Cooked to death

vegimite

A typescript found in the Haining Archive, and possibly published, contains potted accounts of many examples of horrible or ridiculous deaths involving food. Here are a few of them:

A Gruelling Fate

Few cooks have suffered a more bizarre fate than Richard Rosse, a well-known London chef in the sixteenth century. In the year 1530 he was appointed to the household of the Bishop of Rochester and appears to have satisfied his master until the autumn. Then, says an account of his life published in Remarkable Trials and Notorious Characters ( 1850):

     It was declared that he had poisoned some gruel being made for the Bishop and imprisoned in Smithfield. Here he was boiled to death.

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Professor Louisa Stanley—pioneer of healthy US diets

American nutrition guru 001Found in the fascinating El Mundo archive is this intriguing photo of Dr Louisa Stanley( 1883 – 1954), pioneer of practical home economics, shown standing in front of the Good Housekeeping home which was one of the twelve Homes of Tomorrow exhibited at the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago.

At the time Stanley, as Bureau head of Home Economics, was the highest paid woman in the United States Department of Agriculture, where her brief was to improve the diets of ordinary Americans. Unlike the TV chefs of today, she came to the important issues of well-balanced diets and a healthy lifestyle, from the standpoint of a chemist. The nearest we have had to such a celebrity nutritionist was the seventies TV guru Dr Magnus Pyke—he of the waving arms and rapid fire delivery—but at the moment Jamie ‘The Naked Chef’ Oliver is doing something similarly serious to change our attitude towards dangerously fattening carbohydrates, notably sugar..

Back in 1930s America, sugar was not denounced as public enemy number one, and Stanley saw it as part of a well balanced diet. There is even a photo of her judging a pie competition. But she did champion the benefits of healthy home cooking based on sound nutrition. One of the issues she promoted was the canning of home-grown vegetables.The health benefits of soya beans was something else she supported. Much of her promotional work was mediated through radio broadcasts.

In the photo the lettering on the large cards displayed inside the four rooms of the Good Housekeeping Home is too small to read easily, but we can just make out a statement to the effect that a ‘well balanced diet’ is the key to safeguarding health. In another room the same family appear to be engaged in some communal activity (possibly listening to the radio), while behind them on the wall is that hardy perennial of the statistician, the pie chart, which though invented in 1801, wasn’t really used until 1858.

Louise Stanley went on to become a sort of national treasure in the United States. In 1940 she became the first woman to receive an honorary doctorate and in 1961 a building at her alma mater, the University of Missouri, was named after her. [R.M.Healey]

Jane Grigson at 27—-a lost etching

Grigson Jane etching 1955 001Arguably one of the two greatest twentieth century English writers on food (the other being Elizabeth David), Jane Grigson ( 1928 – 1990) was the subject of this intriguing etching by the artist Jack Daniel, who knew her in the early fifties when she was living in west London as a young picture researcher working for the publisher George Rainbird.

The etching, which is signed by Daniel and dated retrospectively ‘1955’ was given to me by the artist when I met him about 20 years ago at his home. I was researching the life of Jane’s husband, the poet and critic Geoffrey Grigson, and had somehow discovered Daniel’s address. I found him very friendly and forthcoming about Jane and Geoffrey, whom she had met while he was editing the encyclopaedia People, Places, Things and Ideas for George Rainbird. He was particularly informative about their early relationship (they met when Geoffrey was already married) and just before I left, he sought out one of his portfolios and fished out this etching. It must have meant much to him, considering he had kept it for over forty years.

I seem to recall that Daniel shared part of the house with Jane, who is depicted working at a table in her flat, next to a window through which can be seen the rooftops and chimney pots of neighbouring houses. She seems to be writing something—probably nothing to do with gastronomy, for she had yet to specialise in this field. Indeed, it was a chance meeting with an archaeologist living in one of the cave houses at Troo, on the Loir near Vendome, that propelled her into this new career. She took over his research and the book which resulted from it was published in 1966 as the famous Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery. With this her future was assured. [R.M.Healey]

Cuppa in the City

51Y+-eY-sUL._SL500_SX317_BO1,204,203,200_From the Good Cuppa Guide by Jonathan Routh (1966) in the ‘Tea in the City’ section. Jonathan Routh (1928-2008) was a hoaxer and practical joker, most famous as the presenter of ITV’s Candid Camera. Previous to this he had successfully invented a fictitious 18th Century poet, gaining him a mention in the TLS. As well as his guide to tea shops in London he produced the Good Loo Guide (1968); the New York version was called the Good John Guide. He was also a prolific, and eccentric, painter – Queen Victoria was depicted trying to lose weight using a hula-hoop. Some of his paintings occasionally turn up in auction..
 

