The Riskies Welcome Ann Lethbridge!

Sexy French Chefs, Naughty Women, and Food
~ by Ann Lethbridge (
Lady of Shame is # four in the eight part Castonbury Park Series. Available in print in the UK now, and as e-book in North America, it is also coming out in print, in a duo with book three, in January 2013, with HQN titled Ladies of Disrepute. I must say I am loving these titles, and I just had to take a picture of the whole series, they look so lovely on my bookshelf.
I have always been fascinated by the kitchens in the stately homes I have visited over the years, so I the idea of having a sexy French chef as my hero was as irresistible as a chocolate soufflé.
As was the thought of the scandal if one of the ladies of the house should be tempted by a lowly, if handsome and charming, chef. And just think of the problems a trouble in the kitchen would cause for the same lady who was trying to woo a new husband. After all the way to a man’s heart is supposedly through his stomach.
Part of my fascination with kitchens and cooking at this time stems from the changes occurring during Regency. The move forward into our modern world. The mass production of iron and copper goods made it possible for chefs to stock their domains with every size and shape of saucepan and novel gadget. There were other innovations too, such as the use of metal grates and hobs which made boiling and stewing faster and easier. Easier is a relative term, of course. Today it would all sound like terribly hard work.
Also at the end of the Napoleonic wars, British nobility once more embraced everything French from fashions to food. There was an influx of French chefs, including the great Carême himself, once chef to Napoleon Bonaparte who came to work for the Prince Regent.
Menus in this age of excess were not about eating. They were about theatre and taste and extravagance. I quickly discovered in my research – warning the following may not be for those with weak stomach and you may want to skip ahead – that many of the foods eaten in the Regency are never seen on tables today. At least not on mine. Such things as cockscombs (wattles), cocks-stones (you can take a guess at what that is I am sure), eels, lamb brains and calves udders, to name but a few, were considered delicacies. Um none of those show up in my book you will be happy to hear.
A dinner at a nobleman`s house would be designed to show his wealth and prestige. For example, an intimate dinner for four people would have at a minimum a first course of eight dishes and a second course of nine dishes, followed by a dessert course of four or five dishes. Each course would be put on the table in large serving dishes all at once in perfect symmetry, in a pleasing balance to the eye. Guests would pass the platters nearest to them to those that requested them. The gentlemen would carve the roasts for the ladies.
Here is a sample menu of the first course for one such small intimate dinner designed by Louis Eustache Ude, Ci Devant Cook to Louis XVI and the Earl of Sefton. The cook book then goes on to give the recipes, or receipts as they were called, and if you are interested you can find them on line.
Soup Course
Soupe printannier, or spring soup
Crimp cod and oyster sauce
Two Removes
Foul àla Montmorenci, garnished with a ragout à l`Allemande
Ham glazed with Espangnole
Four Entrées
Fricassée of chicken with mushrooms
Lamb chops sauté with aspargust, peas, etc.
Fillets of fat chicken, sauté au supreme
Petits pâtés of fillet of fowl a la béchamelle
And that is just the first course. If you are wondering about the term “ removes “ These are the dishes put on the table while the staff clear away the soup, so you are not left sitting with nothing to eat before the entrées arrive.
I used this book and others to create my menus for the story, but sadly to my hero’s chagrin all does not go well with the meals.
Here is a short excerpt:
Claire watched him from the corner of her eye, looking forward to the same reaction of pleasure and delight that had accompanied the first course. As hostess of the dinner, the credit would fall to her as well as the Duke’s famous French chef.
Dyer masticated with evident pleasure, then his face turned red, he gazed wildly around and then lifted the table cloth and spat the contents of his mouth into its folds.
Everyone at the table stared at him in astonishment, too polite to say anything, but clearly revolted by the sight.
Mr Dyer’s face turned purple. He grabbed up his wine glass and gulped its contents, while fanning his hand in front of his face.
“Mr Dyer,” Claire said. “Are you all right? Did you swallow a fishbone?” There should not have been any in this dish. This she had agreed with Andre.
He coughed and spluttered and drank some more wine. “All right?” He choked out. “No, I am not all right.”
His mother patted his back. Miss Seagrove did the same thing from the other side.
Claire leapt up and poured him a goblet of water from the pitcher on the sideboard. The man seemed ready to expire.
Slowly the gasping and coughing subsided, though the man’s high forehead remained a deep red and beaded with sweat as he drew in one rasping breath after another.
Could he be suffering an apoplexy?
The Reverend Seagrove pulled the fish platter towards him. It was the only dish no one else had sampled. He spooned a small amount onto his plate and tasted it warily.
“Horseradish?” he said, with a wince. “Or too much pepper?”
Mr Dyer, with his bulging eyes and opening and closing mouth as he breathed heavily, looking a bit like the cod that was causing him such distress, shook his head.
Claire blinked. “Are you saying there is something wrong with the food, Reverend?” It wasn’t possible.
He pushed the dish towards her and she dipped her desert spoon into the sauce. She tasted it carefully just on the tip of her tongue and recoiled. It was like eating fire.
What a disaster.
I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but things go downhill from there….
Have you ever had a disaster of a meal? I have and will share mine, if you share yours. The best or rather, worst, story, wins a copy of The Gamekeeper’s Lady.

About Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

Writer (as Amanda McCabe, Laurel McKee, Amanda Carmack), history geek, yoga enthusiast, pet owner!
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9 years ago

I made a disaster of a meal when I was little. I was about 10 y.o. when I was allowed for the first time to make pancakes all by myself.
When I was out of sugar I grabbed a new package out of the cabinet. What I hadn’t noticed was that it wasn’t sugar, but salt. So I made my dough, baked the pancakes and gave the first one to my younger sister.
She took a bite and spit it out the moment she tasted it. My mom was so angry with her! She thought me sister did it to tease me and wanted her to eat the whole pancake. Fortunately my sister convinced her to taste it and she immediately knew what the problem was.

It was a long time before I found the courage to bake pancakes again. But I haven’t used salt in them ever since (I keep checking it twice). :p

Melinda Hammond/Sarah Mallory

What a fascinating post, Ann, I am so glad we no longer eat cocks combs or other unmentionables! i have had a few disasters since we moved to our old farmhouse and I began to cook on an Aga. The biggest problem is that it has more than one oven and it is easy for forget something, usually a side dish. Because at least one oven is very slow, you don’t get the smell of burning to alert you, so on more than one occasion I have opened an oven door to find mushrooms, parsnips etc reduced to black carbon that powders to nothing when you touch it, a bit like a horror movie!

Jo's Daughter
9 years ago

I made a chocolate/applesauce cake for a special birthday. It looked ok from the outside and it smelled yummy. I gave it as a small gift, she cut it into slices eager to have a taste & the iside was completely uncooked. It was sticky and not fit for eating to say the least…

I don’t know how this could have happened but the cake ended up in the bin. I made her another cake later to make up for it but what a disaster!

9 years ago

My best disastrous cooking moment was at school, in the early days of microwaves. Most people in the class had microwaves at home. My family were late adopters. The teacher told us to bring in the ingredients for microwave apple cake, and something in which to cook it. They did not point out that said container should not be made of metal, so I narrowly avoided blowing up one of the classroom microwaves!

Marguerite Kaye
9 years ago

I suffer more from over-adventurous ordering when I go out to eat than disasters in the kitchen. One of the worst was in Paris, when I ordered the special, which was recited very quickly by the waiter. I was expecting some sort of beef stew, but what I got were two very large beef bones filled with marrow – nothing else at all on the plate. I’ll eat most things, but there’s something about the gooey texture of marrow that just makes me feel ill. But of course, I was so embarrassed that I had to eat it – with the help of lots of wine. Really great post, I’d have hated to have to cook on some of those stoves!

Louisa Cornell
9 years ago

Great post, Ann! I am so enjoying the Castonbury series!

And fascinating information about cooking during the Regency. Definitely hard work!

As I run a bakery for Walmart I am a fairly good baker. (As a cook in general, not so much!) However, we have had some disasters in the kitchen.

We received a new type of cinnamon roll a few years ago. When cooked as per the instructions the results were rather incendiary. Five minutes before the timer went off one of my workers said :

“Should we take these out of the oven?”

“I don’t know. Do they look done?”

“I guess so. They’re on fire.”

I am reasonably certain large lumps of flaming charcoal were not the intended result.

Don’t enter me in the draw as I have The Gamekeeper’s Lady and it is my very favorite of your books to date!

9 years ago

When I was dating my first husband I couldn’t cook to save my life. So I served up burnt Bernard Matthews chicken kiev balls that were still frozen on the inside. No idea how I got them that way. So glad I managed to learn how to cook, however I still go back to having the odd fish finger roll sometimes!

Ann Lethbridge
9 years ago

Hi Ladies, sorry for not being around today. I was in New York and had to run for home. I hadn’t expected to be traveling until later in the day.
First I want to have the Riskies for having me here, and second to thank you for sharing your disasters.
Stefanie, I can well imagine you would be careful around salt and sugar! But you aren’t the first one to be caught out.
Fun on the Aga Melinda, and here I was thinking about getting one of the new fangled double ovens. Perhaps I’ll thank again.
Ouch Jos Daughter, isn’t it always the way when you really want something to be special.
Oh my goodness Stephanie, but I must say there has been more than one time when I have almost left the spoon in the dish and finger on the button, have realized….
Oh, those French! Sounds a bit like some of the foods in my post, Marguerite.
Louisa, …flaming charcoal. You made me laugh. So glad you are enjoying the series and that you liked The Gamekeeper’s Lady.
Kooks, that must have been a bit of a shock for both of you. But I think we all started there.
I have just walked in from the drive back from NY, but I will post my experience a bit later!

Melody May
9 years ago

Oh my gosh, I can make a chicken pot pie. Usually it turns out fine, and other times its down right disgusting. For awhile I would use real potatoes. The last time I did that the potatoes weren’t cooked completely. They were still rock hard. On top of that iit was really runny. It was down right un-edible. It was so bad that we had to order a pizza. Epic fail.

Ann Lethbridge
9 years ago

1Melody May, that reminds me of my story. We had invited friends for dinner and I decided to try something new. Duck. I bought it frozen and was sure I had thawed it out, but I cooked it for the time the recipe said, and it still wasn’t cooked. Put it back. An hour later, still raw in the middle. And the time was passing and people were getting hungry. So I roasted a chicken and we had that. Those friends still remind me about my fancy dinner! Sometimes it doesn’t pay to try to hard does it.

Diane Gaston
9 years ago

Welcome to the Riskies, Ann!
I’ve been busy preparing for the storm all day. But it is great to have have you here!

I’ve had too many meal disasters to mention!