Modern magazines and newspaper columns which focus on food and dining sometimes give recommendations for daily menus, especially for holiday celebrations. It is certain that we are about to be inundated with highly idealized suggestions for Thanksgiving (if you are in the U.S.) and for Christmas and New Year. In the past, monthly or seasonal menus were also commonly presented in cookery books, but rapid international transport, efficient methods of refrigeration, and the use of chemical preservatives have all but eliminated the need for this sort of advice for most of us (although of course eating seasonally still has much to recommend it.)
In remembrance of a time when there was little option but to eat seasonal food, I thought we might spend a day or two in England, in the first half of the eighteen century. For those of you in the northern hemisphere, here is a bill of fare for the month of November, as suggested in The complete family-piece: and, country gentleman, and farmer's best guide (London, 1737):-
Boiled Fowls with Savoys, Bacon, &c.
Dish of stew’d Carps and scalloped Oysters.
Chine of Veal and Ragoo.
Sallad and Pickles.
Calves Head hashed.
Dish of Gurnets.
Hen Turkey roasted with Oysters.
Chine of Salmon and Smelts.
Wild Fowl of Sorts.
Sliced Tongue with Pickles.
Dish of Jellies.
Dish of Fruit.
I had my heart set on giving you the instructions for the ‘Grand Patty’ (which also appeared on the February bill of fare), as it sounds so … well, Grand, but Alas! there was no such recipe in the book. A ‘patty’ at this time was a pie, so I am sure that the name indicates one with a grand filling, and perhaps of a grand size, as the tense is singular. Instead, I give you a method of preparing your fruit for quince pie – a staple since medieval times – from a cookery book of the same era.
To pickle Quinces for keeping.
Take a Parcel of clear Quinces and codle them, then take them out of the Water, and put them in a Pan, and boil up some Parings, Cores, and ordinary Quinces slic'd, in the Liquor, and pour all that together hot on the Quinces, and cover the Pan, and that will keep them; when you take out any for Use, turn back the skin on the Top over the rest, and not break it. This will keep them for Buttering, or Pies.
Court Cookery: or, The compleat English cook (London, 1725)
by Robert Smith (Cook)