Happy Twelfth Night! (Five Days Early, & in the Manner of Samuel Pepys)

From Susan/Miranda:

Welcome back to the Wenches, and many thanks to Mary Jo for the Reindawgs!  We’re glad to return from our holidays, and hope yours were rich with joy, happiness, good fellowship, and other such splendid things.

While Twelfth Night is still a few days away, I’ve decided to address it today for several reasons. As the traditional (and more secular) conclusion to the Christmas season, it seems appropriate to mention it now, at the end of our own holiday break. Twelfth Night slips by virtually unnoticed here in modern-day America, but it was an important holiday in the past. Since I’m sure that my Wenchly compatriots will be discussing the celebration in various time periods, I’ll launch the Twelfth Night-ship with a look at the festivities during my (for now) favorite era, Restoration England.

Which means, of course, my first mention in 2007 of Samuel Pepys.  He’s over there to the right,Pepys1_1 wearing the stylish Indian gown he hired especially for this portrait by John Hayls (now in the National Portrait Gallery, London), and trying very hard to look as haughtily genteel and handsome as he wished he truly could have been.

For those of you firmly ensconced in other eras, Samuel Pepys was a minor administrator in the Naval Office under Lord Sandwich in the 1660s, following Charles II’s return to the throne after Cromwell’s death.  Pepys would be completely forgotten today if not for the fact that he kept a relentlessly detailed  daily diary that has miraculously survived.  Intended for his own eyes and no others (he wrote in a personal shorthand code), he describes not only momentous events in London like the Plague and the Great Fire, but also what he ate, what he wore, where he shopped, how he scolded his servants and loved his wife, and, most importantly for us today, how he celebrated Twelfth Night.

For example, in 1661, Samuel noted that Twelfth Night was celebrated on the seventh of January, not the traditional sixth.  The sixth that year fell on a Sunday, an inconvenient Sabbath for drinking and carousing, and so the celebration was shifted a day, much like Americans today casually move the Fourth of July to the fifth to make a  three-day weekend. 

In the 17th century, Twelfth Night was the day for taking down the evergreen boughs that had been put up as decorations on Christmas Eve (as Jo noted in her Christmas blog.)  Before this was done, silly songs were sung, dances danced, and games like Blind Man’s Bluff played by children, and by adults who’d drunk a sufficient amount to make this entertaining.  Samuel liked to make this a special night for his friends by hiring a fiddler for singing and dancing, and making sure there were “good fires and candles” in his house.

In 1663, he celebrated by taking his wife to the theatre: “after dinner went to the Duke’s house, and there saw Twelfth Night acted well, though it be but a silly play, and not related at all to the name or day.”  Perhaps he can be forgiven for this; Cromwell’s Puritans had shuttered the theatres for twenty years, and even Shakespeare was still a novelty to be rediscovered by Samuel’s generation.

His celebration was more subdued in 1662, when he was a guest at the house of Admiral Sir William Penn (the father of the founder of Pennsylvania): “a merry fellow and pretty good natured, and sings loose songs.” Alas, there were no “loose songs” that night, “it being a solemn feast day with [Sir William], his wedding day, and we had a good chine of beef and other good cheer, besides eighteen mince pies. . . the number of the years he hath been married.”

Eighteen mince pies sounds formidable, but even that appears to have paled besides the traditional Twelfth Night cake.  In 1668, Samuel spent twenty shillings for the ingredients alone for this cake (which in a time when common servants and laborers had annual incomes of four to six pounds, made for a costly cake indeed.)  Twelfth Night cakes were large, dense fruitcakes, with a pea and a bean baked inside.  Whichever guests found these in their pieces were named the King and Queen of the evening, and had the right to order everyone else around, apparently to high hilarity, until the party finally broke up at nearly dawn.

Twelfth_night_cakesmFor anyone who’d like to try to replicate such a grand cake, here’s the link to the recipe offered by 18th century cook Hannah Glassem on the Colonial Williamsburg site: http://www.history.org/foundation/journal/Christmas04/recipe.cfm

But in addition to the usual heavy drinking of all Restoration celebrations, it was Twelfth Night, rather than New Year’s Day, that was the time for reflection and resolutions.  Though Samuel made his nearly 350 years ago, they sound suspiciously similar to the resolutions I’ll make for myself today (except, of course, no one in the Restoration worried too much about eating less and exercising more):  “This night making an end wholly of Christmas, with a mind fully satisfied with the great pleasures we have had by being abroad from home. . . that it is high time to betake myself to my late vows, which I will tomorrow, God willing, perfect and bind myself to. . . that I may. . . increase my good name and esteem in the world, and get money, which sweetens all things, and whereof I have much need.  So home to supper and to bed, blessing God for his mercy to bring me home after much pleasure, to my wife and house and business with  health and resolution to fall hard to work again.”

So what about you?  Any grand or modest resolutions you’d like to make — and share?

76 thoughts on “Happy Twelfth Night! (Five Days Early, & in the Manner of Samuel Pepys)”

  1. OK, so I can’t resist adding a bit more about Mr. and Mrs. Pepys’s unfortunate journey from the theatre in a hired carriage: “My wife and I home, and found all well, only myself somewhat vexed at my wife’s neglect in leaving of her scarf, waistcoat, and night-dressings in the coach today that brought us from Westminster, though, I confess, she did give them to me to look after, yet it was her fault not to see that I did not take them out of the coach. I believe it might be as good as 25s. loss or thereabouts.”
    Ahh, if only we could hear his wife Elizabeth’s side of the story!

    Reply
  2. OK, so I can’t resist adding a bit more about Mr. and Mrs. Pepys’s unfortunate journey from the theatre in a hired carriage: “My wife and I home, and found all well, only myself somewhat vexed at my wife’s neglect in leaving of her scarf, waistcoat, and night-dressings in the coach today that brought us from Westminster, though, I confess, she did give them to me to look after, yet it was her fault not to see that I did not take them out of the coach. I believe it might be as good as 25s. loss or thereabouts.”
    Ahh, if only we could hear his wife Elizabeth’s side of the story!

