Today’s story is a nice sequel to Friday’s post on meals (and beer) at Yale in the mid-eighteenth century. I came across some new-old food words (you know how I love those!) while researching the Yale story, and I want to share them with you. The source of the following extract on college food and food terms is A Collection of College Words and Customs (1856) by Benjamin Homer Hall.
SIZE. Food and drink from the buttery, aside from the regular dinner at commons.
“A size,” says Minsheu, “is a portion of bread or drinke, it is a farthing which schollers in Cambridge have at the buttery; it is noted with the letter S. as in Oxford with the letter Q. for halfe a farthing; and whereas they say in Oxford, to battle in the Buttery Booke, i. e. to set downe on their names what they take in bread, drinke, butter, cheese, &c.; so, in Cambridge, they say, to size, i.e. to set downe their quantum, i.e. how much they take on their name in the Buttery Booke.”
In the Poems of the Rev. Dr. Dodd, a size of bread is described as “half a half-penny ‘roll’.” Grose, also, in the Provincial Glossary, says "it signifies the half part of a halfpenny loaf, and comes from scindo, I cut."
In the Encyclopaedia Britannica is the following explanation of this term. “A size of anything is the smallest quantity of that thing which can be thus bought” [i.e. by students in addition to their commons in the hall]; “two sizes, or a part of beef, being nearly equal to what a young person will eat of that dish to his dinner, and a size of ale or beer being equal to half an English pint.” It would seem, then, that formerly a size was a small plateful of any eatable; the word now means anything had by students at dinner over and above the usual commons.
Of its derivation Webster remarks, “Either contracted from assize, or from the Latin scissus. I take it to be from the former, and from the sense of setting, as we apply the word to the assize of bread.”
This word was introduced into the older American colleges from Cambridge, England, and was used for many years, as was also the word sizing, with the same meaning. In 1750, the Corporation of Harvard College voted, ‘that the quantity of commons be as hath been usual, viz. two sizes of bread in the morning; one pound of meat at dinner, with sufficient sauce [vegetables], and a half-pint of beer; and at night that a part pie be of the same quantity as usual, and also half a pint of beer; and that the supper messes be but of four parts, though the dinner messes be of six.’ — Quincy's Hist. Harv. Coll., Vol. II. p. 97.
The students of that day, if we may judge from the accounts which we have of their poor commons, would have used far different words, in addressing the Faculty, from King Lear, who, speaking to his daughter Regan, says : —
"'Tis not in thee
To grudge my pleasures, ……
….. to scant my sizes."
SIZE. In the University of Cambridge, Eng., to size is to order any sort of victuals from the kitchens which the students may want in their rooms, or in addition to their commons in the hull, and for which they pay the cooks or butchers at the end of each quarter; a word corresponding to Battel at Oxford. — Encyc. Brit.
In the Gentleman's Magazine, 1795, p. 21, a writer says: “At dinner, to size is to order for yourself any little luxury that may chance to tempt you in addition to the general fare, for which you are expected to pay the cook at the end of the term.”
This word was formerly used in the older American colleges with the meaning given above, as will be seen by the following extracts from the laws of Harvard and Yale.
"When they come into town after commons, they may be allowed to size a meal at the kitchen." — Laws of Harv. Coll., 1798, p. 39.
"At the close of each quarter, the Butler shall make up his bill against each student, in which every article sized or taken up by him at the Buttery shall be particularly charged." — Laws Yale Coll., 1811, p. 31.
"As a college term," says the Gradus ad Cantabrigiam, "it is of very considerable antiquity. In the comedy called 'The Return from Parnassus,' 1606, one of the characters says, 'You that are one of the Devil's Fellow-Commoners; one that sizeth the Devil's butteries,' &c. Again, in the same: 'Fidlers, I use to size my music, or go on the score for it.'"
For is often used after the verb size, without changing the meaning of the expression.
The tables of the Undergraduates, arranged according to their respective years, are supplied with abundance of plain joints, and vegetables, and beer and ale ad libitum, besides which, soup, pastry, and cheese can be "sized for," that is, brought in portions to individuals at an extra charge. — Bristed's Five Years in an Eng. Univ., Ed. 2d, p. 19.
To size upon another. To order extra food, and without permission charge it to another's account.
If any one shall size upon another, he shall be fined a Shilling, and pay the Damage; and every Freshman sent [for victuals] must declare that he who sends him is the only Person to be charged. — Laws Yale Coll., 1774, p. 10.
SIZING. Extra food or drink ordered from the buttery; the act of ordering extra food or drink from the buttery.
Dr. Holyoke, who graduated at Harvard College in 1746, says: "The breakfast was two sizings of bread and a cue of beer." Judge Wingate, who graduated a little later, says: "We were allowed at dinner a cue of beer, which was a half-pint, and a sizing of bread, which I cannot describe to you. It was quite sufficient for one dinner." — Peirce's Hist. Harv. Univ., p. 219.
