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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 (more…)
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An Easy but Certain Cure for Consumption

Tuberculosis, or ‘consumption’ as it was commonly known, caused the most widespread public concern in the 19th and early 20th centuries as an endemic disease of the urban poor. In 1815, one in four deaths in England was of consumption; by 1918 one in six deaths in France were still caused by TB. After the establishment in the 1880s that the disease was contagious, TB was made a notifiable disease in Britain; there were campaigns to stop spitting in public places, and the infected poor were “encouraged” to enter sanatoria that resembled prisons; the sanatoria for the middle and upper classes offered excellent care and constant medical attention. Whatever the purported benefits of the fresh air and labor in the sanatoria, even under the best conditions, 50% of those who entered were dead within five years.* Martha Lloyd’s recipe for a “Consumption Cure” no doubt refers to the more common defintion of consumption– a wasting disease and in particular a lingering chest cough. The following instructions are for a strong cough syrup, not so dissimilar from what is available today in pharmacies around the world. An Easy but Certain Cure for Consumption Two ounces of the express juice of Hore-hound, mix’d with a pint of fawn’s milk and sweetened with honey. From Martha Lloyd’s Household Book White Horehound is a perennial herbaceous plant, found all over Europe and indigenous to Great Britain. Like many other plants of the Labiate family, it flourishes in waste places and by roadsides, particularly in (more…)
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Steep a Perfect Cup of Tea

But indeed I would rather have nothing but tea. -Mansfield Park A perfect pot of tea does not begin with a mug of hot water and tea bag. The perfect pot takes time and careful planning. Start with a preheated pot or cup. This prevents the tea cooling too quickly. To warm the it, pour boiling water into the pot, swish it around, and pour it out again. Use freshly drawn or bottled, not reboiled water. Bring water to a rolling boil for approximately 10 seconds. Remove kettle from heat. Don’t boil the water for too long as this will boil away the flavour-releasing oxygen. Wait until the water is just off the boil before pouring it onto the tea. This brings out the rich aroma and avoids scorching the tea. Use one tea bag per person, or Start with 3/4 of a level teaspoon of loose tea per 6 oz. of water. Steep for 3-5 minutes, according to taste. If possible, cover the teapot with a towel or tea cosy while steeping to retain heat. Remove the tea bags or leaves If you would like to add milk (milk, not cream) pour it in the cup or mug before adding the hot tea as this will allow the milk to better blend with the tea without curdling. Sweeten as preferred or serve with a slice of lemon. Infuse (steep) green tea for two minutes, semi-black tea for seven minutes, unless instructed otherwise based on the tea you have purchased. (more…)
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The Regent’s or George the Fourth’s Punch

In her book, Tea with Jane Austen, author Kim Wilson gives a detailed account of this staple drink as it was served at all hours of the day, whether at Breakfast or after dinner refreshment and any time in between. Though often drunk on its own, tea was also an ingredient in a variety of other concotions, as shown by the following recipe, shared by “a person who made the punch daily for the Prince’s table…” The Regent’s or George the Fourth’s Punch Pare as thin as possible the rinds of two china oranges, of two lemons, and ove one seville orange, and infuse them for an hour in half a pint of thin, cold syrup; then add to them the juice of the fruit. Make a pint of strong green tea, sweeten it well with fine sugar, and when it is quite cold, add to it the fruit and syrup, with a glass of the best old Jamaica rum, a glass of Brandy, one of Arrack, one of pine-apple syrup, and two bottles of Champagnel pass the whole through a fine lawn seive until it is perfectly clear, then bottle and put it into ice until dinner is served. We are indebted for this receipt to a person who made the punch daily for the prince’s table, at Carlton palace, for six months; it has been in our possession for some years and may be relied on. Modern Cookery for Private Families, by Eliza Acton (1849) The prince regent, (more…)
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The Story Behind A Proper Cup of Coffee