    Reply
  3. OK, so I can’t resist adding a bit more about Mr. and Mrs. Pepys’s unfortunate journey from the theatre in a hired carriage: “My wife and I home, and found all well, only myself somewhat vexed at my wife’s neglect in leaving of her scarf, waistcoat, and night-dressings in the coach today that brought us from Westminster, though, I confess, she did give them to me to look after, yet it was her fault not to see that I did not take them out of the coach. I believe it might be as good as 25s. loss or thereabouts.”
    Ahh, if only we could hear his wife Elizabeth’s side of the story!

    Reply
  4. OK, so I can’t resist adding a bit more about Mr. and Mrs. Pepys’s unfortunate journey from the theatre in a hired carriage: “My wife and I home, and found all well, only myself somewhat vexed at my wife’s neglect in leaving of her scarf, waistcoat, and night-dressings in the coach today that brought us from Westminster, though, I confess, she did give them to me to look after, yet it was her fault not to see that I did not take them out of the coach. I believe it might be as good as 25s. loss or thereabouts.”
    Ahh, if only we could hear his wife Elizabeth’s side of the story!

    Reply
  5. Geez, Sam sounds like a typical husband. What a great blog!
    His goal to “increase my good name and esteem in the world, and get money, which sweetens all things, and whereof I have much need” sounds so much classier than “I want to get rich and famous.”
    I won’t say getting rich and famous would come amiss, but my goal is more modest: just to finish my current WIP and continue to learn about writing—which is why I’m so grateful for this site! Happy New Year!

    Reply
  6. Geez, Sam sounds like a typical husband. What a great blog!
    His goal to “increase my good name and esteem in the world, and get money, which sweetens all things, and whereof I have much need” sounds so much classier than “I want to get rich and famous.”
    I won’t say getting rich and famous would come amiss, but my goal is more modest: just to finish my current WIP and continue to learn about writing—which is why I’m so grateful for this site! Happy New Year!

    Reply
  7. Geez, Sam sounds like a typical husband. What a great blog!
    His goal to “increase my good name and esteem in the world, and get money, which sweetens all things, and whereof I have much need” sounds so much classier than “I want to get rich and famous.”
    I won’t say getting rich and famous would come amiss, but my goal is more modest: just to finish my current WIP and continue to learn about writing—which is why I’m so grateful for this site! Happy New Year!

    Reply
  8. Geez, Sam sounds like a typical husband. What a great blog!
    His goal to “increase my good name and esteem in the world, and get money, which sweetens all things, and whereof I have much need” sounds so much classier than “I want to get rich and famous.”
    I won’t say getting rich and famous would come amiss, but my goal is more modest: just to finish my current WIP and continue to learn about writing—which is why I’m so grateful for this site! Happy New Year!

    Reply
  9. “My wife and I home, and found all well, only myself somewhat vexed at my wife’s neglect in leaving of her scarf, waistcoat, and night-dressings in the coach today that brought us from Westminster, though, I confess, she did give them to me to look after, yet it was her fault not to see that I did not take them out of the coach. I believe it might be as good as 25s. loss or thereabouts.”
    —————-
    This sounds just like an argument my husband and I had yesterday on the way from his mother’s house to the airport, only the subject was his cell phone, which I had not realized became my total responsibility to keep track of simply because I’d taken it from him to plug into the charger the night before! (Fortunately my MIL lives just ten minutes from the airport, so we went back for it. Bickering all the while.)
    My resolutions for the new year? Finish the romance I’m working on by the end of May, take a few months off to research, and start my next project, an alternate history, by September. And lose weight.
    Happy New Year, everyone!

    Reply
  10. “My wife and I home, and found all well, only myself somewhat vexed at my wife’s neglect in leaving of her scarf, waistcoat, and night-dressings in the coach today that brought us from Westminster, though, I confess, she did give them to me to look after, yet it was her fault not to see that I did not take them out of the coach. I believe it might be as good as 25s. loss or thereabouts.”
    —————-
    This sounds just like an argument my husband and I had yesterday on the way from his mother’s house to the airport, only the subject was his cell phone, which I had not realized became my total responsibility to keep track of simply because I’d taken it from him to plug into the charger the night before! (Fortunately my MIL lives just ten minutes from the airport, so we went back for it. Bickering all the while.)
    My resolutions for the new year? Finish the romance I’m working on by the end of May, take a few months off to research, and start my next project, an alternate history, by September. And lose weight.
    Happy New Year, everyone!

    Reply
  11. “My wife and I home, and found all well, only myself somewhat vexed at my wife’s neglect in leaving of her scarf, waistcoat, and night-dressings in the coach today that brought us from Westminster, though, I confess, she did give them to me to look after, yet it was her fault not to see that I did not take them out of the coach. I believe it might be as good as 25s. loss or thereabouts.”
    —————-
    This sounds just like an argument my husband and I had yesterday on the way from his mother’s house to the airport, only the subject was his cell phone, which I had not realized became my total responsibility to keep track of simply because I’d taken it from him to plug into the charger the night before! (Fortunately my MIL lives just ten minutes from the airport, so we went back for it. Bickering all the while.)
    My resolutions for the new year? Finish the romance I’m working on by the end of May, take a few months off to research, and start my next project, an alternate history, by September. And lose weight.
    Happy New Year, everyone!

