provision of meat
for the Tudor court stood
at 1,240 oxen, 8,200 sheep,
2,330 deer, 760 calves,
1,870 pigs and 53 wild boar.
And of course,
This was all washed down
with 600,00 gallons of beer.
Ahhh, the life of a king!