Mr. Darcy’s Birthday Menu in Darcy & Elizabeth: Hope of the Future
For Celebration Day #4 I am highlighting a celebration written in Darcy & Elizabeth: Hope of the Future: Mr. Darcy’s Birthday Party!
One of the scenes during the engagement period which I had previously written into the novels of the Darcy Saga was the twenty-ninth birthday of Mr. Darcy. Written over ten years ago, “Happy Birthday, Mr. Darcy” was originally a short, stand-alone story. As the Saga moved forward and was then published with Sourcebooks, the recounting of Darcy’s birthday fell perfectly, (thematically speaking) before Elizabeth’s birthday celebration, hence it ending up as chapter seven of my second novel Loving Mr. Darcy.
One of my challenges in writing the Darcy Saga Prequel Duo novels was figuring out how to revisit the previously written scenes and make them fresh without altering the events, conversations, etc. I discussed my thought process in my blog post on Monday: Celebrate Hope of the Future. In the case of revisiting Mr. Darcy’s surprise birthday party, among many other details, I added the menu for his special luncheon. I based the food choices on known delicacies of the period, and for today’s blog, how about we celebrate my novel release with food? If any of these items do not sound appealing, just imagine you are eating a huge chunk of chocolate!
Turtle Soup ~
As the name implies, this was a soup made with the flesh and fat of turtles. It was considered a great delicacy in England and in America. According to The Food Timeline (as well as many other resources), the earliest recipes for dressing sea turtle were given by Richard Bradley, and ascribed by him to a Barbados lady. He called them “sea tortoise” and in his 1728 cookbook The Country Housewife and Lady’s Director wrote:
“Its Flesh is between that of Veal, and that of a Lobster, and is extremely pleasant …They are frequently brought to England in Tubs of Sea Water, and will keep alive a long time.”
Bradley did not include a recipe for turtle soup, the earliest recipes being how to roast or broil turtle meat. Very soon, however, cooking the meat of a tortoise/turtle in a soup spiced with herbs and broth flavored with Madeira (and other alcohol) became a common recipe in English cookery books, including the 1751 edition of Hannah Glasse’s famous book, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy (1747). Turtle soup, prepared from the calipee (flipper meat) was elevated in the 19th century to become a must for banquets and important occasions, particularly because it was expensive and difficult to make.
Turtle Soup remained a popular food past the Victorian Era, waning eventually due to the diminishing supply of turtles. “Mock turtle soups” cooked with veal, beef, and other meats became the alternative.
Salmagundi or Salmagundy ~
Salmagundi, as the name alludes to, is essentially the historic precursor to a salad. Dating back to the seventeenth century, salmagundi refers to the large assortment of ingredients that give the diner a large range of flavors and textures on one plate. Arranged in an elaborate way, a salmagundi incorporated meats and seafood with cooked and/or raw vegetables, fruits and nuts. It could, and often was, a meal itself and was very popular served for luncheon and on a picnic.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines salmagundi as: “A dish composed of chopped meat, anchovies, eggs, onions with oil and condiments.” Hannah Glasse (1747) contains three recipes but sums up the essence of the dish thus: “but you may always make a Salamagundy of such things as you have, according to your Fancy.”
Henry Howard’s 1726 instructions in England’s Newest Way in all Sorts of Cookery suggest: veal, pickles, sorrel, spinach, chives, horseradish, and barberries. Mrs. Raffald, in The Experienced English Housekeeper (1775) endorsed pickled herring and garnishes of butter in a pineapple shape. Other era recipes called for apples, cucumbers, celery, watercress, pickled red cabbage, and pickled gherkins for vegetables, and pickled herring, cold pork, duck, or pigeons for meat. Dressings were usually oil and vinegar or lemon, and sometimes mustard.
Scotch Quail Eggs ~
A Scotch egg consists of a shelled hard-boiled egg, wrapped in a sausage meat mixture, coated in breadcrumbs, and deep-fried. Scotch eggs are commonly eaten cold, typically with salad and pickles.
Scotch egg’s origins are obscure. According to Dr. Andrea Turner, archivist of London’s Fortnum & Mason, the famed exclusive shop invented the portable snack for rich coach travelers in 1738. “The eggs would have been smaller in those days. They would have been pullet’s eggs rather than hen’s eggs, and the meat would have been gamier, like a strong Victorian pâté.’’ Dr. Turner believes the eggs then filtered down the social ranks, first becoming a Victorian savory using cheaper meats, and finally arriving at the mass-produced egg served in the pubs, cafés and at picnics in the second half of the last century.