    Reply
  12. “My wife and I home, and found all well, only myself somewhat vexed at my wife’s neglect in leaving of her scarf, waistcoat, and night-dressings in the coach today that brought us from Westminster, though, I confess, she did give them to me to look after, yet it was her fault not to see that I did not take them out of the coach. I believe it might be as good as 25s. loss or thereabouts.”
    —————-
    This sounds just like an argument my husband and I had yesterday on the way from his mother’s house to the airport, only the subject was his cell phone, which I had not realized became my total responsibility to keep track of simply because I’d taken it from him to plug into the charger the night before! (Fortunately my MIL lives just ten minutes from the airport, so we went back for it. Bickering all the while.)
    My resolutions for the new year? Finish the romance I’m working on by the end of May, take a few months off to research, and start my next project, an alternate history, by September. And lose weight.
    Happy New Year, everyone!

    Reply
  13. I resolve to make no resolutions, since I never live up to them past May, and I hate to end a year feeling guilty.
    And so to bed. (I stayed up too late last night.)

    Reply
  14. I resolve to make no resolutions, since I never live up to them past May, and I hate to end a year feeling guilty.
    And so to bed. (I stayed up too late last night.)

    Reply
  15. I resolve to make no resolutions, since I never live up to them past May, and I hate to end a year feeling guilty.
    And so to bed. (I stayed up too late last night.)

    Reply
  16. I resolve to make no resolutions, since I never live up to them past May, and I hate to end a year feeling guilty.
    And so to bed. (I stayed up too late last night.)

    Reply
  17. On the subject of cakes, I tried making a Twelfth Night cake from Mrs. Raffald’s 1795 recipe (not much different from Hannah Glasse’s). As I cut the recipe to 1/8 of the original, I came out with a cake that looks like a paving stone (illustration here: http://www.pemberley.com/images/personal/mr_christmas_cake_2.jpg )and a heightened respect for the women in 18th century kitchens. However, I will say that it tasted pretty good and I might try it again, incorporating what I learned on this attempt.
    Happy New Year to all the Wenches.

    Reply
  18. On the subject of cakes, I tried making a Twelfth Night cake from Mrs. Raffald’s 1795 recipe (not much different from Hannah Glasse’s). As I cut the recipe to 1/8 of the original, I came out with a cake that looks like a paving stone (illustration here: http://www.pemberley.com/images/personal/mr_christmas_cake_2.jpg )and a heightened respect for the women in 18th century kitchens. However, I will say that it tasted pretty good and I might try it again, incorporating what I learned on this attempt.
    Happy New Year to all the Wenches.

    Reply
  19. On the subject of cakes, I tried making a Twelfth Night cake from Mrs. Raffald’s 1795 recipe (not much different from Hannah Glasse’s). As I cut the recipe to 1/8 of the original, I came out with a cake that looks like a paving stone (illustration here: http://www.pemberley.com/images/personal/mr_christmas_cake_2.jpg )and a heightened respect for the women in 18th century kitchens. However, I will say that it tasted pretty good and I might try it again, incorporating what I learned on this attempt.
    Happy New Year to all the Wenches.

    Reply
  20. On the subject of cakes, I tried making a Twelfth Night cake from Mrs. Raffald’s 1795 recipe (not much different from Hannah Glasse’s). As I cut the recipe to 1/8 of the original, I came out with a cake that looks like a paving stone (illustration here: http://www.pemberley.com/images/personal/mr_christmas_cake_2.jpg )and a heightened respect for the women in 18th century kitchens. However, I will say that it tasted pretty good and I might try it again, incorporating what I learned on this attempt.
    Happy New Year to all the Wenches.

    Reply
  21. Great blogs, Edith and Susan. It’s a shame, I think, that we’ve lost Twelfth Night as the celebratory end of Christmastide. We’ll keep it alive here in Wenchdom.
    It strikes me that it would make more sense to make our resolutions, if we do, on Twelfth Night rather than New Year’s Even, when we’re still in the midst of things that make keeping them difficult!
    May 2007 be joyful for all,
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  22. Great blogs, Edith and Susan. It’s a shame, I think, that we’ve lost Twelfth Night as the celebratory end of Christmastide. We’ll keep it alive here in Wenchdom.
    It strikes me that it would make more sense to make our resolutions, if we do, on Twelfth Night rather than New Year’s Even, when we’re still in the midst of things that make keeping them difficult!
    May 2007 be joyful for all,
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  23. Great blogs, Edith and Susan. It’s a shame, I think, that we’ve lost Twelfth Night as the celebratory end of Christmastide. We’ll keep it alive here in Wenchdom.
    It strikes me that it would make more sense to make our resolutions, if we do, on Twelfth Night rather than New Year’s Even, when we’re still in the midst of things that make keeping them difficult!
    May 2007 be joyful for all,
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  24. Great blogs, Edith and Susan. It’s a shame, I think, that we’ve lost Twelfth Night as the celebratory end of Christmastide. We’ll keep it alive here in Wenchdom.
    It strikes me that it would make more sense to make our resolutions, if we do, on Twelfth Night rather than New Year’s Even, when we’re still in the midst of things that make keeping them difficult!
    May 2007 be joyful for all,
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  25. “This sounds just like an argument my husband and I had yesterday…”
    “Geez, Sam sounds like a typical husband.”
    Doesn’t he, though? THEY goof up, but WE’re the ones who let it happen. *gg*
    I also think it’s positive proof that Samuel never intended his diary to be read by anyone else — but that’s also reason enough that I might make him a frequent “guest” in my blogs this year. My Christmas present to myself was the whole nine-volume un-edited edition of the diary (sheesh, is that a sorry confession or what??), so I’m sure to have plenty to draw from.
    It’s grey and rainy here in PA today — hope everyone is snug and taking well-deserved naps!

