Thursday, November 25, 2010

Regency Dinner Parties and Etiquette

Regency Dinner Parties and Etiquette

"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

Dinner during the Regency 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.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sould I Clean My Teapot?

Should I clean my Teapot?

This is an age old question.  Tannin builds up on the inside of the teapot when it is just rinsed out, should this be left or not?

Many years ago, in my late tees, I lived in Paisley, Scotland.  During this time I had a part-time cleaning job at Arnott's  department store.  In the basement of the store all us cleaning ladies (think of Ena Sharples with her hair wound up in a scarf or Rosie the riveter);  I was the babe, had a little gas ring and sitting area, I would hardly call it a kitchen, and here we would take an early morning break, as we went in at 6:00 am; and brewed up tea.  These ladies where definitely of the opinion that tannin remained in the teapot and added to the taste.

I must admit that my little kitchen teapot is mostly just rinsed out, and therefore leaves the tannin in the teapot.  I always brew up an Assam tea in this pot, so therefore it is not necessary to scrub it out.

If I drink a different tea, and want the pure taste of the tea, then I will get out a different teapot.  To get the pure taste of teas such as a white, green or oolong tea you would want to start with a tannin free clean teapot.  A white tea is far to smooth and delicate to brew in a tannin blackened teapot.


P.S.  "The Messages":  It took me one month with these dear ladies to figure out what getting the messages meant.  Every day someone would say "after work I have to get the messages."  Well as a girl bought up south of the border, I had to wonder why they had so many messages to pick up and where they picked them up.  Eventually I twigged that it meant food shopping.  If you shopped for clothes and household items that was shopping, but if you went for groceries, that was "the messages."

Ena Shaples as seen on Coronation Street

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Georgian Breakfast

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." 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

No Drip Teapot

Look, no spills: Debenhams lays claim to solving vexed question of the dripping, cafe teapot

  non-drip teapot

No drips: At last, a way to take the mess out of making a cuppa
They are two of the nation's best-loved traditions.
But drinking tea while grumbling about the perpetual dribble from the teapot could become a thing of the past.
After receiving a storm of complaints about its dripping pots, cafe bosses at a department store turned to scientists for a solution.
They have unveiled the tea lover's holy grail - a simple stainless steel teapot which promises to pour without a drip.
Yesterday the Daily Mail road-tested the product and the results were impressive. With the pot filled to the brim our tester filled up several cups without a drop spilt.
The tea flowed out evenly and the lid remained firmly in place.
The Debenhams design can now be seen in action - and appreciated - in the chain's 110 restaurants.
The store says the secret of the non drip comes from a larger spout which helps the tea flow better, a metal plate placed inside the pot to stop the teabag blocking the spout, and a redesigned lid.
Designers have repositioned the lid at the rear so it will not swing open when you are tipping the pot.
Debenhams has ordered 10,150 pots and may consider putting them on sale.
Food director Peter Barrett said: 'We want our customers to be able to relax in our restaurants and cafes and not have to worry about tea spilling on to the table or themselves.
non drip teapot.jpg

'We all know how annoying it can be when tea dribbles from the spout and you have to wipe it up.
'These teapots are a one-and-a-half cup size and prove a perfect vessel for our quality tea. It provides the perfect cuppa for our customers.'

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Regency Desert Course

With Sugar on Top, the Regency Desert Course

When the dessert and the wine were arranged, and Mrs Dashwood and Elinor were left by themselves, they remained long together in a similarity of thoughtfulness and silence.
Sense and Sensibility