The Leadenhall Tea Room and Billiards Salon

(Licensed for Billiards and Tobacco)

21 Lime Street

This vast subterranean arena which hasn’t changed one iota since 1880 is one of the weirdest sights in England. In it are maybe two hundred men drinking fivepenny cups of tea – which is all that’s served for their refreshment – watching another fifty on the billiard tables. It seemed only right that, in purchasing my cup, I should have received change for my 6d with an Edwardian penny. I felt, too, that at last I’d stumbled across what that ‘Something’ is that people who are ‘Something in the City’ do. As I say, it’s weird; and it goes on from 10 in the morning to 9 at night. Just the click of cue on ball and spoon on cup. An absolute must for those who like to take their tea in surroundings that are different.

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Medicinal Virtues of Strong Coffee

Typical London coffee house in the 18th century

18th Century Coffee House*

Among the astonishingly varied contents of the very scarce Family Receipt Book (undated but c1810) is this incredible piece of PR on behalf of strong coffee:

‘Strong coffee, in the proportion of an ounce and a half to a pint, and particularly when made by infusion, is not only truly grateful to the palette, but wonderfully fortifies and strengthens the stomach, as well as the whole nervous system. It adds, maintains one of its warmest panegyrists, or gives spirits to the body, on any sinking, faintness, weakness, or weariness, of mind or body, and that beyond whatever the best wine can effect; conveying, as it were, life and strength to the whole frame. It is, doubtless, very good against consumptions, vapours and hysterics, and all cold and moist diseases afflicting the head, brain etc; it prevails also, on being long and plentifully used, against the scurvy, dropsy, and gout , as well as all manner of rheumatic pains ; absorbing all acidities in the human body, and destroying the congelative powers by which those diseases are chiefly generated; while, by it’s(sic) diuretic property, it carries off all those heterogene and morbific humours, after a very singular manner. “

It may be, says Salmon, the medical writer here in part quoted, “that I have said a great deal in commendation of this strong coffee, but I can truly assert that  I have said nothing but what I know myself, and that in my own person, to be truth, and have had confirmed by manifold and daily experiences for a great many years, to my exceeding satisfaction. I was also cured, about ten years since, of a rheumatic pain in my shoulder; which was so vehement that, besides the perpetual pain, I could not as much lift my arm or hand up to my head, not put it behind my back , for nearly two years , in which I received no benefit by a long application of vesicatories, and continual use of opiates. Of this vehement rheumatism, I was perfectly cured by drinking a full quart of strong coffee at a time, and continuing it some days together, nor have I since the smallest return. The like relation I have had from two other persons, particular patients of mine, who were much more grievously afflicted, by their own accounts, than even I was; who by an extravagant drinking of strong coffee, to use their own words, were perfectly cured, and freed from their deplorable lameness, after manifold applications, and the use of many other things, both external and internal, had for some years past been tried in vain.”

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Samp soup—a recipe from Count Rumford

Count_RumfordFound in a pamphlet of c 1796, entitled On Food, and particularly of Feeding the Poor by the pioneer of cheaply produced dishes , Benjamin, Count Rumford, is a recipe that is not likely to catch on among modern foodies, though those who like experimenting with trendy cereals such as Quinoa, might find it intriguing. To me it sounds like a superior thickened gruel, but others might disagree.

Receipt for a very cheap Soup

‘Take of water eight gallons, and mixing with it 5lbs of barley-meal, boil it to the consistency of a thick jelly.—Season it with salt, pepper, vinegar, sweet herbs, and four red herrings, pounded in a mortar.—-Instead of bread, add to it 5lb. of Indian Corn made into Samp, and stirring it together with a ladle, serve it up immediately in portions of 20 ounces.

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A Georgian Giles Coren (concluded)

Georgian eateries117Virginia, Newman’s Court, Cornhill.