    Reply
  26. “This sounds just like an argument my husband and I had yesterday…”
    “Geez, Sam sounds like a typical husband.”
    Doesn’t he, though? THEY goof up, but WE’re the ones who let it happen. *gg*
    I also think it’s positive proof that Samuel never intended his diary to be read by anyone else — but that’s also reason enough that I might make him a frequent “guest” in my blogs this year. My Christmas present to myself was the whole nine-volume un-edited edition of the diary (sheesh, is that a sorry confession or what??), so I’m sure to have plenty to draw from.
    It’s grey and rainy here in PA today — hope everyone is snug and taking well-deserved naps!

    Reply
  27. “This sounds just like an argument my husband and I had yesterday…”
    “Geez, Sam sounds like a typical husband.”
    Doesn’t he, though? THEY goof up, but WE’re the ones who let it happen. *gg*
    I also think it’s positive proof that Samuel never intended his diary to be read by anyone else — but that’s also reason enough that I might make him a frequent “guest” in my blogs this year. My Christmas present to myself was the whole nine-volume un-edited edition of the diary (sheesh, is that a sorry confession or what??), so I’m sure to have plenty to draw from.
    It’s grey and rainy here in PA today — hope everyone is snug and taking well-deserved naps!

    Reply
  28. “This sounds just like an argument my husband and I had yesterday…”
    “Geez, Sam sounds like a typical husband.”
    Doesn’t he, though? THEY goof up, but WE’re the ones who let it happen. *gg*
    I also think it’s positive proof that Samuel never intended his diary to be read by anyone else — but that’s also reason enough that I might make him a frequent “guest” in my blogs this year. My Christmas present to myself was the whole nine-volume un-edited edition of the diary (sheesh, is that a sorry confession or what??), so I’m sure to have plenty to draw from.
    It’s grey and rainy here in PA today — hope everyone is snug and taking well-deserved naps!

    Reply
  29. The littlest wenchling sides firmly with Wench Edith… new year resolutions… bah humbug. I prefer to take life the way I write… by flying into the mist, taking what may. (But, don’t tell Nina I said that. She’s a control freak!) *GG*
    Nina, on the other hand, would like to finish the current WIP by early summer. Since 12/21, she has managed 11,000 words.
    Do love the blog Susan/Sarah. Sam sounds so very interesting. A multi-dimensioned fellow to be sure. A trait preferred over beauty, in my book anyway.
    Happy New Year, everyone!

    Reply
  30. The littlest wenchling sides firmly with Wench Edith… new year resolutions… bah humbug. I prefer to take life the way I write… by flying into the mist, taking what may. (But, don’t tell Nina I said that. She’s a control freak!) *GG*
    Nina, on the other hand, would like to finish the current WIP by early summer. Since 12/21, she has managed 11,000 words.
    Do love the blog Susan/Sarah. Sam sounds so very interesting. A multi-dimensioned fellow to be sure. A trait preferred over beauty, in my book anyway.
    Happy New Year, everyone!

    Reply
  31. The littlest wenchling sides firmly with Wench Edith… new year resolutions… bah humbug. I prefer to take life the way I write… by flying into the mist, taking what may. (But, don’t tell Nina I said that. She’s a control freak!) *GG*
    Nina, on the other hand, would like to finish the current WIP by early summer. Since 12/21, she has managed 11,000 words.
    Do love the blog Susan/Sarah. Sam sounds so very interesting. A multi-dimensioned fellow to be sure. A trait preferred over beauty, in my book anyway.
    Happy New Year, everyone!

    Reply
  32. The littlest wenchling sides firmly with Wench Edith… new year resolutions… bah humbug. I prefer to take life the way I write… by flying into the mist, taking what may. (But, don’t tell Nina I said that. She’s a control freak!) *GG*
    Nina, on the other hand, would like to finish the current WIP by early summer. Since 12/21, she has managed 11,000 words.
    Do love the blog Susan/Sarah. Sam sounds so very interesting. A multi-dimensioned fellow to be sure. A trait preferred over beauty, in my book anyway.
    Happy New Year, everyone!

    Reply
  33. I looked up the Twelfth Night Cake recipe on the Williamsburg website: it is really pretty similar to a modern British rich fruit cake, made for Christmas, weddings and other special celebratory occasions. And of course the modern recipes for Christmas pudding are much the same, too, only they are steamed, not baked, and contain suet (or a veggie substitute) rather than butter.
    🙂

    Reply
  34. I looked up the Twelfth Night Cake recipe on the Williamsburg website: it is really pretty similar to a modern British rich fruit cake, made for Christmas, weddings and other special celebratory occasions. And of course the modern recipes for Christmas pudding are much the same, too, only they are steamed, not baked, and contain suet (or a veggie substitute) rather than butter.
    🙂

    Reply
  35. I looked up the Twelfth Night Cake recipe on the Williamsburg website: it is really pretty similar to a modern British rich fruit cake, made for Christmas, weddings and other special celebratory occasions. And of course the modern recipes for Christmas pudding are much the same, too, only they are steamed, not baked, and contain suet (or a veggie substitute) rather than butter.
    🙂

    Reply
  36. I looked up the Twelfth Night Cake recipe on the Williamsburg website: it is really pretty similar to a modern British rich fruit cake, made for Christmas, weddings and other special celebratory occasions. And of course the modern recipes for Christmas pudding are much the same, too, only they are steamed, not baked, and contain suet (or a veggie substitute) rather than butter.
    🙂

    Reply
  37. AgTigress, English puddings are always…astounding to Americans, esp. when they appear in English books. In the Patrick O’Brian books, puddings are a great love of Jack Aubrey, and reading the descriptions of suet puddings with names like “Drowned Baby” and “Spotted Dick” just didn’t sound appetizing.
    Finally a mother-daughter team (Anne Chotzinoff Grossman & Lisa Grossman Thomas) published a wonderful companion book called “Lobscouse & Spotted Dog” that not only explained the mysteries of 18th century English puddings to clueless Americans like me, but also included the recipies. For example, all those pudding-words like Duff, Dowdy, Dog, and Dick are only variations of the old English term for dough, and not, well, the other, more lurid, interpretations.
    It’s much the same with the American version of “mincemeat pie” served on Thanksgiving and sometimes Christmas, that nowadays never has any meat in it and seldom even any suet. Sometimes language evolves more slowly than cooking….

