Posted on

Host a Regency Tea Party

Regency Tea

Hosting a Regency Tea Party

Anna, the Duchess of Bedford, is credited with creating the ritual of afternoon tea sometime in the early to mid 1800’s as a remedy against the “sinking feeling” she felt between luncheon and the late hour of Court dinners. The practice soon caught on among her friends in the upper class circles and the rest is history.

teapot

Taking tea during Jane Austen’s day was nothing like what the term implied a few decades later with the advent of Afternoon Tea. During the Regency, Tea was produced about an hour after dinner, signaling the end of the port and cigars in the dining room and gossip and embroidery in the drawing room. The lady of the house, or her daughters, if she wished to show them off to advantage, would make and pour the tea and coffee, seeing to it that all guests were served. After tea, the family and any guests might remain in the drawing room to read aloud, sew or play games together until supper (if served) or bedtime.

Sir John never came to the Dashwood’s without either inviting them to dine at the Park the next day, or to drink tea with them that evening.
Sense and Sensibility

If dinner had been late, supper might be replaced by light refreshments served with the tea, such as toast, muffins, or cake. Tea or wine and refreshment of some sort or other would be offered to visitors who stopped by throughout the day. During the Regency, tea was also served at Breakfast and could be found throughout the day at any of the popular Tea Gardens or Tea Shops, which served tea and light refreshments for a small fee.

A formal invitation to tea always implied an after dinner gathering with some sort of entertainment whether games or music or conversation. An evening such as this might end in an informal dance if there were enough partners and a willing accompanist.

teaparty

When having friends to Tea, the most important part is, of course, the tea. Brew fresh tea of the highest quality and serve it with coffee or cocoa if you prefer. Provide an assortment of breads, rolls, cakes, cookies and sweet treats. Use your best china and entertain with a variety of period games and music. Read aloud from the works of Jane Austen and her contemporaries or have each guest read her own favorite passage.

As Anne Elliot says, “My idea of good company… is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company.”

 

If you liked this article about Regency tea parties, and would like to have your own Regency afternoon tea, you might like to have a look at our Netherfield Collection of exclusive teaware.

Posted on

Cookery for the Poor

Though now the middle of December, there had yet been no weather to prevent the young ladies from tolerably regular exercise; and on the morrow, Emma had a charitable visit to pay to a poor sick family, who lived a little way out of Highbury…Emma was very compassionate; and the distresses of the poor were as sure of relief from her personal attention and kindness, her counsel and her patience, as from her purse. She understood their ways, could allow for their ignorance and their temptations, had no romantic expectations of extraordinary virtue from those, for whom education had done so little; entered into their troubles with ready sympathy, and always gave her assistance with as much intelligence as good-will. In the present instance, it was sickness and poverty together which she came to visit; and after remaining there as long as she could give comfort or advice, she quitted the cottage with such an impression of the scene as made her say to Harriet, as they walked away,

“These are the sights, Harriet, to do one good. How trifling they make every thing else appear! I feel now as if I could think of nothing but these poor creatures all the rest of the day; and yet, who can say how soon it may all vanish from my mind?”

“Very true,” said Harriet. “Poor creatures! one can think of nothing else.”

“And really, I do not think the impression will soon be over,” said Emma, as she crossed the low hedge, and tottering footstep which ended the narrow, slippery path through the cottage garden, and brought them into the lane again. “I do not think it will,” stopping to look once more at all the outward wretchedness of the place, and recall the still greater within.
-Emma

Continue reading Cookery for the Poor

Posted on

Tea Time

In 1662 King Charles II married the Portuguese Infanta Catherine de Braganza. Charles himself had grown up in the Dutch capital, while in exile. As a result, both he and his Portuguese bride were confirmed tea drinkers. When the monarchy was re-established, the two rulers brought this foreign tea tradition to England with them. Tea mania swept across England as it had earlier spread throughout France and Holland. Tea importation rose from 40,000 pounds in 1699 to an annual average of 240,000 pounds by 1708. Tea quickly proved popular enough to replace ale as the national drink of England. It was a hot item and boiling the water made it a safe drink. Tea became the favorite English beverage after 1750.

Tea Service
A Georgian Tea Service

Tea bowl or Tea cup and saucer: Getting a handle on Tea
The first tea cups in England were handless tea bowls that were imported from China and then later copies made in England. The first saucers appeared around 1700, but took some time to be in common use. The standard globular form of teapot had replaced the tall oriental teapots by 1750. Robert Adam’s Classically inspired designs for tea sets popularized handles and other Greek and Roman motifs.