This house is much frequented by ship carpenters, and ship brokers. Dinners are very well served up at 15d a head. Rural city merchants, that is, those who sleep in the country, generally dine here. The entertainment is good, and the charge moderate. As to the mistress at the bar, she is very obliging; she is as prolific in curtseys as a Frenchwoman, and as prolific in issue as a rabbit.1)

Mill’s, Gerrard Street, Soho

This house is remarkable for good red port, and good spirits. They dress dinners and suppers in style —and the breakfast are very comfortable. Several intelligent gentlemen, stricken in years, are it’s constant guests, and the conversation is both pleasing and instructive. The charges are indeed very reasonable, and the attention prompt and agreeable. It is celebrated for being the very first house that reduced the prices of wines and spirits, after the commencement of the French treaty. 2)

Batson’s Coffee House, near ‘Change.

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Oswell Blakeston on Drinking in the City

Posted by jotter HB this piece by Oswell Blakeston – of whom his partner Max Chapman said- “.(he had) a quick eye for the bizarre and the outrageous”. The portrait of him is by fellow avant-garde film maker Bruguiere.

george-eastman-house-bruguiere-series-1379746538_bBut of course ‘drinking in the City’ means different pleasures to different people. One can drink the whole fascination of a nation’s trade with the gentlemen who (say) leave their bowler hats on the mantelpiece in The Capataz in Old Broad Street. They may look ‘ordinary’, these quietly cultured men, but they have much strange lore, and maybe one deals in tea leaves which have been grown on a mountain called ‘The Thousand Acres of Cloud’ and another in furs caught by trappers in a landscape that is so chill that words turn into icicles. One may imbibe in the City in tall rooms with one great sheet of mirror behind the bar and stand next to dark-suited clerks who know all about jungles where the vegetation gasps for air or about Arctic wastes that exist as fables agreed upon.

Oswell Blakeston, the pen name of Henry Joseph Hasslacher (1907-85), was an editor, travel writer, film critic and poet. He also wrote cookery books, including Edwardian Glamour Cooking Without Tears (1960).  – lib.utexas.edu

The Book of the City, a collection of essays, was published by Ian Norrie (d. 2009), the owner of the High Hill Bookshop in Hampstead. (We have more from Ian Norrie in recently purchased archives.) [HB]

A Georgian Giles Coren 2

More extracts from an anonymous ‘Review of Taverns , Inns, Coffee Houses and Genteel Eating Houses’ published in the New London Magazine, July and August 1788. The web has done part of the work  by publishing the first part of this survey of eating places, which appeared in the June 1788 issue of The New London Magazine. Luckily, the second and third parts of this series remain offline. So here are some of the highlights of this witty and very politically incorrect survey of eateries in late Georgian London. See our earlier posting A Georgian Giles Coren for more..

Spread Eagle, Strand.

Long noted among the society of the humorous and intelligent. The rooms are here remarkably spacious. Indeed they are in stile. As to the bill of fare, it abounds with every article in the season, from a mutton chop to a bustard or John-dory. The wines are all pure and well flavoured. If there be any preferable to others, it is the sherry and the port. The master and waiters are as civil and patient at four in the morning as at eight in the evening; and the prices of the various articles are very moderate.

58791Toy, Hampton-court.


Pitch-cock eels are here in the utmost perfection. Being in the vicinity of the palace, it is ever frequented in the summer months, by the great, the dissipated and the inquisitive. The apartments are airy, the bill of fare is rich and diversified.
The wines are all excellent. If the bill appears stretched sometimes, strangers cannot much repine, as they have always the best of everything for their money, and likewise the utmost alacrity of attention. The guests would rather pay a guinea at the Toy, from experience, that fifteen shillings for the same fare any where contigious.1)

August 1788

 Windsor Castle, Richmond.

 Long has this house been in estimation. Rigby, who often formerly used to bait here, en tete a tete, used to say “ that further up you may fare worse! “ . The apartments are all spacious, and the view from behind a most luxurious landscape! Good eels, good fowls, and good venison, are found here. The various courses are all served up in style, and there is not a wine but what is of the highest flavour, and best quality. The stables too are excellent in equestrian accommodation; and that is no secondary consideration with a man of feeling, who feeds his horse himself, while the cuisineur is preparing his own feed. The charge is by no means extortionate, and there is as grateful a fair hair’d curtsey at the bar to be had for a shilling as for a guinea. In the left front parlour is a room befitting even Middleton himself. It was lined by India, at least in painting—the panels were formed for the room, and then sent out for Asiatic gilding!