In the 18th and 19th century, a formal dinner was looked upon as more than a fine meal. It was a sort of grand show. The finale of the meal--dessert--was the most elaborate and expensive course of the dinner; and it required a knowledgeable confectioner to create the spectacular dessert displays of the day. The dessert fare included biscuits in great variety and macaroons served for dipping into sweet wines and liqueurs. Sugar biscuits that were closely related to meringues and gimblettes de fleurs d'orange that were large knotted biscuits were popular. The most fashionable dessert--ices--were presented in little serving cups known as tasses à glaces and came in a variety of flavors including: pistachio, barberry, and rye bread.
The table was decorated with sugar-paste (pastillage) sculptures in forms such as cherubs and architectural shapes that recreated a garden or exotic locale in miniature. The display might decorate the dinning table throughout the dinner or grace a special dessert table in another room. This centerpiece was known as a plateau. It was generally placed on a mirror to increase the light and would include such items as temples and all the features usually found in a garden such as decorative pattern hedges (parterres) and flowers all created in sugar.
The sugar-paste sculptures might be made by pressing the sugar mixture into elaborately carved wooden molds or by carving. Thus the confectioner would own an array of molds and special carving tools.
In addition to the table centerpiece decorations, each guest would find a tiny molded sugar basket filled with bonbons or 'jeweled fruit' beside their place setting. Even the place card might be a sugar sculpture, often in the form of the coat of arms of the guest.
The confectioner's expensive and ethereal sugar-paste art began to be replaced by durable unglazed porcelain, known as biscuit, which looked very like sugar-paste. The French Vincennes/Sèvres porcelain factory began producing biscuit table figurines around 1751. By 1790, the Danish court owned a collection of 850 pieces of porcelain meant to decorate the dessert table ranging from the ubiquitous pavilions, statues, and urns to cascades and warships.

The Prince of Wales had a separate confectioner's kitchen in his Brighton Pavilion and kept three confectioners on his staff so that he could entertain in the finest style.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Picnic Time

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” picnics 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.

Picnics 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

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.

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!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Tea Time

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 bowl or Tea cup and saucer
or 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.

Two meals or Three
At first tea was served in the drawing room after dinner, and as one of several beverages offered callers. Tea in the afternoon served with other foods as a snack or meal is believed to have originated from Anna, 7th Duchess of Bedford, in the early 1800s. Prior to the introduction of tea into Britain, the English had two main meals: breakfast and dinner. Breakfast was ale, bread, and beef. Dinner was a long, massive meal at the end of the day usually around 8 o'clock. It was no wonder that she experienced a "sinking feeling" in the late afternoon. With tea's popularity it was the most likely choice as the beverage for this new meal, but given that Anna's brother Viscount Petersham was a great tea aficionado whose sitting room contained canisters of tea in great variety coffee and chocolate didn't have a chance.

The Duchess invited friends to join her for an additional afternoon meal at five o'clock in her rooms at Woburn Abbey. The menu centered around small cakes, bread and butter sandwiches, assorted sweets, and, of course, tea. This summer practice proved so popular, the Duchess continued it when she returned to London, sending cards to her friends asking them to join her for "tea and a walking the fields." (London at that time still contained large open meadows within the city.) Other social hostesses quickly picked up the practice of inviting friends to come for tea in the afternoon.

High or Low
Traditionally, the upper classes serve a "low" or "afternoon" tea around 4:00 PM just before the fashionable promenade in Hyde Park, at which one might find crustless sandwiches, biscuits, and cake. Middle and lower classes have a "high" tea later in the day, at 5:00 or 6:00. It is a more substantial meal essentially, it's dinner which includes bread, meats, scones, and cake. A typical menu at High tea would consist of Roast pork, stand pie, salmon and salad, trifle, jellies, lemon-cheese tarts, sponge cake, walnut cake, chocolate roll, pound cake, white and brown bread, currant teacake, curd tart and cheeses. The names derive from the height of the tables on which the meals are served. Low tea is served on table, which in the United States would be called "coffee tables." High tea is served on the dinner table.

"Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea."
~Henry Fielding~

A Hostess's Duties

The butler and footmen having brought her the necessary tools: tea caddy, teapot, hot water urn and heater, and teacups; the mistress of the house brewed the tea. First she mixed her favorite blend or selected a premixed blend. To brew tea, hot water was poured into the teapot and allowed to sit a few minutes to warm the pot. The water was then poured out into a waste bowl, tea placed into the pot, and boiling water poured over the tea. This was steeped five to eight minutes. The tea leaves were strained out with a tea strainer placed atop each china cup as the cup of fresh tea was poured. Only one round of tea was made at a time, as tea loses flavor rapidly. Each pot was made with fresh tea. The social critic Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, the Marquise de Seven makes the first mention in 1680 of adding milk to tea. Sugar from the plantations in Jamaica might also be added. English sugar consumption reached 12 pounds per capita per year in 1780. It had been 4 pounds in 1700. English crumpets and Scottish scones quickly became associated with the snack. Crumpets might be toasted in the fireplace on the tongs of a long handled toasting fork, buttered, and placed on a plate on the hearth to keep warm.

By the 1840's these teas were grand enough for a buffet table to be set up with refreshments. Cakes, thin bread and butter, fancy biscuits, ices, fruits and sandwiches comprised the food, while big silver urns dispensed tea, coffee, wine claret cup, sherry and champagne-cup. In early Victorian days, sandwiches were made only of ham, tongue or beef. By the 1870s, cucumber sandwiches were being served regularly.

Tea Gardens
Experiencing the Dutch "tavern garden teas", the English developed the idea of Tea Gardens. Here ladies and gentlemen took their tea out of doors surrounded by entertainment such as orchestras, hidden arbors, flowered walks, bowling greens, concerts, gambling, or fireworks at night. Some famous London tea gardens were Vauxhall and Ranelagh.

Tipping as a response to proper service developed in the Tea Gardens of England. Small, locked wooden boxes were placed on the tables throughout the Garden. Inscribed on each were the letters "T.I.P.S." which stood for the sentence "To Insure Prompt Service". If a guest wished the waiter to hurry (and so insure the tea arrived hot from the often distant kitchen) he dropped a coin into the box on being seated "to insure prompt service". Hence, the custom of tipping servers was created.

The Tea Council's Guide To The Best Tea Places in England

This was another gift, the Tea Council's Guide To The Best Tea Places in England.

I am going to share one with you from the village of Lavenham in Suffolk, not too far from where my sister lives.

The Swan, High Street, Lavenham.

In the fifteenth century four timbered houses in the center of this incredible unspoilt and picturesque town were united to form the Swan Hotel.  Today it is still a hotel of great character and charm, and a perfectly wonderful place to stop for a traditional English Tea.  The cozy comfortable lounge has quaint snug corner that are ideal for a quiet, refined cup of tea, open fire places where roaring log fires crackle that are welcome in winter months, generous arrangements of fresh and dried flowers all over the room, and a lovely view of the walled cloistered garden, with its lawns surrounded by pretty borders.  In summer, customers spill out into this beautiful space for their three course tea served on silver tiered cake stands, or cream teas with home baked scones, home made jams and Cornish clotted cream.

You will feel as if you have settle into a gentle country house where afternoon refreshment is an essential part of each days enjoyment.

Tea Rooms
Freshly baked scones with jam and clotted cream, homemade cakes and finger sandwiches, presented on traditional tiered cake stands, are served in the cosy lounge or in the garden during the Summer months.

Cream Tea £7.95
Traditional Swan Tea £14.95

Monday to Saturday - 2.30pm until 5.30pm
Sunday – 3.00pm until 5.30pm

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Time For Tea, by Michelle Rivers

If you follow my other Blog Lil Bit Brit you will see that I was out to Tea with a friend and this is one of the books C. gave me.

Time for Tea, tea and conversation with thirteen English Women.  As you can see from the photos the women range in age and are from different backgrounds.  It's a fun read with great recipes.

Take a little tour of a Lil Bit Brit Tea.

You'll like this book.

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