An alternative theory, propounded by Annette Hope in her book A Caledonian Feast, claims that the Scotch egg evolved from Nargisi Kofta, an Indian dish that is also made from minced meat and a boiled egg. Another theory is that Scotch eggs are, “a Northern variant of Cornish pasty produced by Scottish smallholders who would have kept chickens and pigs”. They were, in essence, a poor man’s lunch, made from left-over meat and eggs, quite handy because they were so easily transported.
Whatever the truthful origin, these delicious eggs have nothing to do with Scotland. It is believed the term was originally “scotched egg” which means, simply, “an egg that has something done to it.” A likely theory, as many 19th century recipes included anchovies in the meat and the word “Scotch” was often applied to the title if these salty fishes were added. Examples: “Scotch woodcock” (scrambled eggs on toast with anchovies) and “Scotch collops” (a meat dish which included anchovies in the sauce).
The first printed recipe for scotch eggs appeared in Mrs. Rundell’s Art of Domestic Cookery published in London in 1809 —
To make a traditional scotch egg, you boil an egg until it is “mollet” ( hard whites but yolk remains a bit runny) and peel it. You could use small or medium hen’s eggs, the fresher the better of course. Then cover the entire the egg with seasoned ground pork or pork sausage meat. Roll the sausage-covered egg in bread crumbs, and fry it.
Boeuf (Beef) à la Mode ~
In Samuel Pepys’s diary (1667), Pepys described visiting “a French house to dinner,” where the table was “covered, and clean glasses … and a mess of pottage first, and then a piece of boeuf-a–la–mode, all exceeding, well seasoned, and to our great liking.”
Recipes for Beef à la Mode appeared in several English and French for centuries. Hannah Glasse included it in her 1747 classic, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, and Eliza Smith’s The Compleat Housewife, first published in England in 1727, contains a recipe for “beef alamode,” though her recipe title actually reads as “To Stew a Rump of Beef.” Elizabeth Raffald, The Experienced English Housekeeper (London, 1778) offers a promising lesson on “To a-la-mode BEEF.” John Cooke, Cookery and Confectionary (London, 1824) includes options for “Rump of Beef à la Mode,” “German à la Mode Beef,” and “Beef Tails à la Mode.”
The phrase à la mode has appeared in English in the sense of “according to current fashion” for hundreds of years. The application varied depending upon the words à la mode was attached to. Samuel Pepys is credited with first coupling the phrase to a type of food (yes, even before ice cream and pie), and this was further established by Hannah Glasse: “beef well beaten, larded and stewed with lemon, pepper, mushrooms, white-wine, &c.”
Meaning, the fancy sounding name of Beef à la Mode is nothing more than the modern-day American pot roast with wine added!
Spinach Soufflé ~
The earliest mention of the soufflé is attributed to French master cook Vincent de la Chapelle, circa the early eighteenth century. The development and popularization of the soufflé is usually traced to French chef Marie-Antoine Carême in the early nineteenth century. The word soufflé is the past participle of the French verb souffler which means “to breathe” or “to puff”, and has been made from a wide variety of additives to the basic components (eggs and cream, whipped) both savory and sweet.
Spinach was brought to Italy in the 9th century and to Spain in the 11th. By the Middle Ages this leafy green was widespread in Europe, and by the 16th century was grown and sold in England.
Ratafia Cakes ~
Ratafia Biscuits or Cakes were an easy, popular cookie that used whipped egg whites for leavening and that baked up very light. They were a type of Macaroon and derived their name from the flavoring used in them. Ratafia was a cordial or liqueur (the origins are unclear) which eventually came to denote almost any alcoholic and aromatic water. Flavorings varied from the original ratafia of Morello cherry kernels to ratafias distilled with infusions of spices, herb, and fruits in brandy or eau de vie.
One recipe, by John Nott in Cooks and Confectioners Dictionary (1726) —
Take one Pound and a half of Sweet Almonds, and half a Pound of Bitter Almonds, beat them as fine as possible with the Whites of two Eggs, then beat the Whites of five Eggs to a strong Froth, shake in lightly two Pounds and a half of fine Loaf Sugar beat and sifted very fine, drop them in little Drops the size of a Nutmeg, on Paper, and bake them in a slack oven.
Also included in Mr. Darcy’s birthday menu were stewed oysters and a tray of assorted fruits, neither of which are particularly unique or exciting. For dessert, along with the ratafia cakes, the birthday man was treated to coffee wafers, lemon biscuits, and fruit fritters. We all know how much Mr. Darcy LOVES lemon, so of course something lemon had to be on the menu! Recipes for flavored biscuits (cookies, in American vernacular), wafer-type cookies, and pastries are found abundantly in cookbooks dating back for centuries. Lastly, but not least, was the birthday cake. Of course! All in all, the celebrants were well fed.
Discovery of the first evidence that early Europeans ate turtles on Anthrophysis