I’m trying to be enthusiastic about food.
Now, to those of you who know me, that may sound odd, because formerly I loved to eat. In fact I did rather too much of it. Then came adventures with teeth, where for some time I nursed along two temporary crowns and a gap, and had to think every time I put something in my mouth whether it could dislodge a crown and whether it was therefore worth the effort. (Yes, we romance writers are such glamorous creatures.)
Now I sport a full working mouth of teeth again and decided I should build on the momentum of losing weight by joining Weightwatchers. I’m finding it a slow, tedious process, the program altogether too damn perky, and some of the food weird. (Brownies made with black beans? Eew.)
I’m not that enthusiastic about food and it’s not helping the weight loss process, so I’m trying to take an interest. I mourn the brief tomato and peach seasons of the summer; the first time my farmers’ market had heirloom tomatoes, I brought some home, along with a loaf of expensive artisan bread, and made myself a massive tomato sandwich. I think it was the highlight, gastronomically, of my summer.
I’m thinking hard about the pleasures of winter squash and of the delicacies of winter-harvested brussel sprouts; yes, I know 90% of you are turning up your noses, but believe me, brussel sprouts turn deliciously sweet in frost, even if you have to saw through the stalks. I’m indebted to the wonderful Tiny Farm Blog for this picture and other interesting stuff.
So, what would Regency folks eat in October? According to Sarah and Samuel Adams, you’d get the last of the artichokes and scarlet beans, the first broccoli, and cabbage, carrots, endive, leeks, onions, potatoes, beets, parsnips, spinach, and small salad (not sure what this is; does anyone know?). Just imagine what you could get if you had a greenhouse. Yum. (The pic, by the way, is from Colonial Williamsburg, not England.)
What are you planning on eating and cooking this fall? Any sources of good recipes you’d like to share?
The other morning I walked outside and it smelled like spring–damp and mild. Of course it was Mother Nature fooling around, but it has seemed recently, with the slightly longer days, that spring is on its way. So I started thinking about activities that might make spring seem a little nearer.
For the gardeners among us, the catalogues start arriving, to be seized with damp sticky fingers and fondled and pondered. That got me thinking about food–oh, to be honest, when am I not thinking about food–and so I thought I’d check out what was available in the Regency kitchen garden at this time of year. According to Samuel and Sarah Adams, you could have beetroot, broccoli, cabbage plants (as opposed to cabbage, best in May and all summer, and if someone would like to explain that, please do), celery, endive, leeks, parsley, parsnips, potatoes, and spinach (The Complete Servant, 1825). Not too bad–of course availability of many vegetables would depend on what the weather was like and how deep the ground was frozen–England was emerging from a minor ice age (hence the Frost Fair on the frozen Thames in 1814).
The Adamses don’t mention tomatoes at all at any time of the year, because the fruit/veg, whatever it is, was regarded with some suspicion in England. Allegedly, Hannah Glass’s cookbook of 1758 included a tomato recipe but until the end of the century cooks used them sparingly and mostly for flavoring soups. After all, the plant looked suspiciously like deadly nightshade. Others thought tomatoes might be aphrodisiacs, and the French referred to them as pomme d’amour (love apple). Italians, who adopted the new world oddity with enthusiasm, called them pomi d’oro (golden apple, suggesting that the first varieties to make it to Europe may have been yellow tomatoes).
This gorgeous illustration is of the African tomato from Basil Besler’s Hortus Eystettensis (1613)–you can see more of the prints from the work here.
What are you doing to prepare for spring? Are you dreaming of tomatoes or daffodils or beaches?