During the Regency, weddings were often held first thing in the morning with the bridal couple and their guests returning home to celebrate with a wedding breakfast, a precursor to the modern wedding reception, before departing to their new home, or perhaps on their honeymoon. A noisy family breakfast… Jane Austen’s niece Caroline (daughter of James) gave a wonderful description of her sister Anna’s wedding to family friend Benjamin Lefroy on November 8, 1814: “My sister’s wedding was certainly in the extreme of quietness… The season of the year, the unfrequented road to the church, the grey light within… no stove to give warmth, no flowers to give colour and brightness, no friends, high or low, to offer their good wishes, and so to claim some interest in the great event of the day – all these circumstances and deficiencies must, I think, have given a gloomy air to the wedding…Weddings were then usually very quiet. The old fashion of festivity and publicity had quite gone by, and was universally condemned as showing the bad taste of all former generations…. This was the order of the day. The bridegroom came from Ashe, where he had hitherto lived with his brother (the Rector), and with him came Mr. and Mrs. Lefroy, and his other brother, Mr. Edward Lefroy…. My brother came from Winchester that morning, but was to stay only a few hours. We in the house had a slight early breakfast upstairs, and between nine and ten the bride, my (more…)
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 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.
We drank tea again yesterday with the Tilsons, and met the Smiths. I find all these little parties very pleasant. -Jane Austen to Cassandra April 18, 1811 If you are traveling to the Jane Austen Festival in Bath this year, you simply must stop by the Jane Austen Centre’s Award Winning Tea Room to sample their amazing selection of Regency delights. Just reading over the menu will have your mouth watering, but what selection will you choose? Will it be Tea with Mr. Darcy or the Austen’s? Perhaps you prefer Lady Catherine’s Proper Tea. Whatever you desire, be it sweet or savoury, you are sure to find it delicious and satisfying! King Arthur Flour’s Crumpets with Apricot Jam One delightfully English offering is “Crawford’s Crumpets” (served with butter, honey and your choice of tea) According to An A to Z of Food & Drink (2002) by John Ayto, “The origins of the crumpet are mysterious. As early as 1382, Johy Wycliffe, in his translation of the Bible, mentioned crompid cake, whose name may be the precursor of the modern term, but the actual ‘cake’ itself does not bear much resemblance to the present-day crumpet. It seems to have been a thin cake cooked on a hot griddle, so that the edges curled up (crompid goes back to Old English crump, crumb, ‘crooked’, and is related to the modern English crumple). The inspiration behind its naming thus seems to be very familiar to that of crepe, which literally means ‘curled’. (more…)
Georgian Cheesecake: What came before? Our journey yesterday went off exceedingly well; nothing occurred to alarm or delay us… At Devizes we had comfortable rooms and a good dinner, to which we sat down about five; amongst other things we had asparagus and a lobster, which made me wish for you, and some cheesecakes, on which the children made so delightful a supper as to endear the town of Devizes to them for a long time. Jane to Cassandra 13, Queen’s Square, Friday (May 17) 1799 An ancient form of cheesecake may have been a popular dish in ancient Greece even prior to Romans’ adoption of it with the conquest of Greece. The earliest attested mention of a cheesecake is by the Greek physician Aegimus, who wrote a book on the art of making cheesecakes (πλακουντοποιικόν σύγγραμμα—plakountopoiikon suggramma). Cato the Elder’s De Agri Cultura includes recipes for two cakes for religious uses: libum and placenta. Of the two, placenta is most like most modern cheesecakes, having a crust that is separately prepared and baked. It is important to note that though these early forms are called cheese cakes, they differed greatly in taste and consistency from the cheesecake that we know today. To Make Almond Cheesecakes Take 1/2 lb. of blanch’d almonds pounded small with a spoonful of orange flower water, a lb of double refined sugar, 10 yokes of eggs well beat. Add the peels of two oranges or lemons (which must be boiled very tender). Then beat in (more…)
The compliments of his neighbours were over; he was no longer teased by being wished joy of so sorrowful an event; and the wedding-cake, which had been a great distress to him, was all eat up. His own stomach could bear nothing rich, and he could never believe other people to be different from himself. What was unwholesome to him he regarded as unfit for any body; and he had, therefore, earnestly tried to dissuade them from having any wedding-cake at all, and when that proved vain, as earnestly tried to prevent any body’s eating it. Emma In her Life of Charlotte Brontë, Elizabeth Gaskell, references a letter from 1812 that tells how Maria Branwell and her cousin “intended to set about making the wedding-cake in the following week, so the marriage could not be far off.” In Emma, Mr. Woodhouse is appalled by the consumption of such rich food…and in his own house! But what would a Regency Wedding cake have looked like? How was the tradition of a wedding cake even started? The wedding cake has been part of the marriage ceremony ever since medieval times. Originally they were made of wheat which was a symbol of fertility and prosperity. As a relic of once performed fertility rites, this ‘wedding cake’ would have been thrown at the bride. Around 1900 years ago the Romans began baking wheat and salt into a small cake to be eaten. During the ceremony the groom would eat part of a loaf of (more…)
“You know how interesting the purchase of a sponge-cake is to me.” Jane Austen to Cassandra Godmersham: Wednesday, June 15, 1808 During the renaissance, Italian cooks became famous for their baking skills and were hired by households in both England and France. The new items that they introduced were called “biscuits,” though they were the forerunner of what we now consider to be sponge cake. The earliest sponge cake recipe in English was recorded by Gervase Markham in 1615. These sponge cakes weren’t exactly your Betty Crocker behemoths, though – they were most likely thin, crisp cakes, more like modern cookies. Macaroons were developed during this period, as were spiced buns such as the Easter staple, hot cross buns. Recette pour la Madeleine, by MairieSY, September 19, 2003 By the middle of the 18th century, yeast had fallen into disuse as a raising agent for cakes in favor of beaten eggs. The cooks of the day must have had arm muscles like Schwarzenegger – it takes an awful lot of beating by hand to do what we can accomplish in a few minutes with an electric mixer! Once as much air as possible had been beaten in, the mixture would be poured into molds, often elaborate creations, but sometimes as simple as two tin hoops, set on parchment paper on a cookie sheet. It is from these cake hoops that our modern cake pans developed. Amazingly, it seems that the idea of cake as a dessert was particularly late in (more…)