    Reply
  38. AgTigress, English puddings are always…astounding to Americans, esp. when they appear in English books. In the Patrick O’Brian books, puddings are a great love of Jack Aubrey, and reading the descriptions of suet puddings with names like “Drowned Baby” and “Spotted Dick” just didn’t sound appetizing.
    Finally a mother-daughter team (Anne Chotzinoff Grossman & Lisa Grossman Thomas) published a wonderful companion book called “Lobscouse & Spotted Dog” that not only explained the mysteries of 18th century English puddings to clueless Americans like me, but also included the recipies. For example, all those pudding-words like Duff, Dowdy, Dog, and Dick are only variations of the old English term for dough, and not, well, the other, more lurid, interpretations.
    It’s much the same with the American version of “mincemeat pie” served on Thanksgiving and sometimes Christmas, that nowadays never has any meat in it and seldom even any suet. Sometimes language evolves more slowly than cooking….

    Reply
  39. AgTigress, English puddings are always…astounding to Americans, esp. when they appear in English books. In the Patrick O’Brian books, puddings are a great love of Jack Aubrey, and reading the descriptions of suet puddings with names like “Drowned Baby” and “Spotted Dick” just didn’t sound appetizing.
    Finally a mother-daughter team (Anne Chotzinoff Grossman & Lisa Grossman Thomas) published a wonderful companion book called “Lobscouse & Spotted Dog” that not only explained the mysteries of 18th century English puddings to clueless Americans like me, but also included the recipies. For example, all those pudding-words like Duff, Dowdy, Dog, and Dick are only variations of the old English term for dough, and not, well, the other, more lurid, interpretations.
    It’s much the same with the American version of “mincemeat pie” served on Thanksgiving and sometimes Christmas, that nowadays never has any meat in it and seldom even any suet. Sometimes language evolves more slowly than cooking….

    Reply
  40. AgTigress, English puddings are always…astounding to Americans, esp. when they appear in English books. In the Patrick O’Brian books, puddings are a great love of Jack Aubrey, and reading the descriptions of suet puddings with names like “Drowned Baby” and “Spotted Dick” just didn’t sound appetizing.
    Finally a mother-daughter team (Anne Chotzinoff Grossman & Lisa Grossman Thomas) published a wonderful companion book called “Lobscouse & Spotted Dog” that not only explained the mysteries of 18th century English puddings to clueless Americans like me, but also included the recipies. For example, all those pudding-words like Duff, Dowdy, Dog, and Dick are only variations of the old English term for dough, and not, well, the other, more lurid, interpretations.
    It’s much the same with the American version of “mincemeat pie” served on Thanksgiving and sometimes Christmas, that nowadays never has any meat in it and seldom even any suet. Sometimes language evolves more slowly than cooking….

    Reply
  41. On the subject of “pudding”–what I didn’t know until I lived down the hall from an Englishwoman in grad school is that “pudding” in British English can be a generic term for dessert–as in “What are we having for pudding tonight?” (AgTigress, I hope I’m remembering that correctly. . .my English friend Jane, now a Reverend Canon at Oxford, certainly used it that way!).

    Reply
  42. On the subject of “pudding”–what I didn’t know until I lived down the hall from an Englishwoman in grad school is that “pudding” in British English can be a generic term for dessert–as in “What are we having for pudding tonight?” (AgTigress, I hope I’m remembering that correctly. . .my English friend Jane, now a Reverend Canon at Oxford, certainly used it that way!).

    Reply
  43. On the subject of “pudding”–what I didn’t know until I lived down the hall from an Englishwoman in grad school is that “pudding” in British English can be a generic term for dessert–as in “What are we having for pudding tonight?” (AgTigress, I hope I’m remembering that correctly. . .my English friend Jane, now a Reverend Canon at Oxford, certainly used it that way!).

    Reply
  44. On the subject of “pudding”–what I didn’t know until I lived down the hall from an Englishwoman in grad school is that “pudding” in British English can be a generic term for dessert–as in “What are we having for pudding tonight?” (AgTigress, I hope I’m remembering that correctly. . .my English friend Jane, now a Reverend Canon at Oxford, certainly used it that way!).

    Reply
  45. Yes, that’s right, RevMelinda. ‘Dessert’ is also used, but ‘pudding’ is the more traditional term for the sweet course of a dinner.
    I wrote a whole post earlier with some thoughts about the use of recipes with dried and candied fruit, and nuts, for the midwinter and Christmas period, but it somehow vanished into the ether. But if anyone would like me to re-post a link it contained to a modern British Christmas cake recipe (very like the Williamsburg 12th Night cake), I can do so.
    And I didn’t even realise that Americans knew about mince pies.
    🙂

    Reply
  46. Yes, that’s right, RevMelinda. ‘Dessert’ is also used, but ‘pudding’ is the more traditional term for the sweet course of a dinner.
    I wrote a whole post earlier with some thoughts about the use of recipes with dried and candied fruit, and nuts, for the midwinter and Christmas period, but it somehow vanished into the ether. But if anyone would like me to re-post a link it contained to a modern British Christmas cake recipe (very like the Williamsburg 12th Night cake), I can do so.
    And I didn’t even realise that Americans knew about mince pies.
    🙂

    Reply
  47. Yes, that’s right, RevMelinda. ‘Dessert’ is also used, but ‘pudding’ is the more traditional term for the sweet course of a dinner.
    I wrote a whole post earlier with some thoughts about the use of recipes with dried and candied fruit, and nuts, for the midwinter and Christmas period, but it somehow vanished into the ether. But if anyone would like me to re-post a link it contained to a modern British Christmas cake recipe (very like the Williamsburg 12th Night cake), I can do so.
    And I didn’t even realise that Americans knew about mince pies.
    🙂

