Friday, June 5, 2009

Regency Dining according to Elizabeth Hammond

I am doing research from the most fascinating book--Modern Domestic Cookery by Elizabeth Hammond, published in 1819. Its full title is "Modern Domestic Cookery, and Useful Receipt Book, containing the most approved directions for purchasing, preserving and cooking meat, fish, poultry, game, etc. in all their varieties; trussing and carving; preparing soups, gravies, sauces, made dishes, potting, pickling, etc. with all the branches of Pasty and Confectionary; a complete Family Physician; instruction to servants, for the best methods of performing their various duties; the art of making British Wines, brewing, baking, etc." This is comprehensive beyond belief.

The book is available from Google Books, free for the download, and I'm going to share from it over the next few months. One of the first things that caught my attention was the discussion of meal courses, for this is quite different from our current style of dining, not least in the quantity of dishes available.

Elizabeth Hammond offers the following observations on presenting the dishes for a course:

"Soup, broth, or fish, should always be set at the head of the table; if none of these, a boiled dish goes to the head; where there is both boiled and roasted.

If but one principal dish, it goes to the head of the table.

If three, the principal one to the head, and the two smallest to stand opposite each other, near the foot.

If four, the biggest to the head, and the next biggest to the foot, and the two smallest dishes on the sides…

If ten dishes, put four down the centre, one at each corner, and one on each side, opposite to the vacancy between the two central dishes; or four down the middle, and three on each side; each opposite to the vacancy of the middle dishes….

Deserts are placed in the same manner;--if you have an ornamental frame for deserts, or a bouquet, or any other ornament, for your dinner-table, invariably place them in the middle of the table."

The book has few illustrations but it does illustrate the best way of laying the table with ten dishes in each course. This of course is completely different from the Victorian service of dish presentation by a servant. In Regency times, the table was laid with all the dishes for the course, then they were 'removed' and the next course was laid out.

In writing further of courses, Mrs. Hammond has a chapter entitled "Articles proper for family dinners in every month". Every dinner has two substantial courses and for each month and course there are several alternatives using food that is in season.

For example:
First Course for January

"Turkey and chine. A brisket of beef stewed and served up in soup, Scotch collops, a brace of carp stewed, savoys, carrots, potatoes, and mince pies."

Second Course for January

"A fillet of veal stuffed and roasted, stewed hare, partridges four in a dish, pig roasted, and apple-pie."

First Course for May

"Neck of veal boiled, mackerel and goose-berry sauce, roasted fowls, and neat's tongue, and a boiled pudding."

Second Course for May

"Roasted leveret, and gravy sauce, turkey poults roasted and bread sauce, young ducks roasted, with gravy sauce; asparagus, tarts, and custards."

First Course for September

"Haunch of venison, with proper sauce; pigeon pie; turbot, with shrimp, lobster, and anchovy sauce; knuckle of veal, with bacon and vegetables, and a marrow pudding."

Second Course for September

"Roasted ducks, with gravy and onion sauce; hot apple pie, roasted partridges, with gravy sauce, garnished with lemon; fried soles, with anchovy and shrimp sauce; lobsters, tarts, etc."

Truly a diet so different from ours as to confirm that the Regency is a far-away place. It's another world, near yet remote, and well-suited to story-telling.

Till next time,

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