Today, July 6th …
The Old Foodie theory of a maximum of three degrees of separation between any person or event and any specific food hardly got a work-out today. It is the anniversary in 1685 of the Battle of Sedgemoor, the last fully pitched battle on English soil, fought between James, Duke of Monmouth (the illegitimate son of Charles II) and the men of his biological uncle, King James II. To cut a long story short, the Duke lost, and lost his head.
When the Duke, scruffy and starving, was flushed out of hiding, he had stolen peas on his person, so peas were a possibility. Traditional ‘Sedgemoor Easter Cakes’ were a possibility too, but it was a long way from Easter. There was a religious connection though: the family scrap for the throne that took place at Sedgemoor was not free of the religious scrapping that had plagued the whole century – the Duke was Protestant (considered desirable in an English king), and King James was Catholic (very unpopular). Easter also means eggs, and in this period, even eggs could take sides, as in this recipe from the 1682 edition of William Rabisha’s “The whole body of cookery dissected”:
To dress Eggs called in French Ala Augenotte, or the Protestant way.
Break twenty eggs, beat them together, and put to them the pure Gravy of a leg of mutton, or the Gravy of roast Beef, stir and beat them well together, over a Chaffindish [sic] of coals, with a little salt: add to them also a juice of Orange and Lemon, or grape-Virjuice [sic], then put in some mushrooms well boyled and seasoned; Observe as soon as your eggs be well mixed with the Gravy and other Ingredients, then take it off the fire, keeping them covered awhile, then serve them with grated Nutmeg over them.
Eventually, “Monmouth pudding” won, not because it was named for the Duke, rather for the Welsh border town of that name, but because there is something horrifically symbolic about a ball of a pudding with a slash of red at its base. It is said that it took eight blows of the axe to sever the Duke’s head.
One pint of boiling milk; bread; three ounces of bread; peel and juice of one lemon; three eggs; a quarter of a pound of butter; two ounces of sugar; a little jam.
Pour the boiling milk on the bread, let it stand till tolerably cool; then add the juice and grated peel of the lemon, two ounces of sugar pounded, the eggs well beaten, and the butter dissolved; put in a layer of raspberry or strawberry jam at the bottom of a dish, pour the pudding over it, and bake it. [Warne’s Everyday Cookery, c1890’s]
Tomorrow: Samuel Pepys' Cellar.
Above and Beyond ...
If you are at all interested in traditional British baking, do please look at Anna's blog Baking for Britain, or go directly to her story about Sedgemoor Easter Cakes via the link in the story above.
Quotation for the Day …
‘Never mind about 1066 William the Conqueror, 1087 William the Second. Such things are not going to affect one’s life… but 1932 the Mars Bar and 1936 Maltesers and 1937 the Kit Kat – these dates are milestones in history and should be seared into the memory of every child in the country. Roald Dahl