Monday, March 31, 2008

Too much Bumboo.

March 31 ...

An eighteenth century Sussex village shopkeeper by the name of Thomas Turner kept a diary for a number of years, and although it is by no means as comprehensive as those of our friends Samuel Pepys and James Woodforde, it still gives a fascinating insight into community life of the time. On Friday last week (the 28th) I was going to give you his diary entry for that day in 1756, but the idea got pushed rudely aside in view of the vehement feedback on the Aussie damper issue.

I give you his diary entry belatedly today:

“I went down to Jones, where we drank one bowl of punch and two muggs of bumboo; and I came home again in liquor; Oh! With what horrors does it fill my heart, to think that I should be guilty of doing so, and on a Sunday too! Let me once more endeavour never, no never to be be guilty of the same again.”

I had never heard of ‘bumboo’ (bumbo, bombo) until I reaed that entry. It is a sort of toddy, made from rum, water, sugar, and nutmeg, and it clearly has a link with the sugar-producing colonies. I wonder how it made its way to a Sussex village?

Bumboo was apparently a drink of choice for sailors, sugar workers, and many plantation owners. It was useful at election time for those who wished to persuade, bribe, or confuse potential voters to their cause – including apparently George Washington in 1758. There is a fascinating account of its use in Virginia in the 1770’s written by ‘an old English officer’ called J.F.D Smyth; he was clearly very snooty and did not think much of the local American born estate-owners:

‘The gentleman of fortune rises about nine o’clock ; when perhaps he walks as far as his stables, which is seldom more than the distance of fifty yards from his house. After seeing his horses he returns to breakfast, which generally consists of tea or coffee, bread and butter, with very thin flices of venison-ham, or hung-beef. He then lies on a pallat, on the floor, in the coolest room in the house, in his shirt and trowsers only, with a negroe at his head, and another at his feet, to fan him and keep off the flies. Between twelve and one he takes a draught of bumbo, or toddy, a liquor composed of water, sugar, rum, and nutmeg, which is made weak, and kept cool. He dines between two and three, and at every table, whatever else there may be, a ham and greens or cabbage, is always a standing dish. At this meal he drinks as he pleases , of cyder, toddy, punch, port, claret, and madeira. Having drank some few glasses of wine after dinner, he returns to his pallat, with his two blacks to fan him, and continues to drink toddy, or sangaree, the whole afternoon. He does not always drink tea. Between nine and ten in the evening he eats a light supper of milk and fruit, or wine, sugar, and fruit, &c. and almost immediately retires to bed for the night."

Ham obviously figured large in the diet in that time and place. Virginia ham has a famous reputation, and one day I hope to try it out for myself. In the meanwhile, I give you some recipes for the inevitable, interminable slices that come from a single leg.

Royal Ham Sandwiches.
Chop up some boiled ham and the yelks of three or four hard-boiled eggs, according to quantity required. Press all through a collander, then cream a tablespoonful of best butter and mix with the ham and eggs; a teaspoonful of prepared mustard is a nice additional flavor; spread between thin slices of bread and cut around or fold up as you desire. An empty baking powder can will do to use as a cutter.
[Aunt Babette's" Cook Book: Foreign and domestic receipts for the household. 1889]

[To use Scraps of Ham]
To economise the scraps left from boiled ham, chop fine, add some of the fat also chopped, and put in a baking-plate, first a layer of bread-crumbs, then a layer of mixed fat and lean, then another layer of crumbs, and so on till all is used, putting a few bits of fat over the top; pour over it a little water, or a dressing of some kind, and set in oven till a nice brown. This is delicious for breakfast, or for a "picked up dinner," after having made a soup from the bone, well cracked and simmered for three hours with a few sliced potatoes and rice, or dried corn and beans which have first been soaked and parboiled. In boiling hams, always select an old ham; for broiling, one recently cured. After boiling and skinning a ham, sprinkle well with sugar and brown in oven.
[Buckeye Cookery, And Practical Housekeeping. 1877]

Tomorrow’s Story …

Tree fruit.

Quotation for the Day …

Carve a ham as if you were shaving the face of a friend. Henri Charpentier.


Scotty Harris said...

It's been 20 years since I was an American History major in college, but we had an entire section on "swilling the planters with bumbo" as an election tactic. Wish they did it now! ;-)

Lidian said...

I love to read your posts, I always learn such amazing things!

And it is such fun too. The Virginia gentleman's daily routine reminded mequite strongly of the daiy routine of our cats. Except that we do not stand and fan them. And they do not get to eat ham often, which displeases them (they adore ham).

Anonymous said...

I hope that you do get to try Virginia ham in your life, it is wonderful. Only eat Smithfield if you do though.

Lidian, funny, I thought of our cats as well!