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A Georgian Giles Coren

The Red Lion in the 1930s

A Georgian Giles Coren

Extracts from an anonymous ‘ Review of Taverns , Inns, Coffee Houses and Genteel Eating Houses’ published in the New London Magazine, July and August 1788.

The web has done part of my work for me by publishing the first part of this survey of eating places, which appeared in the June 1788 issue of The New London Magazine. Luckily, the second and third parts of this series remain offline. So here are some of the highlights of this witty and very politically incorrect survey of eateries in late Georgian London

July 1788

Brentford Eights, an island in the Thames off Brentford

This is rendered famous for pitch-cock eels. It is likewise celebrated for a very favourite Dutch dish called Vater Zuchee. This dish is composed of perch, parsley-roots and vinegar, served up in a deep dish, with slices of bread and butter. The visitors of the Eights, in gormandising this dish, have no occasion for any other knives and forks than what nature has given them. It is common to eat with digits only.
If any stripling of fortune, whether a coxswain of a barge, or the supercargo of a post chaise, wishes to be indulged, he may be served here with zouchee to the amount of eight shillings a head.

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Spice Girls spice labels

[raw]

Sent in by a loyal jotwatcher this useful and amusing piece about the Spice Girls and Viz the cult British comic magazine. It probably dates from about 1996. Go easy on the nutmeg!

Spice Girls spice labels

Does anyone remember that issue of Viz that appeared at a time when the Spice Girls were at the height of their fame. This particular number featured cut-out ’n’-keep labels which could be stuck onto spice jars. Aping the designs of the famous Schwartz spice bottles, there was one label for four of the Spice Girls—‘Scary Spice’ was left out for some reason.  Was I the only person who actually cut out the labels and used them? I somehow doubt it. Anyway, I’ve still got them, although they are getting a bit grubby. Each label contains a description of each of the spices, together with a recipe contributed by one of the girls.

Victoria presents Basil.

There is no finer sight in a herb garden than a basil flower. Generally used to add colour a dish, Basil is completely tasteless, but compensates for this by being extremely flavourful. It can be bought in most supermarkets or stolen from posh people’s gardens.

Victoria’s recipe.
Welsh rabbit.     Place your rabbit (or hare if in season) on the toast and cover  generously with cheese. Then toast until Welsh throughout. Add Basil to taste and serve

Toast
Cheese.
Rabbit
Basil

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Rock and Roll Cookery

Found – an uncommon cook book called Cool Cooking. Recipes of your Favorite Rock Stars by Roberta Ashley ( Scholastic Book Service USA 1972). As it was published 40 years some of the stars are now dead (John Lennon, George Harrison, Eddie Kendricks, Wilson Pickett, Joe Cocker) or sadly forgotten (The Honey Cones, The Grass Roots, The Bells, Andy Kim, Odetta, The Delfonics, Rose Colored Glass, Mandrill) and Paul McCartney was still eating meat. He provides a pizza recipe with sausage and anchovies etc.,

Some recipes are long and complicated and some short to the point of minimalist. From Elton John (‘who doesn’t cook at all’) is a multi ingredient Shrimp Currry. Kris Kristofferson’s Tacos looks slightly difficult but he advises (unlike Nigella) ‘prepackaged taco shells’. George Harrison’ s Banana Sandwich requires bread and a banana with peanut butter optional -‘Slice  a ripe banana lengthwise and lay on a piece of bread. If you like, you can spread the bread with peanut butter.’ That’s it.

Another banana themed recipe comes from Carly (‘You’re so vain’) Simon. Carly ‘likes strange food combinations she creates spontaneously’. This concoction, she says, tastes great with yoghurt and mandarin oranges.

Carly’s Concoction
Chopped Walnuts
1 container cottage cheese
1 banana
honey ( as much as you like)
Mix the walnuts into the cottage cheese and sliced the banana over the top of this mixture. Pour honey over the whole concoction and serve.

Lastly John Fogerty ( Creedence Clearwater Revival) has a good egg recipe for a rock and roll breakfast.

