Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Medieval Britain and The Tudors

'Newe Conceytes'

Cookes with theire newe conceytes, choppynge, stampynge and gryndynge

Many new curries alle day they ar contryvynge - John Russell

1066 changed not only the politics and the language of Britain, but the very face of authority, now clean-shaven.

Ale barm was so vital that is was sometimes know as godisgoode.

In the twelfth century, a pound of pepper cost the equivalent to two or three weeks land labour.

Peacocks were used as center pieces, more for display than taste, as many said the meat was stringy. To emphasise social power through magnificent display; more than a hundred of them were presented at the installation feast for Archbishop Nevill of York in 1467.

Saffron was a costly statement, with more than 50,000 hand-harvested crocus flowers needed for each pound of dried stamens. The fields around Saffron Walden in Essex must have been a mirage of colour.

By Chaucer's time a sucking pig bought blind at market in a closed bag was already know as 'a pig in a poke' - or a shot in the dark, since its quality could not be inspected.

The old term messe for 'a dish' remains in the mess halls of the army and the expression to 'mess food about'.

Scullions might have made their beds on the kitchen floor, but these rooms cooled fast and Norman laws ruled that all embers had to be covered at night with 'couvre feus, or curfews'.

Stiff quince pasted, originally know as charedequynce, were the first marmalades - marmelo is Portuguese for 'quince'.

Usually the narrow trestles, used for tables, or boards (from which comes 'boarding school', 'board wages', 'bed and board') were set up as dinner approached in the hall.

Russell's Book of Nurture advised that it was considered rude to put your elbows on the table, and this was over 600 years ago.

The Dissolution of the Monasteries changed at a stroke the way the countryside looked and the rules according to which people ate. The monks, their masses and their fish-ponds disappeared. Eating fish became so associated with Catholicism that one would rather not eat fish and keep in favour with the new Protestant faith, eating fish went into a steep decline. Considering Britain is an island eating fish from then on was not a big part of the British diet.

In 1525 turkey was introduced from the colonies in America, fabulously expensive, they were sold for 6 shillings a piece.

The original term for grilling was broiling - the term that survives, like pumpkin pie, in most of the United States to this day.

Wafers were puffed up with yeast in the Flemish fashion, and biscuits - from bis cuit, or 'twice cooked'.

I have to tell you about this, a Frenchman complimenting British cooking. The quintessentially British boiled pudding was born, spawning a repertoire of dishes that would lead the French visitor Henri Misson to exclaim in delight,

"the pudding is a dish very difficult to be described, because of the several sorts there are of it: flour, milk, eggs, butter, sugar, suet, marrow, raisins etc are the most common ingredients ... They make them fifty several ways: Blessed be he that invented pudding for it is manna that hits the palates of all sorts of people ... Ah what an excellent thing is an English pudding! In Scotland they were called 'bag puddings' or 'clootie dumplings'. The earliest written record of a pudding boiled in a cloth comes from Cambridge in 1617 in a recipe for 'College Pudding' made of flour, breadcrumbs, suet, dried fruit, sugar and eggs.

It was a practice that in Yorkshire led quickly to the expression 'them as has most pudding can have most meat' and that continued right into the nineteenth century: in Mrs Gaskell's novel Cranford (1853) Mr. Holbrook served the 'pudding before meat' with no 'apology for his old-fashioned ways...'

I grew up eating pudding, but have never made it over here. I did run across a Boiled Pudding book in the dollar store, so really should have a go this winter. It is more a winter, stick to your ribs food.

By the 1690's tansies had metamorphosed from pancake to pudding and within a generation that most British of all puddings, Yorkshire, would appear for the first time a batter of milk, eggs, salt and flour poured into the hot fat of the dripping pan under roasting meat.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Trip to New York

This is the Verrazano Narrows Bridge

Old houses in Brooklyn Heights

Views of Manhattan taken from Brooklyn
On the left is the Brooklyn Bridge and on the right is the Manhattan Bridge

Under the Brooklyn Bridge

Restaurant under the Brooklyn Bridge

China Town, New York

The Holland Tunnel

The End of a long day

Just a few photos from our trip to New York.