    Reply
  48. Yes, that’s right, RevMelinda. ‘Dessert’ is also used, but ‘pudding’ is the more traditional term for the sweet course of a dinner.
    I wrote a whole post earlier with some thoughts about the use of recipes with dried and candied fruit, and nuts, for the midwinter and Christmas period, but it somehow vanished into the ether. But if anyone would like me to re-post a link it contained to a modern British Christmas cake recipe (very like the Williamsburg 12th Night cake), I can do so.
    And I didn’t even realise that Americans knew about mince pies.
    🙂

    Reply
  49. Arggh! I’m sorry your post got eaten, AGTigress. Typepad seems to have a nasty habit of doing that lately…and yes, if you don’t mind, I would like to see that link to the contemporary British fruit cake.
    Current American mince pies are kind of like fruitcakes themselves — lots of cut-up dried fruit and rasins, maybe a few apples, with heavy spices. Most people’s notion of it probably comes from the jarred variety, with nary a scrap of meat or suet anywhere in the ingredients. Like most American cookery, I suspect it’s probably called various things in different parts of the country.

    Reply
  50. Arggh! I’m sorry your post got eaten, AGTigress. Typepad seems to have a nasty habit of doing that lately…and yes, if you don’t mind, I would like to see that link to the contemporary British fruit cake.
    Current American mince pies are kind of like fruitcakes themselves — lots of cut-up dried fruit and rasins, maybe a few apples, with heavy spices. Most people’s notion of it probably comes from the jarred variety, with nary a scrap of meat or suet anywhere in the ingredients. Like most American cookery, I suspect it’s probably called various things in different parts of the country.

    Reply
  51. Arggh! I’m sorry your post got eaten, AGTigress. Typepad seems to have a nasty habit of doing that lately…and yes, if you don’t mind, I would like to see that link to the contemporary British fruit cake.
    Current American mince pies are kind of like fruitcakes themselves — lots of cut-up dried fruit and rasins, maybe a few apples, with heavy spices. Most people’s notion of it probably comes from the jarred variety, with nary a scrap of meat or suet anywhere in the ingredients. Like most American cookery, I suspect it’s probably called various things in different parts of the country.

    Reply
  52. Arggh! I’m sorry your post got eaten, AGTigress. Typepad seems to have a nasty habit of doing that lately…and yes, if you don’t mind, I would like to see that link to the contemporary British fruit cake.
    Current American mince pies are kind of like fruitcakes themselves — lots of cut-up dried fruit and rasins, maybe a few apples, with heavy spices. Most people’s notion of it probably comes from the jarred variety, with nary a scrap of meat or suet anywhere in the ingredients. Like most American cookery, I suspect it’s probably called various things in different parts of the country.

    Reply
  53. Fruit cake is a continuous joke over here and I’m never sure why. Done properly, it’s yummy, especially if it was made in the summer and regularly annointed with brandy until Christmas. 🙂
    I saw a recipe here once that said to make it early but keep it in the fridge. Horrors! How can it mature like that?
    I make my own mincemeat and I could share the recipe if anyone wants, even though it’s mostly a bit or this, a bit of that. North American mincemeat isn’t “right.” It’s too liquid, too sweet, and tastes mostly of cinnamon.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  54. Fruit cake is a continuous joke over here and I’m never sure why. Done properly, it’s yummy, especially if it was made in the summer and regularly annointed with brandy until Christmas. 🙂
    I saw a recipe here once that said to make it early but keep it in the fridge. Horrors! How can it mature like that?
    I make my own mincemeat and I could share the recipe if anyone wants, even though it’s mostly a bit or this, a bit of that. North American mincemeat isn’t “right.” It’s too liquid, too sweet, and tastes mostly of cinnamon.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  55. Fruit cake is a continuous joke over here and I’m never sure why. Done properly, it’s yummy, especially if it was made in the summer and regularly annointed with brandy until Christmas. 🙂
    I saw a recipe here once that said to make it early but keep it in the fridge. Horrors! How can it mature like that?
    I make my own mincemeat and I could share the recipe if anyone wants, even though it’s mostly a bit or this, a bit of that. North American mincemeat isn’t “right.” It’s too liquid, too sweet, and tastes mostly of cinnamon.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  56. Fruit cake is a continuous joke over here and I’m never sure why. Done properly, it’s yummy, especially if it was made in the summer and regularly annointed with brandy until Christmas. 🙂
    I saw a recipe here once that said to make it early but keep it in the fridge. Horrors! How can it mature like that?
    I make my own mincemeat and I could share the recipe if anyone wants, even though it’s mostly a bit or this, a bit of that. North American mincemeat isn’t “right.” It’s too liquid, too sweet, and tastes mostly of cinnamon.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  57. Here is the fairly standard Christmas/rich fruit cake recipe, from Delia Smith, the doyenne of British cookery.
    http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/the-classic-christmas-cake,1293,RC.html
    If you go to Delia’s home page and search on ‘mincemeat’ you will also find her recipe for that – basically chopped apples, dried fruit and nuts, mixed spice and fresh nutmeg, and suet.
    Mincemeat has not normally contained actual meat in Britain for a long time – well back into the 19th century, I am sure. Like all these dried fruit and nuts confections, it MUST not be too sweet! Rich fruit cake and Christmas pudding are only very faintly sweet.
    I tend to use dark rum, rather than brandy, in my fruit cakes, and I also add marmalade (bitter, chunky marmalade) to improve moistness – a trick I got from an excellent Australian recipe.
    I agree, Jo: keeping a rich fruit cake in the fridge is bizarre and pointless. A good rich fruit cake will keep safely for at least a year in a cool place. I am sure you all know of the English tradition that the top layer of the 3- or 4-tier wedding cake was kept to be served at the first baby’s christening, expected about a year after the wedding!
    🙂
    The drink that goes best with a really dark fruit cake is whisky.
    😉