From more definite accounts it would seem that a sizing of biscuit was one biscuit, and a sizing of cracker, two crackers. A certain amount of food was allowed to each mess, and if any person wanted more than the allowance, it was the custom to tell the waiter to bring a sizing of whatever was wished, provided it was obtained from the commons kitchen; for this payment was made at the close of the term. A sizing of cheese was nearly an ounce, and a sizing of cider varied from a half-pint to a pint and a half.
The Steward shall, at the close of every quarter, immediately fill up the columns of commons and sizings, and shall deliver the bill, &c. — Laws Harv. Coll., 1798, p. 58.
The Butler shall frequently inspect his book of sizings. —Ibid., p. 62.
Whereas young scholars, to the dishonor of God, hinderance of their studies, and damage of their friends' estate, inconsiderately and intemperately are ready to abuse their liberty of sizing besides their commons; therefore the Steward shall in no ease permit any students whatever, under the degree of Masters of Arts, or Fellows, to expend or bo provided for themselves or any townsmen any extraordinary commons, unless by the allowance of the President, &c., or in case of sickness. — Orders written 28th March, 1600. — Quincy's Hist. Harv. Univ, Vol. I. p. 583.
This term, together with the verb and noun size, which had been in use at Harvard and Yale Colleges since their foundation, has of late been little heard, and with the extinction of commons has, with the others, fallen wholly, and probably for ever, into disuse.
The use of this word and its collaterals is still retained in the University of Cambridge, Eng.
Along the wall you see two tables, which, though less carefully provided than the Fellows', are still served with tolerable decency, and go through a regular second course instead of the "sizings." — Brisled's Five Years in an Eng. Univ., Ed. 2d, p. 20.
SIZING PARTY. In the University of Cambridge, Eng., where this term is used, a "sizing party" says the Gradus ad Cantabrigiam, "differs from a supper in this; viz. at a sizing party every one of the guests contributes his part, i.e. orders what he pleases, at his own expense, to his friend's rooms, —'a part of fowl' or duck; a roasted pigeon; a part of apple pie.' A sober beaker of brandy, or rum, or hollands and water, concludes the entertainment. In our days, a bowl of bishop, or milk punch, with a chant, generally winds up the carousal."
Today’s recipe, to get you in Sizing Party mood, is for a fine bowl of bishop. The instructions come from Oxford Night Caps, a collection of receipts for making various beverages; being a collection of receipts for making various beverages used in the University (1827) by Richard Cook.
Bishop, or Spiced Wine.
Three cups of this a prudent man may take,
The first of these for constitution's sake,
The second to the girl he loves the best,
The third and last to lull him to his rest.
BlSHOP seems to be one of the oldest winter beverages known, and to this day is preferred to every other, not only by the youthful votary of Bacchus at his evening's revelry, but also by the grave Don by way of a night cap; and probably derives its name from the circumstance of ancient dignitaries of the Church, when they honoured the University with a visit, being regaled with spiced wine. It appears from a work published some years since, and entitled, Oxoniana, or Anecdotes of the University of Oxford, that in the Rolls or Accounts of some Colleges of ancient foundation, a sum of money is frequently met with charged "pro speciebus," that is, for spices used in their entertainments; for in those days as well as the present, spiced wine was a very fashionable beverage. In the Computus of Maxtoke Priory, anno 1447, is the following curious entry; "Item pro vino cretico cum speciebus et confectis datis diversis generosis in die Sancti Dionysii quando Le fole domini Montfordes erat hie, et faceret jocositates suas in camera Orioli." "Vinum creticum" is supposed to be raisin wine, or wine made of dried grapes; and the meaning of the whole seems to be this: Paid for raisin wine with comfits and spices, when Sir S. Montford's fool was here, and exhibited his merriments in the Oriel chamber.
Make several incisions in the rind of a lemon, stick cloves in the incisions, and roast the lemon by a slow fire. Put small but equal quantities of cinnamon, cloves, mace, and all-spice, and a race of ginger, into a saucepan, with half a pint of water; let it boil until it is reduced one half. Boil one bottle of port wine; burn a portion of the spirit out of it, by applying a lighted paper to the saucepan. Put the roasted lemons and spice into the wine; stir it up well, and let it stand near the fire ten minutes. Rub a few knobs of sugar on the rind of a lemon, put the sugar into a bowl or jug, with the juice of half a lemon, (not roasted,) pour the wine upon it, grate some nutmeg into it, sweeten it to your taste, and serve it up with the lemon and spice floating in it.
Oranges, although not used in Bishop at Oxford, are, as will appear by the following lines, written by Swift, sometimes introduced into that beverage.
Fine oranges Well roasted, with sugar and wine in a cup, They'll make a sweet Bishop when gentlefolks sup.
Ebenezer Scrooge (post-ghosts, naturally) invited Bob Cratchett to a steaming bowl of bishop, if I remember my Dickens.
Thanks Shay - and sorry for the late response, I got a bit too busy and some comments slipped by me! I had forgotten Scrooge and bishop - thanks for reminding me!
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