It’s winter here in New Zealand, and cold and dark and windy and rainy.
My local historical costuming friends and I decided to brighten up the shortest (ish) day of the year, and have an 18th century dinner.
We researched, we made food, we dressed up, and we had a lovely time.
I finished my newest Amalia Jacket just in time. Nina finished her warp printed silk Amalia as well (so exciting!). And we made Miss Four a Norland Frock.
I’m in love with this Amalia! I can’t wait to tell you all about it!
And a lovely time was had by all!
I used this recipe, which is the most ridiculous recipe possible (yes, it’s even topped with gold leaf) and should not be attempted unless you have 8 hours, 3 sous chefs, the patience of a saint, and can read minds.
I realised partway through that it wasn’t remotely accurate as an 18th c oille. By that point I had already devoted three days of my life to testing the recipe, and had the only chervil plant to be found for love or money in Wellington ensconced on my warmest windowsill, being alternately bribed, coddled, and threatened a la Crowley to THRIVE. I was not giving up. So it’s a sort of conceptual oille: a wild assortment of extremely expensive vegetables, instead of extremely expensive meat.
Also, it’s not worth the effort.
Salmon mousse and crackers
Mandrang Salad (1773)
This fabulous cucumber salad, which probably originated in the West Indies, shows up in a 1773 cookbook, and is reproduced in one of Mary-Anne Boerman’s excellent cookbooks.
The original recipe called for chillies, but we substituted horseradish to accomodate an allergy, a twist that I can well imagine an 18th c cook resorting to if chillies weren’t available. I also made my version non-alcoholic, and used a dash of mandarin juice along with lemon juice, an alteration that seemed very fitting, as everyone I mentioned the salad to originally assumed it was a mandarin salad.
Mrs Frazer’s dish of Macaroni (1791), Cauliflowers fried, Brockely Sallad, Potato Pudding, Dressed Mushrooms (1700)
I’ve been advocating hard for a mac n cheese 18th c dinner, because it amuses me that it’s so plebeian today, but was an exotic luxury food in the late 18th c.
The cauliflower, broccoli and potato recipes are all out of Hannah Glasse’s Art of Cookery.
The cauliflower was fine, but looked like the perfect dish for a gross Halloween dinner. The broccoli is fabulous, and I’m definitely adding broccoli with vinegar dressing to my cooking repertoire. We were also delighted to discover that the 18th c preference was apparently for very crunchy veges.
Potato pudding is definitely a pudding, and I love it. I loved it so much I had two helpings, which was a bad choice considering we still had three courses to go…
The broccoli did lead to a fascinating discussion of why and how broccoli was clearly widely known in 18th century England, and yet almost completely unknown in early 20th c New Zealand. At what point did it drop into obscurity?
Croquembouche and syllabub
Our syllabub was non-alcoholic, so not accurate, but soooo delicious…
It looks all so lovely and atmospheric! And the little girl is just the cutest!
everyone looks beautiful, and it sounds like such a fun evening. it’s always a treat to see pictures from these events.
You all look beautiful and it’s fun to see the candles shrink as dinner progresses.
It all looks and sounds tasty, and you and your guests all look so appropriately dressed. Such a wonderful gathering of friends!
Looks great, sounds delicious… and now I’m hungry!
Have you ever come across The Cookery of England by Elisabeth Ayrton? It’s a combination history/cookery book (i.e. the history of English cookery, with the recipes) and it’s fascinating and occasionally hilarious. My dad found me a copy in a second-hand shop years ago and it’s one of the cookbooks I refer to most often.
Looks like great fun.
How wonderful to recreate the entire evening, food and all! I hppe it was cheery.
It looks wonderful.
I love your apple candle holders too. Are they real apples?
They are real apples! They were a last minute solution to the no-candleholder problem. The variety is ‘Lemonade’. We stood in the supermarket carefully trying each apple on a shelf to make sure it stood upright properly
Oh! I must find friends to do this with!