    Reply
  58. Here is the fairly standard Christmas/rich fruit cake recipe, from Delia Smith, the doyenne of British cookery.
    http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/the-classic-christmas-cake,1293,RC.html
    If you go to Delia’s home page and search on ‘mincemeat’ you will also find her recipe for that – basically chopped apples, dried fruit and nuts, mixed spice and fresh nutmeg, and suet.
    Mincemeat has not normally contained actual meat in Britain for a long time – well back into the 19th century, I am sure. Like all these dried fruit and nuts confections, it MUST not be too sweet! Rich fruit cake and Christmas pudding are only very faintly sweet.
    I tend to use dark rum, rather than brandy, in my fruit cakes, and I also add marmalade (bitter, chunky marmalade) to improve moistness – a trick I got from an excellent Australian recipe.
    I agree, Jo: keeping a rich fruit cake in the fridge is bizarre and pointless. A good rich fruit cake will keep safely for at least a year in a cool place. I am sure you all know of the English tradition that the top layer of the 3- or 4-tier wedding cake was kept to be served at the first baby’s christening, expected about a year after the wedding!
    🙂
    The drink that goes best with a really dark fruit cake is whisky.
    😉

    Reply
  59. Here is the fairly standard Christmas/rich fruit cake recipe, from Delia Smith, the doyenne of British cookery.
    http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/the-classic-christmas-cake,1293,RC.html
    If you go to Delia’s home page and search on ‘mincemeat’ you will also find her recipe for that – basically chopped apples, dried fruit and nuts, mixed spice and fresh nutmeg, and suet.
    Mincemeat has not normally contained actual meat in Britain for a long time – well back into the 19th century, I am sure. Like all these dried fruit and nuts confections, it MUST not be too sweet! Rich fruit cake and Christmas pudding are only very faintly sweet.
    I tend to use dark rum, rather than brandy, in my fruit cakes, and I also add marmalade (bitter, chunky marmalade) to improve moistness – a trick I got from an excellent Australian recipe.
    I agree, Jo: keeping a rich fruit cake in the fridge is bizarre and pointless. A good rich fruit cake will keep safely for at least a year in a cool place. I am sure you all know of the English tradition that the top layer of the 3- or 4-tier wedding cake was kept to be served at the first baby’s christening, expected about a year after the wedding!
    🙂
    The drink that goes best with a really dark fruit cake is whisky.
    😉

    Reply
  60. Here is the fairly standard Christmas/rich fruit cake recipe, from Delia Smith, the doyenne of British cookery.
    http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/the-classic-christmas-cake,1293,RC.html
    If you go to Delia’s home page and search on ‘mincemeat’ you will also find her recipe for that – basically chopped apples, dried fruit and nuts, mixed spice and fresh nutmeg, and suet.
    Mincemeat has not normally contained actual meat in Britain for a long time – well back into the 19th century, I am sure. Like all these dried fruit and nuts confections, it MUST not be too sweet! Rich fruit cake and Christmas pudding are only very faintly sweet.
    I tend to use dark rum, rather than brandy, in my fruit cakes, and I also add marmalade (bitter, chunky marmalade) to improve moistness – a trick I got from an excellent Australian recipe.
    I agree, Jo: keeping a rich fruit cake in the fridge is bizarre and pointless. A good rich fruit cake will keep safely for at least a year in a cool place. I am sure you all know of the English tradition that the top layer of the 3- or 4-tier wedding cake was kept to be served at the first baby’s christening, expected about a year after the wedding!
    🙂
    The drink that goes best with a really dark fruit cake is whisky.
    😉

    Reply
  61. Jo, you are right about most American fruitcakes. They’re the sorry butt of much holiday humor, and many times, they deserve it. An awful lot of them are so full of bad candied fruit (and not enough liquor) that they really do make better doorstops than food. I remember my mother “annointing” hers, too, carefully unwrapping the layers of cheesecloth.
    Same thing with the mincemeat pies. Too sweet, and mushy. Yet I suspect that as more and more American cooking goes the “fresh food” route (as well as the desire for the speedy recipies), the future for fruitcakes and mince pies and other carry-overs from “preserved” dishes doesn’t look good — at least on American groaning boards. *g*

    Reply
  62. Jo, you are right about most American fruitcakes. They’re the sorry butt of much holiday humor, and many times, they deserve it. An awful lot of them are so full of bad candied fruit (and not enough liquor) that they really do make better doorstops than food. I remember my mother “annointing” hers, too, carefully unwrapping the layers of cheesecloth.
    Same thing with the mincemeat pies. Too sweet, and mushy. Yet I suspect that as more and more American cooking goes the “fresh food” route (as well as the desire for the speedy recipies), the future for fruitcakes and mince pies and other carry-overs from “preserved” dishes doesn’t look good — at least on American groaning boards. *g*

    Reply
  63. Jo, you are right about most American fruitcakes. They’re the sorry butt of much holiday humor, and many times, they deserve it. An awful lot of them are so full of bad candied fruit (and not enough liquor) that they really do make better doorstops than food. I remember my mother “annointing” hers, too, carefully unwrapping the layers of cheesecloth.
    Same thing with the mincemeat pies. Too sweet, and mushy. Yet I suspect that as more and more American cooking goes the “fresh food” route (as well as the desire for the speedy recipies), the future for fruitcakes and mince pies and other carry-overs from “preserved” dishes doesn’t look good — at least on American groaning boards. *g*