 

Enjoy a selection of delicious teas and treats in our Tea Rooms.

Continue reading Tea Time

Posted on

Setting Your Table

Mrs. Bennet had been strongly inclined to ask them to stay and dine there that day; but, though she always kept a very good table, she did not think anything less than two courses could be good enough for a man on whom she had such anxious designs, or satisfy the appetite and pride of one who had ten thousand a year. -Pride and Prejudice

Most period cookbooks offered suggested menu ideas for different gatherings and even different months of the year, based on what would be seasonable and fresh at the time. Some cookbooks even contained suggested table settings, like this one, giving hostesses and housekeepers an idea of how to fit so many dishes onto one table. A “remove” indicated just that—after being served, the dish was to be removed and replaced by another during the same course. A family dinner might consist of a single course with fewer dishes to choose from.

A period table setting example

Naturally, it would be difficult to sample every dish on the table. In the event of a dinner party, a gentleman would help himself and his dining partner to whatever dishes were placed in front of him. If something was particularly desired from a different part of the table, a footman would be sent to retrieve the dish. Naturally, this had the potential to create a great deal of noise and confusion during dinner!

In her book, A New System of Domestic Cookery, Maria Rundell suggests that,

“Vegetables are put on the side table at large dinners, as likewise sauces, and servants bring them round: but some inconveniences attend this plan; and, when there are not many to wait, delay is occasioned, besides that by awkwardness the clothes of the company may be spoiled. If the table is of a due size, the articles alluded to will not fill it too much.”

It is certainly something to keep in mind when planning your dinners!

To take one aspect of noise and confusion away, there were rules of protocol to be followed when conversing at the table. During the first course, the conversation would flow to the hostesses’ left (the seat of honor). Once the second course was laid, the hostess would turn to the guest on her right, thus “turning the table” and allowing uninterrupted conversations without anyone feeling singled or left out. As might be expected, far more casual manners prevailed during private family functions.


Adapted from  Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends, by Laura Boyle. Buy online at our Jane Austen giftshop where you will also find our delightful Pemberley Collection Afternoon Tea selection.

Posted on

Here’s To You: A History of the Toast

His leave of absence will soon expire, and he must return to his regiment. And what will then be their acquaintance? The mess-room will drink Isabella Thorpe for a fortnight, and she will laugh with your brother over poor Tilney’s passion for a month.”
-Northanger Abbey

The term “Toast” didn’t come into being until the 16th century, and possibly earlier (our original source said 17th, but Shakespeare mentions it in Merry Wives of Windsor, so thpbbtt to them!), when it became customary to put a piece of toasted bread or crouton into the drink to either improve flavor, or as sort of a built-in snack. Adding flavorings to wine was nothing new.

Spices, aromatics, honey, raisins, saffron, mint, sea water, rose petals, pepper, violets, resin and a multitude of other additives had been used to alter or improve the flavor of wine (which makes me think that the modern day fruit-flavored wine producers aren’t being all that original . . . but I digress). The toast craze, however, caught on, and soon anything found floating in a drink was called a toast.

“Drinking a toast” to someone or something became immensely popular in the 17th and 18th centuries, to the point of excess. When a gathering would run out of attendees to toast, it became custom to toast absent friends, thus prolonging the drinking. It was during this period, the heyday of the toast, that the position of Toastmaster came into being. A sort of party referee, the Toastmaster’s duty was to make sure that everyone got a fair chance and equal opportunity to offer toasts. Elaborate drinking games and toasting competitions became popular, as well as some rather gruesome customs. Impressing the ladies (or perhaps the other guys) seemed to be the motivation for most of these. Young men would sometimes stab themselves in the arm, mix their blood with their wine and drink it to the their wine when toasting a young woman to prove their devotion and prowess (hmm . . . students haven’t changed much, have they?), and the practice of drinking to a lady’s beauty from her shoe came into being, though I can’t imagine any lady being particularly amused by that.

Predictably, this excess eventually led to a backlash. Anti-toasting movements and laws began to appear, although they were largely unsuccessful. Eventually, the boisterous excess calmed down and toasting became once more an intellectual affair. Toasting clubs began to emerge and toasting evolved into a way to promote moral doctrine and patriotism, making toasting a social custom instead of a drinking one. William Jennings Bryan, a teetotaler himself, once toasted the British Navy with a glass of water, saying, “Gentlemen, I believe your victories were won on water.” British Ambassador rose and toasted, “George the Third, who, like the sun in its meridian spreads a luster throughout and enlightens the world.” He was followed by the French minister, who toasted, “The illustrious Louis the Sixteenth who, like the moon, sheds his mild and benevolent rays on and influences the globe.” Franklin then rose and toasted, “George Washington, commander of the American armies, who, like Joshua of old, commanded the sun and the moon to stand still, and both obeyed.”

