Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Birthday Dinner.

October 31 …

It is hard to believe, but The Old Foodie is two years old today. The actual body is considerably older of course, but what is a paltry few decades between life forms?

I want to thank you all for accompanying me on this cyber-journey. I had no idea when I started that I would accumulate so many friends along the way, and that it would be so much fun. I do hope you continue to keep reading .

Birthdays mean birthday dinners, so I looked around for a virtual celebrity chef to cook for me today. In spite of the fact that she was neither a celebrity (merely married to one) nor a cook (one had staff to do that sort of job in her day), and her style of food is not to my taste (being very BV – or British Victorian), I settled on Lady Maria Clutterbuck.

Lady Maria Clutterbuck was not her real name of course. She was Catherine Dickens, the wife of Charles, and her life was sad, in the end. She was very young (only 21) when she married Charles in 1836, just as he was about to become very famous. Their marriage appears to have been happy in the early years when she hosted dinner parties and travelled with him on his literary tours. Bearing him ten children and probably suffering post-natal depression took their toll however, and the marriage faltered and eventually they separated. I chose Lady Maria/Mrs. Dickens as my hostess because I thought it would be fun to hear the inside gossip on Charles Dickens, by One Who Knows.

In 1851 she published a little book called What Shall we Have for Dinner? Satisfactorily Answered by Numerous Bills of Fare for from Two to Eighteen Persons. Eventually I chose the following menu for my virtual dinner – a modest repast for four persons – and you can will see what I mean by it being very BV.

Salmon. Asparagus Soup. Smelts.
Fore Quarter of Lamb. Fricassee Chickens.
New Potatoes. Peas.
Lobster Patties.
Noyau Jelly. Ice Pudding.

The menu is even more solidly BV when you read her recipe for Asparagus soup, which turns out to be a meal in itself.

Take two quarts of good beef or veal broth, put to it four onions, two or three turnips and some sweet herbs, with the white part of a hundred of young asparagus, but if old or very large at the stem half that quantity will do, and let them all simmer till sufficiently tender to be rubbed through a tammy, which is not an easy matter if they be not very young ; then strain and season it, have ready the boiled tops which have been cut from the stems, and add them to the soup ; or poach half-a-dozen eggs rather hard, have ready a hundred of asparagus heads boiled tender, boil three quarts of clear gravy soup, put into it for a minute or two a fowl just roasted, then add a few tarragon leaves, season with a little salt, put the eggs and asparagus heads quite hot into the tureen and pour the soup over them without breaking them ; the fowl will he just as good as before for made dishes.

Tomorrow’s Story …

An Examination in Domestic Economy.

Quotation for the Day …

There is no such passion in human nature, as the passion for gravy among commercial gentlemen. Charles Dickens; Martin Chuzzlewit.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations Old Foodie. There is nothing like you blog on the web, you are a true original & please keep up the good work.
Do you have any information on
The 'Peculiars' of England? A beer is named after one.

erik.ellestad said...


Wonderful writing and a wonderful blog!

Noyau Jelly! Now that is interesting. I've recently been pondering making my own Creme de Noyau, as all the examples I can find on the market are truly dismal.

Would this have been a Noyau syrup or Noyau liqueur flavored jelly? Either seems possible, given the fondness for liqueur flavored puddings, soufflés and the like at this time.

The Old Foodie said...

Hello erik - I am not one for jelly, usually, but Noyau - now that does sound interesting. I'll see if I can find a period recipe for it. I'll post it if I do. Best of luck with your liqueur.

Ed Charles said...

Happy birthday!

Leaking Moonlight said...

Congratulations, and wishing you many more!

And thank you for the careful research and for writing so beautifully about food history. I am a fan.