My nephew was visiting from England, so we took him to visit New York. We have friends who live in Brooklyn and visited there.

The drive up to New York is always harrowing, and trying to find a parking space in Brooklyn even more so.

We entered New York via the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, which does not live up to it's name, as in all the years I've ever travelled it, it is always in some state of repair, constantly.

The view of Manhattan is great from Brooklyn. We walked to the waterfront and along Water Street, which is being revived, it was all old shipping warehouse buildings. Here we had hot chocolate at Jacques Torres Chocolate Shop It is so good. I had a mocha chocolate, which has a shot of espresso.

Before we left Brooklyn we visited Cranberry's a coffee shop on Henry and Cranberry Streets and went to a little Lebanese restaurant, where the prices were very reasonable.

We crossed from Brooklyn, via the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan, we drove through China Town, always a place that never sleeps, and exited Manhattan island via the Holland Tunnel.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

100th POST

Has anybody waited longer for a 100th Post.

Well first things first, this is my promised giveaway gift. It is a bag that clips onto your Trolley or as they call it in the States, Shopping Cart.

The fabric is made of recycled plastic bottles and has a pocket on the outside four your shopping coupons.

You can clip it over the edge of your shopping cart/trolley and pack it with your groceries.

I have a couple and love using them, so thought that you would too.

I have been thinking of selling these bags. So I would like your feedback as too whether you think folk would like them?

I've also thought of putting an imprint on them. I was going to get it drawn up, but have not been able to do so yet. But one idea is:-

a) The earth in the shape of a heart, saying underneath, Love Your Home. Done in a bright green on the black bag.

b) Or the words, Rethink, Recycle, Renew, or the last two words vice-versa.
So in anycase, I would like your comments on the bag and the imprint.
All who leave a comment will be put in for a drawing, and I will pull out the winner next Sunday.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Kate Greenaway, Tea at High House

This was one of my grandmother's favourite paintings. It's by Kate Greenaway . When I was a teenager she sent me a card with this painting and said Tea at High House.

Grandma grew up at High House and she just loved it. The house is still there with the same name. It sits up high on a hill. Either side of the front door are bay windows that go from ground to roof, two stories. So I can just imagine grandma having tea on the lawn like this.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Little House on The Prairie Comes East

Yes Little House on the Prairie comes east. At least that is how I felt, picking, stemming, washing, cooking, sieving, cooking, jarring and labelling.

You do have a feeling of accomplishment after it is all finished, and you have all these lines of neat labelled jars of grape jelly and chutney. Actually the chutney was a lot easier than the grape jelly. The jelly needs two cooking processes and the extra step of straining. Next year these grapes will be made into wine. I honestly think it's easier to make wine. I just didn't have the wine bottles to make it this year, but after a recent visit to a friend I now do.

It does make you realize though what a lot of work people did in the times of Little House on the Prairie. Because when the fruit is ripe one must take action. You can't leave it and say I'll come back next week, because by then it's rotten or the birds have got at it. I like doing it, but just the volume of what I'm doing makes me tirred out after a while.

And my dear boy seeing how much colour was in my straining cloth, said would I please dye his tee shirt. So I rinsed it out and used that as a straining rag, as you can see here. He's quite happy with the results.

I also did a whole saucepan of tomatoes, for spagetti sauce, all these had to be washed and the skins blanched off. The sauce I decided to freeze, I also have some left over for dinners this week.

I'm having trouble with my usual computer, it has a virus, doesn't it drive you crazy. I managed to get these photos on before it froze up for the ump teenth time

My next post will be my 100th Post.
I will be having a give away. I've enjoyed participating in others, so hope that you will enjoy mine.
It will be an interactive one. I want your opinions about this item and also graphics. So will leave it at that for now. And as soon as I get my other computer sorted out, I will be posting my giveaway.
P.S. My Picasso for photos is on my other computer, so I'm just not set up to use this one. My dear husband has orderred the sofware, so hope it comes soon and we can be up and running.
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