A Loverly Bunch of Coconuts

Coconut wikijoanna here,

“I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts
There they are a'standing in a row
Big ones, small ones, some as big as your head
"Give 'em a twist, a flick o' the wrist,”
That's what the showman said!

“I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts
Every ball you throw will make me rich
There stands me wife
The idol of me life
Singing, "Roll up, bowl a ball, a penny a pitch!"
1944 song

The song celebrates the coconut shy, a traditional game at funfairs and fêtes. The mark – that is to say, the customer –  throws a wooden ball at a row of coconuts balanced on posts. Typically a player buys three balls and wins each coconut he dislodges.

My knowledge of this game is based on the cynical warning from Midsomer Murder’s Chief Inspector Barnaby that the shy’s coconuts will be far too old to eat.

Wiki commons

The "coco" in coconut might come a word for "head" or "skull"




While we thus know coconuts were common in the UK in 1944 – edible or not – we may be unsure as to exactly when they did show up.

Are they a Regency treat?
Can our Regency ingenue be delighted by her first taste of crisp, sweet coconut flesh?

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An English Breakfast (and one that isn’t)


Wench eggs

Breakfast … sometimes eggs are all you need

Joanna here.

I’m about to sit down to breakfast at the hotel. Nothing too fancy. Generally speaking it’ll be toast or a bagel, some kind of egg, and some bitty piece of meat which might come in the form of a bacon slice or two. Possibly some sausage. And coffee. Lots of coffee with a healthy leavening of half and half.


So I’m asking myself how this would be different for my Regency protagonist — assuming my Regency protagonist was a middling sort of person like a merchant’s daughter or a member of the petty gentry or the offspring of a prosperous yeoman farmer. The Vicar’s daughter. The apothecary’s kid.

 Picture my intrepid heroine sitting there, stoking the fires for a long day of being kidnapped and fighting her way free from some sordid den of thieves with nothing to aid her but a folding penknife and her native sneakiness.




Wench family breakfast 3

Family at breakfast with tea and what looks like scones maybe

My young woman’s probably eating at a table with a half dozen other folks. The solitary breakfast in bed would be less common for my middling sort than for richer, more leisured, aristocratic folks. Jane Austen (and her Elizabeth Bennet) probably ate breakfast in the dinning room with her family instead of sending the poor kitchen maid running about with trays.

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The Little Matter of Chocolate Pots


Wench The Chocolate Maiden; M. Beaune; Museums Sheffield

The Chocolate Maiden carrying water and hot choc

Joanna here, talking about chocolate pots in the Eighteenth and early Nineteenth Century, which is a small and very specific topic, but it possesses a certain naïve charm.

The whole sweeping history of chocolate is a huge ocean upon which I do not feel ready to embark when I am still (endlessly) in the midst of moving household. So we’re just going to look in at one of the tiny islands in that sea. If Georgian chocolate drinking were Homer’s Odyssey, looking at chocolate pots would be like visiting Calypso’s Isle. A manageable bite, as it were, and we don’t meet the Cyclops or get turned into pigs, which makes it a good day by anyone’s calculation.

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A tasty slice of culinary history

Picture_019Andrea/Cara here, feeling in a pizza state of mind today. (There is a reason for this, but honestly, does one really have to a have a specific reason? I mean, who doesn’t like pizza?) I’ve been spending time in New Haven, Connecticut recently, as I mentor freshmen students as they arrive for their first semester at college. I find it really rewarding to help students navigate such a huge change in life as they begin to decide on courses, extracurricular activities, and just how to adjust to roommates and living away from home. And I love the intellectual energy and excitement of a university town, with all its museums, libraries and cultural offerings. But in the spirit of full disclosure, I also love spending time in New Haven because it has the best pizza anywhere. Bar none.

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The Ritual of Tea …

One of the great ceremonies of Regency life, one that defined gentility, was the taking of tea.
The Regency is sorta midway in the story of tea in England. We’re past the Seventeenth and early Eighteenth Century with its careful, stingy measuring of tea by the mistress of the household, the leaves locked up safe in a decorative caddy. We haven’t reached the Victorian era where tea was the daily drink of every working man and city housewife.