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On Saturday, I partook of your charming American custom of “Mother’s Day” by attending tea at a lovely little tea shop with my hostess, her mother, and various other ladies. (My own dear, departed mother would have loved this holiday, I think–she was always in need of more face paint and bottles of scent!). It was not the same as the tea I served in my house, which my friends always declared to be superlative, but it was adequate. They had an extensive selection of fine teas (which surprised me, I must say. I deplore this “Lipton” business!), some nice little sandwiches, and a few iced cakes. In honor of this occasion, I will pass on some of my own tea wisdom, mostly gained from my own mother (who adored a lapsang souchong).

Tea was introduced to Europe during Elizabethan times, but as people then had no sense of what was good for them, it did not reach England until 1657-60. Even the barbaric Russians had it before us, and it was a Venetian named Gian Battista Ramusio who was the first European to write about the drink. (Very surprising, if you know the Venetians at all). It was at first a hard sell, until that most deplorable of monarchs (lovely taste, though) Charles II took up the habit of drinking tea all day long. It was among the least objectionable of his many habits, I fear. It was also very popular here in your own country until that unfortunate occurence called the Boston Tea Party in 1773.

Afternoon tea was not a fixed tradition in my own time (though I enjoy cakes and a refreshing sip at four o’clock as much as anyone!). Slightly later than that, or so I read now on this Intra-Net compooter, the Duchess of Bedford started ordering a tray of bread-and-butter in the afternoons, as she could not wait for the fashionable dining hour before getting a bit peckish. It worked out well for her, and she began inviting friends to join her. The bread-and-butter was soon supplemented by pastries, sandwiches, and scones. “High tea” is a different thing altogther, a full meal served around six for the lower classes, consisting of meats, fish, cheese, bread and butter, cakes (and tea!).

Here are a few of my favorite recipes, which I experimented with while my hostess was away at her “work.” Her food cooling apparatus is always quite low on the staples of life, so I made do with what little I could find.

Cucumber Sandwiches:
1 large cuccumber
White wine vinegar
Butter (soft)

Peel and slice cucumber. Sprinkle the slices with vinegar and let sit for half an hour, drain and pat dry. Make the sandwich with 1 or 2 layers of cucumber slices, on thin bread spread with butter. Slice neatly into quarters (remove crusts!) and serve.

Devonshire Clotted Cream (warning! This is not a true clotted cream. I devised this with the use of that wondrous blender)

8 oz cream cheese
12 oz sour cream
Juice from 1 lemon
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar
(Blend all until smooth)

Rose Butter (a most elegant spread for toast, sandwiches, scones)

4 oz butter
Fresh rose petals (pink is lovely)

Line the bottom of a covered dish with a thick layer of petals. Wrap butter with waxed paper and place in dish. Cover with more petals. Put lid on dish and let sit in cool space overnight.

We broke our previous greed record yesterday by consuming all of the peaches, bought at a farmers’ market on Sunday, that were supposed to last the week. Yum. So I thought I’d talk about peaches.

Peaches have been around for a long, long time, from China to Europe via the Silk Road, to America in the seventeenth century and into commercial production here in the nineteenth century. There were peaches at Pemberley:

The next variation which their visit afforded was produced by the entrance of servants with cold meat, cake, and a variety of all the finest fruits in season; but this did not take place till after many a significant look and smile from Mrs. Annesley to Miss Darcy had been given, to remind her of her post. There was now employment for the whole party; for though they could not all talk, they could all eat; and the beautiful pyramids of grapes, nectarines, and peaches soon collected them round the table. Pride and Prejudice

Back to early times, the Romans regarded peaches as a good mix with the savory (I’ve broiled pork chops with smushed up peaches, wine, and mint in my more carnivorous days and they were great). Here’s a recipe from Apicius, a collection of 4th- 5th century AD recipes which might be terrific. I don’t know … the Romans really loved their fish sauce, but really, fish sauce? Try at your own risk, Sister Mairi Jean’s Peaches in Cumin Sauce.

Jumping forward a few centuries–people like me should take note that King John of England died in 1216, some say from overindulging in peaches at a banquet nine days before. Here’s a recipe from 1597 for Peach Marmalade.

To make drie Marmelet of Peches.
Take your Peaches and pare them and cut them from the stones, and mince them very finely and steepe them in rosewater, then straine them with rosewater through a course cloth or Strainer into your Pan that you will seethe it in, you must have to every pound of peches halfe a pound of suger finely beaten, and put it into your pan that you do boile it in, you must reserve out a good quantity to mould your cakes or prints withall, of that Suger, then set your pan on the fire, and stir it til it be thick or stiffe that your stick wil stand upright in it of it self, then take it up and lay it in a platter or charger in prety lumps as big as you wil have the mould or printes, and when it is colde print it on a faire boord with suger, and print them on a mould or what know or fashion you will, & bake in an earthen pot or pan upon the embers or in a feate cover, and keep them continually by the fire to keep them dry. The Second Part of the Good Hus-wives Jewell, (1597); Thomas Dawson. From

I couldn’t find a whole lot about peach recipes in England in the Regency period. There’s a possibility that quinces were more popular than peaches, according to (great pics here!). A lot of the historic recipes I did find were of the use them up quick variety and/or preserve them and if you’ve ever visited a pick your own orchard you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Closer to our own time, Thomas Jefferson embraced peach cultivation with enthusiasm, growing thirty-eight varieties at Monticello, compared to only two varieties at Washington’s Mount Vernon. Jefferson made mobby, an alcoholic drink from peaches, claiming that “20 bushels of peaches will make 75 galls. of mobby, i.e. 5/12 of its bulk” (The Fruits and Fruit Trees of Monticello. Peter J. Hatch).