A Proper Cup of CoffeeThe Rich History Behind a Proper Cup of Coffee It is rather impertinent to suggest any household care to a housekeeper, but I just venture to say that the coffee-mill will be wanted every day while Edward is at Steventon, as he always drinks coffee for breakfast. Jane Austen to Cassandra June 11, 1799 The history of coffee drinking is as colorful as any food history can be. According to the The Roast and Post Coffee Company, Coffee was hardly known in Europe before the seventeenth century. European travellers, who visited Middle Eastern countries at this time, probably visited the coffee houses, where business would be transacted, or saw street coffee peddlers carrying coffee for sale in copper pots. When these travelers returned, their reports about coffee aroused European interest in coffee. Perhaps these travelers brought back small samples of coffee beans, but the Venetians were the first people to bring larger quantities of coffee into Europe. In 1615, Venice received Europes’ first shipment of green coffee beans and the first coffee house there, Caffè Florian, opened in 1683. Coffee was known in the first half of the 17th Century in Venice and Marseille but there was no trade in beans there. Although famous for their tea drinking, the British were the first European nation to embrace the pleasures of coffee drinking on a commercial basis. The first coffeehouse was in Oxford in 1650 where it was opened by a Turkish Jew named Jacob. More opened soon after in London (more…)
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Ginger Tea

And then the tea and sugar! -Jane Austen An herbal tea, tisane, or ptisan is an herbal infusion made from anything other than the leaves of the tea bush (Camellia sinensis). Typically, herbal tea is simply the combination of boiling water and dried fruits, flowers or herbs. Herbal tea has been imbibed for nearly as long as written history extends. Documents have been recovered dating back to as early as Ancient Egypt and Ancient China that discuss the enjoyment and uses of herbal tea. Ginger, long been used to soothe upset stomachs and ward off colds, makes a wonderfully spicy and invigorating tea. With its restorative properties, it would have been a natural choice for women battling morning sickness at the start of their confinement. Lady Catherine suggests just such a “Ginger Tisane” in Jane Odiwe’s latest novel, Mr. Darcy’s Secret. Ginger Tea Pour one half pint of boiling water on a teaspoonful of ginger; add sugar and milk to taste. From How to Cook (1810) To make your own ginger tea, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Peel a 2″ piece of ginger root and cut it into slices. Add the ginger to the water and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes. Strain and enjoy! Many people like to add lemon juice or honey to their tea to enhance the flavor. As with any natural remedy, expectant mothers should check with their health care provider before consuming quantities of any herbal tisane.   Factual information from Wikipedia. (more…)
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Lemon Acid

In an age dominated by “instant” and ready made food, it is amusing to find advertisements, like the following, from the May, 1814 issue of Ackerman’s Repository, for early forms of “fast food”. In this case, the product is Lemon Acid, more commonly known as citric acid. Citric acid was first isolated in 1784 by the Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele, who crystallized it from lemon juice. Surprisingly, the “modern” convenience of on-the-go lemonade packets is actually nothing new! Modern citric acid or conventional lemon juice might answer for the acid in the following recipes. Spyring and Marsden’s Lemon Acid For Punch, Lemonade, Sauces, and other Domestic Purposes This Acid possesses all the grateful flavour of the lemon, makes most excellent Punch, Lemonade, Shrub, and Negus, instantly dissolve* in warm or cold water. It is also adapted for every purpose in cookery, where the lemon is required, such as sauces, jellies, &c. &c. The constant demand for lemons, and the difficulty of obtaining them in many places, encouraged the Proprietors to offer to the Public thiss valuable Acid, which has, in domestic use, been found superior to any other article of this description, as it not only affords the acidity, but the most agreeable fragrancy of the lemon. The convenience of this Acid for Taverns and Inns is sufficiently obvious, as it will make punch, &c. at any time of the year, equally rich as with the fruit. For balls and assemblies this elegant preparation is particularly desirable, as lemonade (more…)
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English Muffins

The entrance of the tea-things at seven o’clock was some relief; and luckily Mr and Mrs Edwards always drank a dish extraordinary and ate an additional muffin when they were going to sit up late, which lengthened the ceremony almost to the wished-for moment. The Watsons Oh, do you know the muffin man? He was a common enough character in Jane Austen’s day- even garnering a mention in Persuasion! English styled muffins (different from the modern quickbread version) were made of yeast raised dough and baked on a hot cast iron griddle. They are thought to have originated in 10th century Wales. These early muffins were the fare of the lower classes and didn’t see the fashionable tea table until the 17-1800’s. As tea became a meal in itself, many cooks tried to out do each other with elaborate pastry and iced confections. For those not given to sweets, however, English Muffins, toasted and buttered, could be just as delicious. Growing in popularity throughout the 19th century, the muffin became the “most fancied” bread on the Island and English Muffin factories sprang up all over England. Muffin men, hawking their wares in city streets, were a common sight. Because they bake so quickly, a plate of steaming hot muffins soon became a tea table staple. Served in their own silver dish, the muffins would be split, toasted over an open fire, buttered and served, sometimes with jam or preserves. English muffins and their American equivalents were also served at breakfast- (more…)