We just don’t get great toasts like that anymore. Then again, nobody is asking you to thrust a bayonet in your arm to prove your manhood, so perhaps we should count our blessings.

Reprinted with permission from Scheid Vineyards: The Twisted Vine, Holiday 1999

Enjoyed this article? Browse our Jane Austen Giftshop!

 

Posted on

Regency Dinner Parties and Etiquette

Regency Dinner Parties

– Jane Austen
“The soup was fifty times better than what we had at the Lucases’ last week; and even Mr Darcy acknowledged, that the partridges were remarkably well done; and I suppose he has two or three French cooks at least.”
Mrs. Bennet, Pride and Prejudice

A Regency dinner party was quite an affair encompassing several courses with a multitude of dishes at each. Guests who sat down to eat were faced with soup, meat, game, pickles, jellies, vegetables, custards, puddings- anywhere from five to twenty five dishes depending on the grandeur of the occasion.

The first course would have been soup, which the host would supervise the serving of. When that was finished and cleared away, he would carve the larger joints of meat (mutton, beef, etc.). The Gentlemen of the party would serve themselves from the dishes in front of them, and offer them to their neighbors. If a dish was required from another part of the table, a manservant would be sent to fetch it. Fortunately guests were not expected to try every dish on the table!

When the main course was cleared a small dessert of salad and cheese was put in its place until that was cleared in favor of the second course, which was a variety much like the first including many dishes savoury and sweet. This, in turn, was cleared, the cloth taken away and Dessert was served- usually nuts, fruits, sweetmeats and perhaps ice cream.

At last the ladies would retire to the drawing room to gossip and embroider and chat for about an hour while the gentlemen enjoyed their Port in the dining room. They would then gather for tea and conversation- sometimes cards, and tea again- until the party broke up, quite late in the evening.

A period volume, True Politeness: A Handbook of Ettiquette for Ladies offers the following suggestions:

  • The hostess takes the head of the table; the seat of honor for a gentleman is at her right hand; for a lady, it is to the right of the host.
  • It is usual to commence with soup, which never refuse; if you do not eat is, you can toy with it until it is followed by fish…soup must be eaten from the side, not the point of the spoon; and in eating it, be careful not to make a noise, by strongly inhaling the breath: this habit is excessively vulgar; you cannot eat too quietly.
  • Always feed yourself with the fork, a knife is only used as a divider. Use a dessert spoon in eating tarts, puddings, curres, &c., &c.
  • If what you are eating before dessert has any liquid, sop the break and then raise it to the mouth.
  • The mistress of the household should never appear to pride herself reagarding what is on her table…; it is much better for her to observe silence in this respect, and leave it to her guests to pronounce eulogiums on the dinner.

Enjoyed this article? Browse our Jane Austen Giftshop!

Posted on

The Georgian Breakfast

The elegance of the breakfast set forced itself on Catherine’s notice when they were seated at table
Northanger Abbey

Breakfast, as we know it, was developed during the Regency. Prior to this a late morning meal of tea and coffee, rolls, breads, meats, eggs, etc. was provided around 10 a.m. Upon a visit to Stoneleigh Abbey, Mrs Austen, Jane’s mother, was known to have remarked on the quantity of food at breakfast, listing, “Chocolate Coffee and Tea, Plumb Cake, Pound Cake, Hot Rolls, Cold Rolls, Bread and Butter, and dry toast for me”.

The lateness of the breakfast hour allowed people to run many errands which we would normally consider suitable for later in the day such as a visit to the park or library. While “morning calls” were actually made to friends in the afternoon, other events did take place. Until the late 1880’s, weddings were required by law, to be morning affairs. This paved the way for Wedding Breakfasts- the ancestor to today’s wedding receptions. Breakfast and Wedding cake were served and the party broke up in the early afternoon allowing the couple time to travel to their new home or honeymoon destination.

As the working/Middle class became a greater part of society, mealtimes changed and an early meal around 8 or 9 in the morning was needed to start tradesmen and professionals on their way. This meal would have been eaten in the drawing room or dining room and would have revolved around cakes and breads such as Brioche, French bread, toast, plum cake and honey cake. Tea and chocolate were popular drinks to accompany this meal. In the Austen household, it was Jane’s job to prepare breakfast for the family around 9 every morning. The Austen’s breakfast consisted of pound cake, toast, tea and occassionally cocoa.