Fogerty Scrambled Eggs
4 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
salt and pepper
1/2 stick butter

 Beat  the eggs well and stir in the sour cream ; add salt and pepper and blend. Melt the butter in a skillet and pour in the eggs. Fry over a medium heat, stirring frequently, until the eggs are  solid. Serves 2.

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Tea Room Management

From - The Fingerpost: A Guide to Professions for Educated Women, with Information as to Necessary Training. (Central Bureau for the Employment of Women. 1906.) A useful guide to the practicalities and economics for women considering opening a tea room at the dawn of the 20th century. A persistent dream, in one Agatha Christie story (Miss Marple?) a woman is willing to bump off several relatives to get the money to open a tea room..

Tea-Room Management. Gertrude Limb.

In choosing a suitable place for a tea-room, it is wise to bear in mind two things: position, and the number of residents and visitors who may by customers. Even if an extra outlay of capital is required, I am convoked that it is well spent on a good position. The old adage, "Out of sight, out of mind", is especially applicable to a tea-shop. Then it is "the number that pays," and it is best t choose a place favoured by tourists as well as residents, and if it is place by the sea where boards call, so much the better.

To open a tea-shop without previous experience and training will in all probability spell failure, for to be able to make tea charmingly in one's own drawing-room does not necessarily mean that one has all the many gifts necessary for success in business. Embryo pupils write to me - "I am considered attractive socially." "I have made cakes at home for year." "I have good taste, with a correct eye for form and colour," and probably when the socially attractive pupil enters she has no idea that flower glasses require to be washed, that coffee must be ground, that chairs and tables must be policed, and, for the girl who has made cakes at home, she has yet to learn that cake making as a business is a very different matter.

Then how many girls who think they can run a tea-shop can keep the simplest accounts correctly?

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The most nourishing soup

A pot of Rumford’s Soup from the basic recipe: pearl barley and dried peas, water, salt, some vinegar (no potatoes). Thanks to Gestumblindi.
Found - an 'extract' from a book about food with a recipe for pearl barley soup. This piece appears in various forms throughout the 19th century but derives from work with the poor by Benjamin Thompson (Count Rumford)  when he was army minister in Bavaria in the 1790s. Rumford was an American ennobled by the courts of Europe because of his pioneer discoveries in cooking.The soup is sometimes known as Rumford's Soup. He wrote:

The difference in the apparent goodness, or the palatableness, and apparent nutritiousness of the same kinds of food, when prepared or cooked in different ways struck me very forcibly and I constantly found that the richness or quality of a soup depended more upon a proper choice of the ingredients and a proper management of the fire in the combination of those ingredients, than upon the quantity of solid nutritious matter employed ;— much more upon the art and skill of the cook, than upon the amount of the sums laid out in the market.

I found, likewise, that the nutritiousness of a soup, or its power of satisfying hunger, and affording nourishment, appeared always to be in proportion to its apparent richness or palatableness. But what surprised me not a little, was a discovery of the very small quantity of solid food, which, when properly prepared, will suffice to satisfy hunger, and support life and health ; and the very trifling expense at which the stoutest and most laborious man may, in any country, be fed.

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Frances Willard—nineteenth century American feminist extraordinaire

Here is a signed photo of that amazing woman, Frances Willard ( no relation of Dolf !!), an icon of American feminism, who almost single – handedly organised the suffragist movement in the States from the mid nineteenth century until her comparatively early death (probably partly from sheer hard work) in 1898 aged 58. As a committed proto-Socialist and president of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Movement (WCTU) for 19 years she lobbied on an enormous range of progressive social issues, including the voting rights of all women over the age of 21, federal aid for education, free school lunches, unions for workers, an eight-hour working day, municipal sanitation, national transportation, anti-rape laws and protections against child abuse. On the issue of female suffrage she argued that women could only be safe from male violence in their own homes if they were seen as ‘companions and counsellors of men’ rather than their playthings.
Willard made several tours of the UK to promote her ideals and it was probably on one of these appearances in October 1895 that she signed as ‘your affectionate sister’ this mass-produced photo of herself. Three years later she was dead. [R.R.]