    Reply
  64. Jo, you are right about most American fruitcakes. They’re the sorry butt of much holiday humor, and many times, they deserve it. An awful lot of them are so full of bad candied fruit (and not enough liquor) that they really do make better doorstops than food. I remember my mother “annointing” hers, too, carefully unwrapping the layers of cheesecloth.
    Same thing with the mincemeat pies. Too sweet, and mushy. Yet I suspect that as more and more American cooking goes the “fresh food” route (as well as the desire for the speedy recipies), the future for fruitcakes and mince pies and other carry-overs from “preserved” dishes doesn’t look good — at least on American groaning boards. *g*

    Reply
  65. Many thanks for the link to Delia’s fruitcake, AGTigress. It does in fact look like a standard fruitcake recipie — and very similar to the Twelfth Night cake.
    Would this be the same kind of cake used for that top-tier of a wedding cake? Interesting that a fruitcake would represent a “special occassion” cake, no matter what the holiday — I suppose because of the cost of the ingredients. Some things haven’t changed since Pepys’s day at all….:)

    Reply
  66. Many thanks for the link to Delia’s fruitcake, AGTigress. It does in fact look like a standard fruitcake recipie — and very similar to the Twelfth Night cake.
    Would this be the same kind of cake used for that top-tier of a wedding cake? Interesting that a fruitcake would represent a “special occassion” cake, no matter what the holiday — I suppose because of the cost of the ingredients. Some things haven’t changed since Pepys’s day at all….:)

    Reply
  67. Many thanks for the link to Delia’s fruitcake, AGTigress. It does in fact look like a standard fruitcake recipie — and very similar to the Twelfth Night cake.
    Would this be the same kind of cake used for that top-tier of a wedding cake? Interesting that a fruitcake would represent a “special occassion” cake, no matter what the holiday — I suppose because of the cost of the ingredients. Some things haven’t changed since Pepys’s day at all….:)

    Reply
  68. Many thanks for the link to Delia’s fruitcake, AGTigress. It does in fact look like a standard fruitcake recipie — and very similar to the Twelfth Night cake.
    Would this be the same kind of cake used for that top-tier of a wedding cake? Interesting that a fruitcake would represent a “special occassion” cake, no matter what the holiday — I suppose because of the cost of the ingredients. Some things haven’t changed since Pepys’s day at all….:)

    Reply
  69. Wedding cakes, Christmas cakes and Christening cakes used normally to be iced, using a layer of almond paste (marzipan) and Royal icing, which is a simple icing-sugar/egg-white mixture, and dries VERY hard. Additional decoration was piped in royal icing. This is very heavy, and a firm, solid cake is required to support it. Also, tiered cakes were normally separated, supported on columns, not stacked one upon the other, like American cakes.
    Today, the use of sugarpaste (now also used in the USA) has made it possible to ice softer types of cake, but the tradition of the rich, dark cake survives here, with the wonderful taste contrasts of fruit and icing.
    I don’t know whether the cost of the ingredients was significant. To my mind, the reason for preferring this type of cake to lighter ones is that it tastes so wonderful! I like other types of cake, too (e.g. the German Stollen), but a well-made, matured, alcohol-laced, unsweet dark fruit cake is delicious.
    🙂

    Reply
  70. Wedding cakes, Christmas cakes and Christening cakes used normally to be iced, using a layer of almond paste (marzipan) and Royal icing, which is a simple icing-sugar/egg-white mixture, and dries VERY hard. Additional decoration was piped in royal icing. This is very heavy, and a firm, solid cake is required to support it. Also, tiered cakes were normally separated, supported on columns, not stacked one upon the other, like American cakes.
    Today, the use of sugarpaste (now also used in the USA) has made it possible to ice softer types of cake, but the tradition of the rich, dark cake survives here, with the wonderful taste contrasts of fruit and icing.
    I don’t know whether the cost of the ingredients was significant. To my mind, the reason for preferring this type of cake to lighter ones is that it tastes so wonderful! I like other types of cake, too (e.g. the German Stollen), but a well-made, matured, alcohol-laced, unsweet dark fruit cake is delicious.
    🙂

    Reply
  71. Wedding cakes, Christmas cakes and Christening cakes used normally to be iced, using a layer of almond paste (marzipan) and Royal icing, which is a simple icing-sugar/egg-white mixture, and dries VERY hard. Additional decoration was piped in royal icing. This is very heavy, and a firm, solid cake is required to support it. Also, tiered cakes were normally separated, supported on columns, not stacked one upon the other, like American cakes.
    Today, the use of sugarpaste (now also used in the USA) has made it possible to ice softer types of cake, but the tradition of the rich, dark cake survives here, with the wonderful taste contrasts of fruit and icing.
    I don’t know whether the cost of the ingredients was significant. To my mind, the reason for preferring this type of cake to lighter ones is that it tastes so wonderful! I like other types of cake, too (e.g. the German Stollen), but a well-made, matured, alcohol-laced, unsweet dark fruit cake is delicious.
    🙂

    Reply
  72. Wedding cakes, Christmas cakes and Christening cakes used normally to be iced, using a layer of almond paste (marzipan) and Royal icing, which is a simple icing-sugar/egg-white mixture, and dries VERY hard. Additional decoration was piped in royal icing. This is very heavy, and a firm, solid cake is required to support it. Also, tiered cakes were normally separated, supported on columns, not stacked one upon the other, like American cakes.
    Today, the use of sugarpaste (now also used in the USA) has made it possible to ice softer types of cake, but the tradition of the rich, dark cake survives here, with the wonderful taste contrasts of fruit and icing.
    I don’t know whether the cost of the ingredients was significant. To my mind, the reason for preferring this type of cake to lighter ones is that it tastes so wonderful! I like other types of cake, too (e.g. the German Stollen), but a well-made, matured, alcohol-laced, unsweet dark fruit cake is delicious.
    🙂

    Reply

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