I’m fascinated by the wealth of varieties of peaches. Peaches are peaches, right? Unless they’re white peaches or doughnut peaches, which do have distinctive flavors. William Cobbett commented, “It is curious enough that people in general think little of the sort in the case of peaches though they are so choice in the case of apples. A peach is a peach, it seems, though I know no apples between which there is more difference than there is between different sorts of peaches.” (Quoted in Hatch, above).

Here are a couple of recipes from The Virginia Housewife by Mary Randolph, first published in 1825:

Peaches in Brandy. Get yellow soft peaches, perfectly free from defect and newly gathered, but not too ripe; place them in a pot, and cover them with cold weak lye; turn over those that float frequently, that the lye may act equally on them; at the end of an hour take them out, wipe them carefully with a soft cloth to get off the down and skin, and lay them in cold water; make a syrup as for the apricots, and proceed in the same manner, only scald the peaches more.

Peach Marmalade. Take the ripest soft peaches, (the yellow ones make the prettiest marmalade,) pare them, and take out the stones; put them in the pan with one pound of dry light coloured brown sugar to, two of peaches: when they are juicy, they do not require water: with a silver or wooden spoon, chop them with the sugar; continue to do this, and let them boil gently till they are a transparent pulp, that will be a jelly when cold. Puffs made of this marmalade are very delicious.

And here’s a Peach Pudding recipe from later in the century, adapted from Recipes Tried and True, compiled by the Ladies’ Aid Society of the First Presbyterian Church, Marion, Ohio, 1894.

peaches, cooked and sweetened
pint sweet milk
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon butter
a little salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups flour

Fill a pudding dish with peaches, cooked and sweetened; pour over them a batter made of one pint of sweet milk, four eggs, one cup of sugar, one tablespoon of butter, a little salt, one teaspoon of baking powder, and two cups of flour. Place in oven, and bake until a rich brown. Serve with cream.

The title of this post, by the way is from Andrew Marvell. I do love the phrase “stumbling on melons”, and if I’d discovered these lines sooner I might have blogged about melons:

The nectarine, and curious peach,
Into my hands themselves do reach;
Stumbling on melons, as I pass,
Ensnared with flowers, I fall on grass

What are your favorite peach recipes? Do share! I’m off downstairs where a bowl of fresh peaches awaits…

I hope everyone is ready for the Thanksgiving holiday this week! I–well, I am not, but then the holidays always have a way of sneaking up on me. I am going to the shops today to stock up on groceries and do a little preliminary Christmas shopping, and then will spend the rest of the week eating turkey leftovers and arguing with my family (in a fun way of course, LOL!).

In the meantime, what went on in history on November 22? Lots of good things, it turns out:

Henry Purcell (one of my favorite composers) had a premier in London, of a piece called “Welcome to all the pleasures” (apropos for the holidays!)

Benjamin Britten was born in 1913

Man of La Mancha had its premier in 1965

And one of my favorite authors, George Eliot, was born in 1819. Let’s take the opportunity to look at Rufus Sewell, one reason to really be thankful this year!

And if you have company the day after Thanksgiving and they are still hungry, my friend swears by this French bread casserole recipe from Paula Deen:


  • 1 loaf French bread (13 to 16 ounces)
  • Butter, for pan
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Dash salt
  • Praline Topping, recipe follows
  • Raspberry Syrup, recipe follows


Slice French bread into 20 slices, 1-inch thick each. (Use any extra bread for garlic toast or bread crumbs). Arrange slices in a generously buttered 9 by 13-inch flat baking dish in 2 rows, overlapping the slices.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, half-and-half, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and beat with a rotary beater or whisk until blended but not too bubbly. Pour mixture over the bread slices, making sure all are covered evenly with the milk-egg mixture. Spoon some of the mixture in between the slices. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, half-and-half, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and beat with a rotary beater or whisk until blended but not too bubbly. Pour mixture over the bread slices, making sure all are covered evenly with the milk-egg mixture. Spoon some of the mixture in between the slices. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread Praline Topping evenly over the bread and bake for 45 minutes, until puffed and lightly golden. Serve with Raspberry Syrup.

Praline Topping:

  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and blend well. Spread over bread as directed above.

Raspberry Syrup:

1 cup raspberry preserves

3 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons raspberry liqueur (recommended: Framboise)

Combine ingredients in a small saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir until warm and thinned out like syrup.

How is your holiday week going? Heard any good music or made any good recipes??

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