Friday, September 07, 2007

Eating in Oxford.

Today, September 7th
Here I am! In Oxford for the Symposium on Food & Cookery, and looking forward to it enormously. I have been trying to get here for years.
Karen Resta asked for some Oxford food history – actually, if you look back to the original comment, Karen made a lot of requests. A sign of a curious mind, methinks.
I have given you some random snippets of Oxford food history in the past. For those of you who are coffee fiends, the first record of coffee drinking in England was in 1637 in Oxford, and was noted in the diary of none other than John Evelyn. Our frequent friend Parson Woodforde’s early academic life was at Oxford, and he recorded a number of his meals there – one in particular feast of ‘tongue and udder’ in 1763 did not impress, and we have considered why that may be in another post.
I could regale you with a historic menu – if only I could chose which one is the most fun! You might have to wait until Menus from History is finally published!
As I will be staying at St Catherine’s college during the symposium I thought that something on college food might be interesting. I am confident that the food served at the symposium will be excellent, and far above what is normally associated with student accommodation. We have previously discussed the terrible plight of an undergraduate student at Christ Church in 1889 who had cause to complain about the rhubarb tart, on account of it not being apple. Within a couple of years after his complaint, the system had been modernised and lunch was now available in Hall, for a modest cost. A letter from the chief instigator of this change, Oscar Browning, to the Steward of Christ Church, summed it all up:
“Our common luncheon in Hall is a great success. Things are ordered à la carte. The usual prices are Soup 6d., Fish or Entrée 6d., made dish 8d., Vegetables or salad 1d., Pudding 3d. Men order what they like but the whole style is simple. … Members of College entertain out [of] College friends at luncheon. The luncheon is served at the tables used for dinner and the most delightful part of the arrangement is that Dons, Undergraduates & their friends all sit together and the conversation is quite general and I may say unrestrained. … Some men still lunch in their rooms on bread and marmalade for the sake of economy, and some people I know find that the Hall is an occasion of expense. I think it saves me personally about ₤40 a year.”
I decided to give you a recipe with ‘Oxford’ in the title, and had a difficult time chosing: there is Oxford John (mutton collops), Oxford dumplings, Oxford pancakes, Oxford pudding, Oxford sausages (with and without skins) for starters. There also seems to be a rather large number of alcoholic beverages named for Oxford. Now why would that be? I give you one of them today, as we have not had a beverage recipe in a little while.
Oxford Punch.
Rub the rind of three fresh lemons with half a pound of loaf sugar, in lumps, until all the yellow part is taken off. Put the sugar into a large jug with the thin rind of a Seville orange and a lemon, the strained juice of three Seville oranges and eight lemons, and a pint of liquid calf’s-foot jelly. Mix these ingredients thoroughly. Pour over them two quarts of boiling water, and set the jug which contains them on the hob for twenty minutes. Strain the mixture into a punch bowl, and when it is cool, mix with it a bottle of capillaire, a pint of brandy, a pint of rum, half a pint of light wine, and a quart of orange shrub. Sufficient for nearly a gallon of punch.
[Cassells’ Dictionary of Cookery, 1870’s]
Monday’s Story …
Eggs Drumkilbo
Quotation for the Day …
I have just been all round the world and have formed a very poor opinion of it. Sir Thomas Beecham.


Joanna said...

Love this post, as Oxford is my county town ... wish I was at the symposium too - I've never managed to get there, even though I'm only 20 miles away, not half way round the world, like you!

Back to the coffee: which college? And do we know where that first coffee house was?

Enjoy your stay


The Old Foodie said...

Hello Joanna - what a pity you are not able to make it!

I understand that it was at Balliol college. John Evelyn’s diary of May 10th 1637 says 'there came in my time to the college one Nathaniel Conopios, out of Greece. He was the first I ever saw drink coffee'.

The first coffee house was opened at Oxford in 1650 “by Jacobs, a Jew, at the Angel, in the parish of St. Peter in the East” (I wonder what is there now?)

The first to open in London was in 1652, in St. Michael's Alley, Cornhill, "by one Pasqua Rosée”

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T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

This sounds better than what I ate at college, although I believe I consumed something similar to the punch during my academic days! I look forward to hearing about the symposium. So sorry our paths couldn't cross this time -- so close yet so far! It has been a beautiful week in London, though.

Anonymous said...

A lovely post, Janet. I've been very excited reading all the others during your trip and waiting to see which of my many many unreasonable demands you would choose to honor us with. Thanks. :)

Anonymous said...

Pasqua Rosée? How very interesting. I have only once heard that name before: My husband's paternal grandmother was named PasquaRosa! My husband's father wanted to christen his eldest daughter PasqueRosa but my MIL put her foot down and told the doctor the name was to be Yolanda.

Joanna said...

Thanks for answering my questions ... I'm in Oxford on Wednesday, so I'll try to track down that first coffee house ... although I suspect it may turn out to be a lifetime's work, rather than a short walk for an idle afternoon!