Tea cosies

Anne here and today I’m talking about tea cosies (or cozies, if you’re American). In one sense, they’re historical artifacts but in many places today they live on — and even flourish.

What is a tea cosy, you ask? It’s a cover for a tea pot, intended to keep the tea warm for longer. (The one on the right I found on Pinterest from folksy.com but it’s sold out.)

 

Image on left: Made between 1870 and 1899, this velvet English tea cosy features beaded thistle and rose motifs as well as trim and top loops. Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

The Duchess of Bedford is credited with popularizing afternoon tea in the 1840’s, and teatime became a fashionable ritual complete with fine porcelain or silver tea services and lavish table settings.

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Wench Anniversary Picnic!

The Wenches are celebrating their 18th anniversary – welcome to our virtual Strawberry Picnic!

Yes, the Wenches have been blogging for that long and we feel it’s definitely something to celebrate. We want to say a BIG THANK YOU to all our readers and hope you’ll join us – we wouldn’t be able to carry on without your lovely comments and your incredible support!

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Historical Food Crazes

This is a cronut!

Nicola here. The latest food trend has passed me by until now but at the weekend I read about something called a “Crookie.” The crookie was preceded by the cronut and the cruffin, which for those readers like me who are clueless of food fashions, is croissant dough crossed with various other sweet foods: cookies, doughnuts and muffins. I haven’t tried any of them but I’m told they are delicious.

The fashion for trying out new things in food is as old as the human race, according to food historians. When the Romans came to Britain, they brought with them fruit such as grapes and figs and herbs including coriander, which must have been an eye-opener for British-Romano cuisine. More spices entered the British diet after the Norman Conquest of 1066, with cinnamon, cloves and saffron from Mediterranean and Middle Eastern trade.

Can you imagine the excitement in Tudor England when both tomatoes and turkeys appeared on the menu (though not necessarily at the same time?) The Italians had tried the tomato out first and weren’t too keen to start with, having munched on the leaves and pronounced them inedible (they are actually poisonous in large quantities.) Nor was the potato initially welcome. The Spanish introduced them in the second half of the 16th century. The Histoires de legumes by Pitrat and Foury states that the first written mention of the potato was a receipt for delivery dated 28th November 1567 when they travelled from Las Palmas in Grand Canarias to Antwerp. Sir Walter Raleigh brought them to England in 1588 but initially they were treated with suspicion and considered no better than animal feed. As one of my favourite meals is a baked potato with cheese, I can only be grateful that eventually they caught on. And where would we be without chips/fries?

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Easter

Anne here, and I’m thinking of the approach of Easter. I know not everyone celebrates it, and that now is also a difficult time in the world to celebrate anything, but still, we also need to focus on small things to cheer us up, and that’s what I hope to do. (On the right are carved hens’ eggs by craftsman Wen Fuliang)

For people in the Northern Hemisphere, Easter is a spring festival. In fact, in places like Britain and other countries where pagan religions ruled, the early fathers of the Christian church grafted Easter onto the local Spring festivities in order to convince the people to go with Christianity without having to give up their traditional spring celebrations. And thus the association of Easter with eggs, chickens, rabbits and other symbols of fertility.

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A Taste Of Marmalade!

Nicola here. I have a new timeslip novel coming out in a few weeks’ time, The Other Gwyn Girl. It tells the story of Rose Gwyn, the much less well-known sister of Nell Gwyn, actress, orange-seller and mistress to King Charles II. It’s also a fun co-incidence that this is the perfect time of year to make Seville orange marmalade, so this week I’ve been busy making some celebratory “Gwyn Girl” marmalade using my grandmother’s fabulous jam pan. I have to admit that I’s a bit of an irony but I am the only person in my family who doesn’t actually like marmalade! Everyone else is very keen and the Scots ancestors have a marvellous whisky version that is even more popular.

First, a bit of marmalade history, as I always like to research these things! The word marmalade comes from the Portuguese marmelada, which means “made of quince.” The first fruit preserves were made by the Greeks, who discovered that quinces cooked with honey would “set” when they were cool. Both the Greeks and the Romans made preserves out of quince with lemon, rose, apple, pear and plum. In 1524, King Henry VIII received a gift of a “box of marmalades” from a Mr Hull of Exeter. This was probably quince paste, as was the “marmalet” that was served at another Tudor wedding feast. It was said that “marmalado” as it became known, was a favourite with Anne Boleyn.

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