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Archive for March, 2010

Previously, I mentioned that one of the many reasons I thoroughly enjoy
“The Supersizers Go Regency” series of videos is because the two travelers
waltzing through centuries of British foodways “live” in the truly sumptuous
Trafalgar House. Now, having admitted this, perhaps you’re wondering,
“Have you ever been there?”

In a word: “YES!”

Even I’m amazed.

So, how did I end up at this grand and glorious Georgian-era country
house? Well, it took some doing, and it wasn’t easy.

Beginning in 1998 (through 2001), I had the marvelous opportunity
(thanks Mom!) to go to England for about one week or so during
the summer. At the time, my passion was seeing the country houses
and other buildings and locations that were used in all those various
Jane Austen-based films. Each year, with London as my home base,
I would take the train out into the countryside to see as many sites
as possible in a day. I had some marvelous experiences every time.

As to Trafalgar House, well…it’s nigh impossible to find! It’s not part
of Britain’s National Trust. It’s not on any map or any list of “places
to visit.” It’s not mentioned in any guide books. Or, at least, it wasn’t
at the time. And yet, I sooooooo wanted to see it. The House stood in
for Barton Park in the Emma Thompson-penned Sense & Sensibility
and for Hartfield in the version of Emma starring Kate Beckinsale.
I vaguely knew it was somewhere in Wiltshire and kinda, sorta, near
Salisbury. But where, exactly? How do I find it? More importantly,
how do I get there?!

Then one day in the summer of 1999, I got on a train in London and
headed out to Salisbury, Wiltshire, in order to tour Wilton House:

It’s where the famous Cube and Double Cube rooms are located. Both
are often used for ballroom scenes. I got off the train and nabbed a taxi
outside the station. The driver and I got to talking, and I mentioned my
quest to see Trafalgar House. Well, lo and behold, bless my lucky stars,
and praise dear Jane for my serendipitous good fortune, this chap KNEW
of it. Not only that, he knew EXACTLY WHERE it was located and HOW
to get there. Even better, he was willing to drive me!

I’d just won the lottery. Several times over!

So, we agreed, I’d first visit Wilton House; then when ready, “ring”
him and he’d return to drive me to Trafalgar House. He gave me his
“mo-bile” number, and off I went. When I’d had enough of Wilton and
its grounds, I called him, and shortly we were on the way to see my
holy grail of country houses. THE Number One on my “must-see” list.
I was excited beyond words!

Trafalgar House is off the beaten path, that’s for sure. It’s buried deep
in that lovely verdant English countryside. We drove for quite some time
until, finally, we pulled into a driveway. Yee-Haa! We’re here! Oh, wait.
There’s a gate. And it’s locked. dagnabit. Ahh, but my intrepid driver says,
“Guess we’ll try the other entrance.” Say what?! There’s a second way in?
And you KNOW IT?! So, he drives a little farther, pulls into another drive,
where, wouldn’t you know it, was yet ANOTHER gate. And it was closed.
But wait, at least it didn’t appear to be locked. “What do you want to do?”
the driver asked. Well, I certainly hadn’t come all this way to be stopped
by some silly gate. No way. I was going to SEE Trafalgar House. So, I said,
“I’ll get out, open the gate, you drive on in, then I’ll close it, get back in,
and we’ll drive on up to the house.”

And so we did. The driver stayed in the car, but warned me to be careful
and to watch out for any dogs. I told him I would, but if he heard any shots,
or me screaming, he’d know I’d been caught! I got out and walked all around,
front and back, taking photos, soaking up the atmosphere, and just reveling
in being there. It was absolutely wonderful. Well worth “sneaking in.”

Finally, it was time to go. As we followed the above procedure, only in reverse,
and drove away, the driver warmly proclaimed, “You’re one plucky lady!”

Below, Trafalgar House:
***SIGH***
I had arrived.
It was heavenly.

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[NOTE: It’s 2010, so of course, NOW Trafalgar House, or Trafalgar Park,
as it’s now known, has a website. You, too, can visit. Or even rent it!]

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Several weeks ago, the Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum was featured
on an episode of “Sunday Arts,” a weekly program produced by New
York City’s PBS station, WNET-Thirteen. Click here for your own
up close and personal look at a true treasure, namely Wyckoff,
the City’s oldest house and its first designated Historic Landmark.

HUZZAH to the staff at Wyckoff, especially Senior Docent Lucie Chin!

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Was sorting through some photos when I came across these of another
nutmeg grater I purchased awhile back. I’d forgotten all about them.
At about three inches long, this acorn is a bit larger than the barrel-
shaped grater I showed last summer. In fact, I think it’s the largest
of all my “portable” non-metal nutmeg graters. I particularly like
the shape!

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William Kitchiner, M.D.

I often write here about cookbook
authors of centuries past stealing,
er, “borrowing” from others’ works.
Yep, plagiarism ran rampant. Well,
I’ve discovered yet another example.
Dr. William Kitchiner’s (1775-1827)
lovely Wow Wow Sauce, as seen in
the first episode of “The Supersizers
Go Regency
” videos, is also in The Cook’s
Own Book
, by A Boston Housekeeper
(aka Mrs. N.K.M. Lee), which was published in 1832 in Boston, MA.

