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Category: Anything but writing

Let’s admit I had a plan for this weeks post that had NOTHING to do with soup, portable or otherwise … I’ve been tinkering with the Georgian Map of London and was reviewing my copy of T20150915_203341-1he Epicure’s Almanack (the 1815 Zagat’s of London) looking for locations when I noticed that soup was a very popular item among the listings. It’s noted again and again at chophouses, taverns, inns, even coffee houses that “good soup is always available”. Ok, I thought. Well, it was the tail-end of a mini ice age, and as such soup was probably pretty welcome most of the time (and it’s one of the cheaper items to offer at a restaurant so it makes perfect sense that lots of places always had a spot over the fire).

Then I started to see “portable soup” on offer occasionally. Intrigued, I fell down the research hole. I was trying to picture some kind of “pastie” filled with soup. A Cup O’Noodles, Regency-style. Maybe even a bread bowl (we know day old bread has long been used as a “trencher” by the poor). So I start searching for “portable soup” and lo and behold it’s basically period boullion!

There’s a great write up on the Lobscouse and Spoted Dog page (another food book 20150915_203625-1I adore, in which two intrepid cooks attempt to recreate all the food from Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin novels).  It seems like a lot of work, but as we all know, labor was cheap during our period of fascination, it was everything else that was expensive.  And a method of capturing every last drop of goodness in the kitchen offal was going to be widely popular (I totally make stock from the striped carcases of rotisserie chickens and all the odd bits of veg that I toss in the freezer for this exact purpose).

So back to portable soup …

 

So basically, it’s the ultimate take away. You likely don’t have a real kitchen in your London lodging, which even if it’s in The Albany is a suite of rooms. But you likely have a fireplace and a pot. And now, with a store of portable soup, you have a base for making a stew or hearty soup, or a restorative broth at the very least (see the currant hipster fad for “bone broth).

This is totally something I can see the valets of my younger sons having on hand for when their master has a cold (or when they have a cold), or when someone needs sobering up.

Today’s post is going to be short and sweet (pun intended). I’ve been coming up blank all week about a topic to post about (nothing was grabbing me). So last night I pulled out my copy of Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy with the intention of finding the strangest, most unfamiliar recipes I could. Instead, I immediately stumbled across apple fritters. APPLE FRITTERS!!! How on earth aren’t our characters living on these?

Apple Fritter Recipe

So now I’m looking for other familiar stuff … and what do I spot but Pain Perdu. FRENCH TOAST!!! Fricken French toast is period. Why aren’t my characters eating this constantly? Also, now I want French toast.

Sure looks like French Toast to me!

Ok, this last one I’m not at all sure about: Flour, powdered sugar, egg whites, butter, cream, and blanched almond flour. It’s not a macaroon, but it’s definitely some kind of almond cookie. Historical cooking sites show me things that seem like shortbread or a drop cookie. They appear to have been around since the Middle Ages, and I’ve never heard of them! So these are now on my list of things to make and taste.

What is a Jumballs?

Any familiar foods you’ve been shocked to discover were period for the characters you were writing or reading about?

Halloween-Hero-1-HDo you love Halloween? Are you celebrating? I’m doing this extra blogpost today partly to remind you that I’m hosting a Virtual Halloween Party today on Facebook (4pm to midnight), and if any of you are on FB and enjoy the virtual parties to be found there, I hope you’ll come! It’s a fund-raiser for my friend Joyce, who needs to raise funds to stay on the kidney transplant waiting list, but it’s also a celebration of Halloween –what better time for a party? We have a number of nice gift giveaways planned, and we’ll be posting pictures and having conversations, playing games and doing mini-contests.

Would you drink this at a "real" party

Would you drink this at a “real” party

The party is by-invitation-only, so if we aren’t already “friends” on Facebook, send a friend request to me (Gail Eastwood-author) –or message me– and I’ll friend and invite you! (Or let me know if you want to know how to give a donation, even if you can’t come to the party!)

In my area of the U.S. the practice of trick-or-treating has really diminished in favor of FIREWORKSparties. Safer, I’m sure, but there was always a kind of thrill to roaming in the dark and going door-to-door. Halloween isn’t anything our Regency characters would have participated in. And in Great Britain, even now I would venture to say it is overshadowed by Guy Fawkes Day.

Demonstrators with Guy Fawkes masks march to the Portuguese parliament in LisbonBonfires! Fireworks! Those are fun, but do they get to dress up in costumes? Do they have Guy Fawkes Day parties? Oh, wait. Yes, yes they do. But I still say I’d rather have candy than gunpowder.

The roots of Halloween are very ancient, as most people know. The name comes from All Hallows Eve, the night before the Christian observance of All Saints Day (November 1, Hallowmass), established by Pope Gregory in the 8th century. But the Celtic celebration of Samhain (“summer’s end”) on October 31 is much older. Samhain was the night before the Celtic new year began, when it was believed the boundary between the living and the spirit worlds grew thin. The Celts may have believed the living could commune with the dead at such a time, see into the future, or even that spirits could return to earth. halloween-bonfire Bonfires, the wearing of costumes to confuse the walking spirits, and the telling of fortunes may have been part of the Celtic traditions.

Some sources also throw in two Roman celebrations, the festivals of Feralia, honoring the passing of the dead, and of Pomona, a goddess of fruit and the harvest, also held at the time of the change in seasons. Mix in the medieval practice of “souling”, when the poor would go door-to-door on All Hallows asking for handouts in exchange for saying prayers for the dead, and you can see a lot of the ingredients for the evolution of Halloween.

My fellow Riskies have already written some posts you might like to revisit this weekend. Elena did a lovely one about jack o’lanterns all the way back in 2008 (posted Oct 29). Amanda talked about the holiday origins in 2011 (Oct 25), and back in 2009 she did a Halloween post about the ghosts in the Tower of London. For more ghosts plus witches in the UK, revisit Elena’s post from last year (Oct 31, 2014).

In case those aren’t enough to occupy you, here are a few more articles you may enjoy:

“Slutty Halloween Costumes: a Cultural History”, which makes a case that Halloween has always been about sex: http://www.fastcodesign.com/1665320/slutty-halloween-costumes-a-cultural-history

And in defense of those who follow the Wiccan religion, “What’s Witchcraft? Six Misconceptions about Wiccans”: http://www.livescience.com/39119-myths-about-witches-wiccans.html?li_source=LI&li_medium=more-from-livescience

For the candy-lovers among us: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2010/10/how-candy-and-halloween-became-best-friends/64895/

And finally, I couldn’t resist including “Top Five Halloween Myths Debunked”: http://www.livescience.com/5148-top-5-halloween-myths-debunked.html

Happy Halloween!

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