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John Elliotson—friend of Dickens, champion of mesmerism and vegetarianism

Dr John Elliotson (1791 - 1868 ), though attacked in his own time for his unconventional practices, would have thrived today as a go-to TV doctor on all things to do with alternative medicine. He was conventional enough as a medical student, but then went on to study phrenology, and afterwards introduced his friend Dickens to mesmerism, on which he became an acknowledged expert. Thackeray dedicated Pendennis to him and based his character Dr Goodenough in his last novel, The Adventures of Philip, on Elliotson. He was a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Physicians and the Royal Society, and was one of the first doctors to advocate the use of the stethoscope. Wilkie Collins called him ‘one of the greatest English physiologists’.  He was also, though the biographical sources don’t mention it, a firm fan of vegetarianism, which in mid Victorian England was still frowned on. In this undated letter, which was found in a collection of autographed material, Elliotson recommends to an unknown correspondent that his brother continue with his non-meat diet:

'He need not take fish--milk & all sorts of vegetable productions, offer dishes without end. Tell him to read the account of the meeting of the Vegetarian Society in the Daily News of this morning. I know members who eat no meat (excluding fish also) & drink neither wine … & are in the finest health. I would not wish him to eat fish if it disquiets him –but tell them one thousand good dishes (are) made from milk & vegetable matter…Bread & milk, custards, use arrowroot, sago, tapioca pudding, sweet omelettes, fruits of all kinds, in all ways.'

Despite being censured by many members of the medical community—and in particular Thomas Wakley, editor of The Lancet-- for his interest in mesmerism Elliotson persisted in championing the subject and even edited a magazine, The Zoist, which promoted the topic. He also founded a mesmeric hospital. [RR]

Agamemnondinner

The Agamemnon Dinner of November 1900

Found among a large collection of menus printed at the turn of the nineteenth century by the high class Cambridge printer W.P.Spalding is this menu for the annual ‘Agamemnon  Dinner’ of the famous Cambridge University Amateur Dramatic Club, which was held at King’s College on 27th November 1900.


A copy of this particular menu, signed by some who attended the Dinner, is in the King’s College archives. It shows that the medievalist M.R.James, a good amateur actor who enjoyed reciting his famous ghost stories at ADC events, was present at the Dinner, along with A.A.Milne, then in his Fresher year. All the menus reflect the high gastronomical standards of the various Cambridge colleges at that time, but the dishes on offer at the Agamemnon Dinner seem particularly delicious.

James and Milne could choose from starters that included Potage Dauphine served with an amontillado, Turbot boulli, sauce crevettes and filet de sole a la Villeroi which came with a liebfraumilch, perdrix aux choux, or petites timbales a la Royale, which were served with a 1894 Champagne Irroy.

The main courses consisted of Boeuf pique a la Godard, Oison Roti, sauce aux pommes, celery a l’Espagnoles, haricots verts, pommes de terre en croquettes et Oakley.

Or they might prefer Langue de Boeuf a la Ecarlate with puree d’Epinards.

Dessert number one came in the form of ‘Pouding A.D.C.’ or Bavarois au Curacao.

Then there were liqueurs offered with Glace au pain bis a la Jamaique..

Then, rather bizarrely, came Croutes d’ Anchois ( marinated fish towards the end of a meal; I wonder if this was ever popular). And finally, another  Dessert (not specified), after which came port and coffee.

Personally, I could happily scoff the lot—apart from the anchovies, obviously, although I’d want to know what potato croquettes ‘et Oakley’ exactly meant. [RR]

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The Diary of A Dining-Out Man

From Virtual Victorian

From a volume of Bentley's Miscellany (London, 1841)- this piece by Albany Poyntz (i.e. Catherine Gore) other contributors to this volume included Ainsworth, Crowquill, Ingoldsby & Longfellow. She also wrote A World of Wonders (Richard Bentley, London 1845) - a polymathic work refuting popular superstitions with  chapters on Pope Joan, Wild Women, Sybils, Monstrous Births and Ventriloquism etc.,. The full text can be found at Project Gutenberg.

Catherine Gore (1799 - 1861) is best known for her many "silver-fork" novels, which depicted fashionable high society. In 1830, she published her first silver-fork novel, Women As They Are, or Manners of the Day, and then went on to write many more books in this popular genre that provided her with a considerable income. There is much on her at The Corvey Novels Project (Nebraska) She was known as a bright conversationalist, an attribute that also displayed itself in the dialogue in her novels. Her writing is often compared to Jane Austen's, particularly her descriptions of the "heartless society mother" in various novels. In this piece The Diary of A Dining-Out Man, which she writes as 'Albany Poyntz' the extreme worldliness of tone prefigures Saki. It is a world she would have known - she was herself at one time very rich but was swindled out of £20,000, and had to write several more society novels to recoup.

