Thursday, January 14, 2010

"Scotch Collops and Marrow-Pudding"
Regency Dining in January 1819

Great Britain currently is struggling with falls of snow the like of which they have not known for decades. It is colder than it has been for generations and, all in all, their winter this year looks very like the typical winter here where I live in western Canada.

Despite that however, I expect that their supermarkets still for the most part have a supply of fresh fruits and vegetables including citrus and bananas, strawberries and tomatoes. The butcher's counter will have a wide selection of meat from around the world and fish of all kinds including items from the tropics.

During the Regency period at the beginning of the 19th century, the food available in January was quite different, and much more limited than today's plenty. It was in fact, more like the 'two hundred mile diet' being proposed today to save energy costs.

Modern Domestic Cookery does advise that virtually all meats--beef, mutton, house lamb, pork, veal, bacon, doe venison--are in season in January. Game and poultry available includes turkeys, all kinds of chicken and wild fowl along with pigeons and rabbits and hares. There is fish in abundance: fresh salmon, tench, sole, carp, cod, plaice, flounder, mullet, whiting, eel, chub, red herrings, smelts, gudgeon, perch, oysters, prawns, lobsters, crabs, craw-fish, thornback, skate, turbot, scollops, mussels, cockles, and sprats. No tilapia or rainbow trout, however!

Vegetables and fruits available would be very different from our current largesse. Apples, medlars and pears if carefully stored would still be edible and grapes might come from succession houses. Nuts would be plentiful. Any other soft fruit would be dried or bottled. Potatoes, turnips, parsnips and carrots would be plentiful, as would brussel sprouts and cabbage, leeks, onions, and beets. Greens would include endive, sorrel, celery, spinach and a certain amount of lettuce and cress depending on the severity of the winter. By forcing, mushrooms, cucumbers and asparagus might be available.

Cheese and bread would continue to be staples year round, but the quantity of eggs would be somewhat limited in winter.

Modern Domestic Cookery offers menus for January that include

First Course:

Ham and fowls, or capons. Place the ham at the bottom of the table, and the fowls at the top. A leg of lamb and spinach, garnished with the loin, fried in steaks, with savoys or cabbages, and some good potatoes; also some carrots sliced, with gravy and plain melted butters, and a hunting pudding.
Or--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:

A fillet of veal stuffed and roasted, stewed hare, partridges four in a dish, pig roasted, and apple-pie.
Or--wild fowl, a piece of sturgeon; fricasee of lamb-stones, sweet-breads, etc.; marrow-pudding, squab pigeons, and asparagus; strong gravy.

It is a hearty diet, but one not suited to vegetarians with its heavy emphasis on meat. Though I cannot think the out of season fruits and vegetables that are offered to us are all necessary, by and large, I appreciate our modern diet.

Until next time,


For more information, see: Modern Domestic Cookery by Elizabeth Hammond; London, 1819 available free for download from Google Books.
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Janet said...

I'm full just reading the first couse! And at my house, growing up, the emphasis was on meat as well - a good British household with lots of things boiled and not much variety!

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

I know what you mean, Janet--my childhood was the same. And I still enjoy a good roast!

librarypat said...

We are so spoiled with the variety of food items available year round, at mostly reasonable prices. We grew up as mostly meat and potatoes people, but we always had our veggies. We still are, but I love a good salad.
Thanks for the heads up on the download of Modern Domestic Cookery. I love old books.

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

Google Books is amazing. I have downloaded books I never thought I would be able to see. And Modern Domestic Cookery is a wonderful book.