However, all is not quite as bad as it seems. Although the receipt
(or any others, for that matter) is not attributed to Dr. Kitchiner
specifically, his book was given a general credit on the book’s
title page. There we find the following:

The Cook’s Own Book:
Being a Complete
Culinary Encyclopedia:
Comprehending All Valuable Receipts
for Cooking Meat, Fish, and Fowl,
and Composing every Kind of
Soup, Gravy, Pastry, Preserves, Essences, &c.
That Have Been Published or Invented
During the Last Twenty Years.
Particularly the Very Best of Those in the
Cook’s Oracle, Cook’s Dictionary….
(emphasis mine)

Aha! Our “Boston Housekeeper” tells us that she indeed took
from other works, and thus created this compilation of receipts.
Finally, kinda, sorta, an honest author. HUZZAH!

But wait, there’s more. At the end of her Preface, the author
added this note:

The articles which follow, on Roasting, Boiling, &c.
are selected from the Cook’s Oracle.

I suppose, one way to look at such borrowing, particularly in this
case, is that Kitchiner’s work is worth repeating, so it deserves
to be copied. And although he’s not mentioned by name, at least
his book is. I suppose, too, that since The Cook’s Own Book is
meant to be a “complete culinary encyclopedia,” it’s only natural
that material from other sources be included. Still…what else
was used that ISN’T attributed? In the end, I guess “Cook’s”
gets an “A” for effort, but it could’ve done more.

Speaking of Kitchiner, for an excellent biography, I highly recommend
Dr. William Kitchiner, Regency Eccentric, Author of The Cook’s Oracle,
written by Tom Bridge and Colin Cooper English, that was published
by England’s Southover Press in 1992.

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Yes, indeedie, there really is a lovely little condiment known
as “Wow Wow Sauce.” Our intrepid travelers through centuries
of British Foodways, Giles and Sue, enjoyed it with beef during
their first dinner at Trafalgar House in the initial episode
of “The Supersizers Go Regency.”

Here’s the receipt (recipe), from The Cook’s Oracle (1817),
as “Instituted in the kitchen of William Kitchiner, M.D.”:

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Wow Wow Sauce for Stewed or Bouilli* Beef—(No. 286).

Chop some Parsley-leaves very finely,
quarter two or three pickled Cucumbers,
or Walnuts, and divide them into small
squares, and set them by ready;—put
into a saucepan a bit of Butter as big
as an egg; when it is melted, stir to it
a table-spoonful of fine Flour, and
about half a pint of the Broth in which
the Beef was boiled; add a table-spoonful
of Vinegar, the like quantity of Mushroom
Catchup, or Port Wine, or both, and
a tea-spoonful of made Mustard; let it
simmer together till it is as thick as you
wish it, put in the Parsley and Pickles
to get warm, and pour it over the Beef,
—or rather send it up in a Sauce-tureen.

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*Bouilli: French for boiled meat

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For a bit of education, some hilarious moments, and a jolly
good entertaining look at English food of the Regency period
watch these videos:

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There’s a whole series of these, covering numerous time periods
in British foodways, from the Reformation to the groovy 1970s.
This one is my favorite, probably because it correlates so well
with the years I interpret during my own cooking workshops
and demonstrations. Well, that, and the fact that I just adore
the locations (the English countryside and the city of Bath!),
the houses (OH! OH! Trafalgar House!), and the clothing
(particularly the mens’ look…yowza!).

In addition, I’m very familiar with all of the cookbooks, their
receipts and ingredients, the equipment and all, that’re used.
What really amazed me, though, was that I know well such
cookbook authors as Hannah Glasse and Robert May and
others, I’ve used their works, know what syllabub means
and what issinglass is, I’ve cooked and eaten many of the
very dishes prepared and served throughout each group
of videos. I know it all so well. I feel right at home. That is,
until the wild ’70s clips. Good golly! I had no clue WHAT
they were talking about or WHAT they were cooking or
eating. Squeaks, bangers and mash…it’s all a bloomin’
foreign language!

In any case, I hope you enjoy this series with the lovely
Giles Coren and Sue Perkins. Go to YouTube, type in
“Supersizers (don’t get why they use that word) Go
Regency” or “Go Elizabethan” or whatever time period
you’d like to see. Although each is about an hour long,
they’re shown in short episodes of roughly 10 minutes,
so you may need to keep clicking to the next one.

Incidentally, don’t miss food historian extraordinaire
Ivan Day’s appearance in the “Victorian” segment.
There’s always a period-appropriate meal with various
invited guests, and he’s one of them.

Enjoy!

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Yes, briefly digressing, once again….

As many of you may recall, late last spring I introduced Mystery-Kitty,
the stray cat that’d taken up residence in my back yard.

Well, I’ve taken her into my home. HUZZAH!

Actually, I did so way back in October of ’09. One night, she suddenly
appeared out front. So I gave her some food…in my foyer…and it was
very easy to just shut the door behind her and…I did. She didn’t panic
or cry or fight to get out. And so now, she’s mine.

Soon we took a trip to the vet, who confirmed that, yes indeed,
she IS a she, she’s been spayed, she is about five years old,
and she’s a Tortoise Shell-Calico-Tabby mix.

And so, now my outdoor cat has become an indoor cat.
Which is lucky for her, what with the winter we just had!

Hey, sweet-pea!

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