DIARY OF A DINING-OUT MAN.
BY ALBANY POYNTZ.

  So, here we are in the season again. — Goodness  be praised ! — Those country houses take too much  out of a man, in return for what he extracts from them. It is well enough in those where one has  the ear of the house, as well as the run of the house, — remaining a fixture, while successive parties of guests appear and disappear; for the  same bon-mots and good stories serve to amuse his  Grace on Friday, which were tried upon the country-neighbour party with success, the preceding Monday, — as inoculation was attempted upon criminals, before the royal family were submitted to the prick of the lancet. More particularly when the whole set has been renovated. It is a bore to have some single gentleman, or stationary souffre douleur cousin, on the watch for the point of every well-worn anecdote,–like people at a pantomime, familiar beforehand with the tricks.    Still, even when one makes a hit, the wear and tear of the thing is prodigious. One goes through  the work of three dinners per diem ; — to wit, breakfast, luncheon, and dinner, — and all without refreshment ! In town, one has the chance of the clubs and morning visits to brighten one. But in a country house, where one can only rub up per aid of the new works and periodicals lying on the table, or visits shared in common with the rest of the party, one must fall back on one's own resources, — and the effort is prodigious.

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A Shilling a Day on Food

Found--a cutting of an interesting article from the mid 1920s by Walter M. Gallichan, journalist, novelist and writer on health, sex education and fishing. Undated but probably from the Daily Mail (mention of Woodman Burbidge on the rear of the press-cutting puts in the 1920s when he was chairman of Harrods.) The purchasing power of a shilling (5p) then is about £2.50 now, still a fairly low sum for a day's food.

A Shilling's worth. Full day's Food - by Walter M. Gallichan.

A shilling spent with discrimination will purchase a substantial and savoury meal of non rationed foods. The foods that offer the highest nutritive and force-giving value are still fairly cheap. A shilling may be wasted upon food of an expensive kind containing only a minimum of nutriment. For example, a shilling's worth of jelly may be purchased under the delusion that gelatine is an excellent food, possessing considerable nutritive value. As a matter of fact, the calf's foot jelly commerce and the packet 'jelly squares', thought easily digested and pleasant to the palate, are practically worthless for repairing the waste of the body and giving energy.

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The Arts and the Café Royal

Between 29 June and 29 July 1956 the National Book League (whatever happened to this?) staged an exhibition entitled ‘London after Dark’ on the first floor of the famous Café Royal in Lower Regent Street. The exhibition was designed to tell the story, in books, manuscripts and pictures, of London night life between 1866, when the Café Royal opened its doors, and the present day, when Soho was still a vibrant bohemian quarter .It was this exhibition that three Soho habitués, Daniel Farson, Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon visited one day in June or July, 1956. Many of the pictures on display were by, or depicted, celebrities connected to the Café Royal, and one example caught Freud’s attention. Farson takes up the story:

Lucian looked at the label on the back and reported ‘Sickert’. This set me wondering as we continued our circuit, and as we passed it again I rashly broke my silence, for I had not dared to venture an opinion before. 'If that’s by Sickert', I declared, 'he could never have painted a great picture.’ The two of  them looked at me with irritation, so with the hope of proving my point I bent down and looked at the back for myself, emerging triumphantly with the tactless cry---‘It’s not by Sickert, it’s of Sickert, by Nina Hamnett!’ They were not amused. Daniel Farson, Soho in the Fifties (1987)

Soho has changed, even in the last thirty years, as post punk singer Marc Almond complained recently on TV. But the Café Royal has perhaps changed most dramatically.  Around 2007 I paid a visit to its menu board outside with a view to getting a meal paid for by Rare Book Review as part of my ‘research’ for an article on its famous literary associations. It was, it seemed, still functioning, though probably on its last legs. A few months later I revisited it and found that this haunt of Wilde, Whistler, Sickert and Augustus John had closed its door to diners in preparation for a refit. A sly peep into what had been the Grill Room revealed little that would distinguish it from any other West End restaurant of a certain vintage. The tables and chairs had been removed. It looked sad and tired. I don’t know what the old Café Royal is now. And I don’t really care. [R.M.Healey]