Before Mrs. Beeton

CharlieatversaillesHi, Jo here, with Charlie at Versailles, talking about a Beeton style publication, but from 1756 not 1861. By the way, you can read Mrs. Beeton's book on line here.

The 18th century domestic expert was Mrs. Martha Bradley, and her work is The British Housewife, which I have in a six volume facsimile edition from Prospect Books. The book is organized by mBradonths and each volume contains two months. 

I was accused in the last blog of tempting you all with time-eating sites, but Prospect's catalogue is well worth a browse. Alas I can't find my edition there.That makes it an even more treasured part of my book collection.

As my Malloren books are set in the 1760s, I often refer to Bradley for foods and activities suitable to the season. The peculiar use of stonecrop mentioned in The Scandalous Countess came from Bradley, as did the proper way of treating quince, which Georgia demonstrated at Danae House.

A side comment about the interpretation of novels.

A belated review of A Scandalous Countess quibbled with the Danae House scene as being there to show that Georgia wasn't totally self-centered. I don't think her totally self-centered, but the scene was there to illustrate the complex life of a high-born lady of the time. She was expected to be a patron of the arts and charities, as were the gentlemen. Not to be involved at all would have been seen as crass.

Quince_cut(The image of a quince is from this blog, and there's a page about quince.)

I thought it was clear that Georgia wasn't an enthusiastic do-gooder, but merely doing her symbolic duty and giving money until a minor crisis obliges her to inspect the water supply. The character aspect revealed was that a) she answered the call to of duty, and b) she had been trained in household management and so had some competence, but little true interest. Thus later in the book, when she faces managing Dracy's property, it is a real challenge.Ascansm

I know that every reader brings themselves to the book, but it's a bit frustrating when information in the text is overlooked, and it makes me wonder if sometimes it would be better to be bluntly didactic. Any opinion on that? If you've read Scandalous Countess, how did you see that scene? 

Back to Martha Bradley

There's very little on line about her, which is a shame. Like Eliza Beeton, Mrs. Bradley wrote a weekly piece which was then compiled into a book. The weekly pieces seem to have been published entire, not in any magazine. The "January edition of The Gentleman's Magazine has an advertizement for The British Housewife No 1. To be continued weekly. 3d." (This information from the excellent introduction to the six volume facsimile written by the compiler, Gilly Lehman.)

It is a fascinating book in many ways, but I don't have space for its history or organization. I'll probably share bits in future blogs. Today I'll provide one item from April that raises a question.

A Wedding Supper

This is the illustration at the beginning of the volume (click to enlarge), showing the table lay-out. As was the norm at the time, the dishes are all laid out, which meant a great deal of serving of oneself and others at the meal. Though chaotic, this must have been very sociable and even fun, if the company was good. As it was a supper, however, it's possible this was a buffet.

My question is "wedding supper?" Except by special licence a wedding had to take place in the morning, so "wedding breakfast" would seem more suitable. However, in The History of Sir Charles Grandison, by Richardson, we have an account of a wedding which progresses through dinner in the afternoon with music and dancing to supper at midnight and guests leaving at 2 am. There is something similar in The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, by Smollett.

If anyone knows more about this, I'm eager to know!

The Dishes

Down the center of the table are the dessert dishes: two pyramid of sweetmeats, with jellies of all sorts between them, doubtless prettily arranged.

The main dishes down the left side are: 6 turkey chickens larded, hasht patties, tarts, sturgeon, oyster loaves, and pheasants larded. A set of smaller dishes in the middle are french beans, tongue, asparagus, petit patties, and probably coxcombs.

On the right the large dishes are: Partridges larded, oyster loaves, souced salmon, cheesecakes and custards, chickens a la creme with lettice (sic), 5 wild rabbits half grown larded. The small dishes on this side are identical to those on the other.

There are two other sets of small dishes each containing mushrooms, fat livers, peas, sweetbread, and a pupton oy quinces.

Though a bit short on veggies, there was something for everyone. What three dishes would you make a grab for, given the chance? Which would you avoid?

I couldn't find a recipe in the books for a pupton of quinces, but if you have time and ambition, here's the modified instructions for

A pupton of apples.

Pare 18 good apples, peel and core.Simmer them with a little water and 5 ounces of sugar until they're tender, then add half a teaspoon of sugar. (Apple sauce, I thought. But that's only the beginning.)

Cook them a little longer until thick, then put in a bowl to cool.

Grate some bread very fine and beat six egg yolks. Mix the eggs with 4 ounces of butter and some of the crumbs.Mix into the cold apples and put into a baking dish and put into a slow oven (ie low, but you'll have to guess) for about half an hour. You should then be able to turn it out onto a dish and should serve it hot with extra butter in a dish and fresh parsley.

Bon appetite!

There's no particular connection, but I'll give a copy of The Secret Duke to one commenter on this blog. Have at it!

Happy spring,