Jane often used the hour before breakfast for her own personal time. Her neice, Anna Lefroy describes the routine: “Aunt Jane began her day with music – for which I conclude she had a natural taste; as she thus kept it up – ‘tho she had no one to teach; was never induced (as I have heard) to play in company; and none of her family cared much for it. I suppose that she might not trouble them, she chose her practising time before breakfast – when she could have the room to herself – She practised regularly every morning – She played very pretty tunes, I thought – and I liked to stand by her and listen to them; but the music (for I knew the books well in after years) would now be thought disgracefully easy – Much that she played from was manuscript, copied out by herself – and so neatly and correctly, that it was as easy to read as print.”

Laura Boyle runs Austentation: Regency Accessories. Creators of custom made Regency Hats, Bonnets and Accessories.

Enjoyed this article? Browse our Jane Austen Giftshop!

Posted on

Picnicking, Box Hill Style

picnicking at Box Hill

Picnicking, Box Hill Style

Two or three more of the chosen only were to be admitted to join them, and it was to be done in a quiet, unpretending, elegant way, infinitely superior to the bustle and preparation, the regular eating and drinking, and picnic parade of the Eltons and the Sucklings.
-Emma

Ah! The picnic- what other meal is so synonmous with summer? Drawing it’s name from the 16th C. French pique-nique which means “to pack a trifle” picnicking began as a kind of pot luck dinner where everyone brought a dish to be shared. The word did not appear in print in English until the early 1800’s. It appears in Jane Austen’s Emma, as the neighborhood plans an outing at Box Hill. Though the word picnic commonly refers to a simple outdoor affair, viewers of A&E’s Emma (1997) can see just how much toil and work was required by cooks and servants to provide for this “fine day.”

Picnicking soon became standard entertainment after organized hunts (a good idea of this can be seen in Gosford Park, 2001) and grew in scale and grandeur. One Victorian writer, Mrs. Beeton, whose Book of Household Management appeared in 24 monthly parts between 1859–1861 lists the following as a

BILL OF FARE
FOR A PICNIC FOR 40 PERSONS

A joint of cold roast beef, a joint of cold boiled beef, 2 ribs of lamb, 2 shoulders of lamb, 4 roast fowls, 2 roast ducks, 1 ham, 1 tongue, 2 veal-and-ham pies, 2 pigeon pies, 6 medium-sized lobsters, 1 piece of collared calf’s head, 18 lettuces, 6 baskets of salad, 6 cucumbers.

Stewed fruit well sweetened, and put into glass bottles well corked; 3 or 4 dozen plain pastry biscuits to eat with the stewed fruit, 2 dozen fruit turnovers, 4 dozen cheesecakes, 2 cold cabinet puddings in moulds, 2 blancmanges in moulds, a few jam puffs, 1 large cold plum-pudding (this must be good), a few baskets of fresh fruit, 3 dozen plain biscuits, a piece of cheese, 6 lbs. of butter (this, of course, includes the butter for tea), 4 quartern loaves of household broad, 3 dozen rolls, 6 loaves of tin bread (for tea), 2 plain plum cakes, 2 pound cakes, 2 sponge cakes, a tin of mixed biscuits, 1/2 lb, of tea. Coffee is not suitable for a picnic, being difficult to make.

Things not to be forgotten at a Picnic
A stick of horseradish, a bottle of mint-sauce well corked, a bottle of salad dressing, a bottle of vinegar, made mustard, pepper, salt, good oil, and pounded sugar. If it can be managed, take a little ice. It is scarcely necessary to say that plates, tumblers, wine-glasses, knives, forks, and spoons, must not be forgotten; as also teacups and saucers, 3 or 4 teapots, some lump sugar, and milk, if this last-named article cannot be obtained in the neighbourhood. Take 3 corkscrews.

Beverages
3 dozen quart bottles of ale, packed in hampers; ginger-beer, soda-water, and lemonade, of each 2 dozen bottles; 6 bottles of sherry, 6 bottles of claret, champagne à discrétion, and any other light wine that may be preferred, and 2 bottles of brandy. Water can usually be obtained so it is useless to take it.

You can imagine the work required for such a event! By 1900 picnics had become smaller, portable feasts, such as we are used to today. No matter what the size, or occasion though, picnics remain a favorite way to spend a summertime meal, so grab a blanket and sandwich and let’s go!

Enjoyed this article about Box Hill picnicking? Browse our Jane Austen Giftshop for recipes and etiquette books!