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Posts Tagged ‘victorian’

Because so many people come to this blog for tips on hosting a Victorian-style dinner, I thought this would fit right in. It’s from an article I read recently describing the fashions of serving food and laying tables in the 19th century.

 

“Dinner Old English style, which actually originated in the 18th century, referred to the style of placing all food items on the table before the diners sat down. In this service, guests could help themselves to the food items set out before them, within the bounds of proper manners. Where servants were unavailable it was considered, by some writers as late as the 1870s, “acceptable” behavior to help oneself to any dish on the table within reach. This service changed throughout the 19th century, taking on bits and pieces of other styles.

 A departure from the Old English style called for food items to be replaced by decorative centerpieces. This style was commonly referred to as à la Russe in late 19th-century guidebooks. Serving dinner à la Russe became fashionable among European elites during the 1850s and 1860s, and by the 1870s it has also become fashionable in the United States.” (82)

 Because the high cost of employing the many servants that were needed for the dinner à la Russe, and the shortage of good servants at the end of the 19th century, a new style called American style arose. “In the American dinner service the table was laid in the same manner as that of the à la Russe style, the major difference between the two was that the American style required the host and hostess to divide food portions on individual plates and then pass them or have them passed around the table by a servant. Food items from each separate course were placed on the table and then served from there or a side table.” (83)

 How a table looks like is described here by describing a boarding-house table: “If the table is void of flowers, and other side decorations, including olves, rashishes, and celery, tastefully arranged napkins and wineglasses, an impression is given os a boarding-house table.” (84)

 When the courses grew larger in number, the plates grew smaller to accommodate the smaller portions served. At the end of the 19th century, plates were on average 2 inch smaller in diameter than earlier on in the century.

(All info and citations from “A la Russe, à la Pell-Mell, or à la Practical: Ideology and Compromise at the Late Nineteenth-Century Dinner Table” by Michael T. Lucas, which appeared in Historical Archaeology, Vol. 28, No. 4, 1994.  

 

 

 

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A long while ago I wrote a series on Victorian cooking (here, here, here, and here). Many people asked about specific Victorian recipes or dishes, either for a Victorian dinner-party or to bring a fun snack to school for presentations and such.
In the nineteenth century, cooking wasn’t really a hobby, it was either a necessity or just something you hired a cook for. Furthermore, there were no real recipe books, though at the end of the century some books with suggestions came into fashion, mostly in America. It wasn’t very commom for novels to explain what food was eaten, and food wasn’t really a topic of discussion as it is now. Therefore, it’s pretty hard to find actual recipes or dishes from the nineteenth century. I finally found a very good resource in the Annotated Emma by David M. Shapard ( who got them from E. Raffald, The Experienced English Housekeeper). I will repost them here.

(Click to enlarge)

This dish consists of: Transparent soup (some sort of broth?), Fricas’d chicken, Harrico (green beans), Pigeons Comport, Codsounds like little Turkies, Lambs Ears Forc’d, Fricando Veal, Pork Griskins, French Pye, Brocoli &c., Kidney Beans, Small Ham, Mock Turtle, Boil’d Turkey, Sallad, Bottl’d Peas, Sweet Breads Ala Royal, House Lamb, Sheep Rumps & Kidneys in Rice, Ox Pallets, Larded Oysters, Ducks Alamode, Beef Olives, Florendine of Rabbits, Hare Soup.

(Click to enlarge)

This second course consists of: Pheasant, Moonshine, Crawfish in Savoryjelly (sic), Snow balls, Globes of Gold Web with Mottoes in Them, Marbl’d Veal, Mince Pies, Pickled Smelts, Fish Pond, Pompadore Cream, Stew’d Cardoons, Pea Chick with Asparagus, Transparent pudding cover’d with a Silver Web, Roast Woodcocks, Stew’d Mushroomd, Macaroni, Floating Island, Potted Lampreys, Crocrant with Hot Peppers, Collar’d Pig, Pistacha Cream (pistachio something?), Burnt Cream (maybe a creme brulée?), Snipes in Savory Jelly, Rocky Island, Roasted Hare.
Wel… are you hungry? They definitely knew how to eat, then! Some of these dishes are fairly straightforward but some of them are very puzzling. If you know what they mean or feel like googling for them, please let us know what you found in the comments! I’m especially curious about “Globes of Gold Web with Mottoes in Them”.

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Victorian Halloween!

A bit of a Halloween spirit with this cute Victorian witch!

(Her dress seems inspired on 18th century Rococo dresses and paniers, how intriguing! If anyone wants to analyse that, please feel free!)

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This is from a book I read called Tuinieren Door de Jaren Heen (I can’t find the English title for this! ) by A. Huxley and M. Michael.

In England between 1695 and 1699 there was a tax on glass objects. In 1746 it was re-instated, but at that time mostly for glass plates and windows. In 1810 the tax on windows was raised, and in 1812 the tax for all glass objects was raised so much that production began to slow down. Then the tax was slowly lowered again, until the entire tax ended in 1845. because of the rarity of large parts of glass and the high price of it, it was really in demand with the upper classes, who showed off their riches by building enormous glass greenhouses and winter gardens, which were greenhouses that looked like gardens and would protect plants and flowers from cold weather, so you could enjoy them even in winter.
Undoubtedly, the removal of the glass tax had something to do with the building of the Crystal Palace in 1851, which was at the time the largest glass construction ever build.

Dahlia’s were a very popular flower in the nineteenth century:, from 1813 on it was the most important flower for distributors, in 1830 there were 1500 varieties. Of course this fragile flower had to be preserved carefully, so protective cases were invented to protect the flowers from rain. Often these were very luxurious and decorated cases which could be placed over the flower.
Many other flowers got cases as well, or were protected by glass cases. The Victorians liked showy, fragile flowers like Dahlia’s and Lillies, flowers that required a lot of care and money to display to the best of their ability.

Here are a bunch of pictures from the book! Victorian lawnmowing:


A greenhouse or large case build against the window, which was very fashionable

A Wardian case, in which ferns were grown, and which was kept for decoration.

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Here’s a fragment from Hodgson Burnett’s Little Lord Fauntleroy, in which you can see a little bit of the customs regarding compliments in the later half of the nineteenth century:

“Come here, Lord Fauntleroy,” she said, smiling; “and tell me why you look at me so.”
“I was thinking how beautiful you are,” his young lordship replied. Then all the gentlemen laughed outright, and the young lady laughed a
little too, and the rose color in her cheeks brightened.
“Ah, Fauntleroy,” said one of the gentlemen who had laughed most heartily, “make the most of your time! When you are older you will not
have the courage to say that.”
“But nobody could help saying it,” said Fauntleroy sweetly. “Could you help it? Don’t YOU think she is pretty, too?”
“We are not allowed to say what we think,” said the gentleman, while the rest laughed more than ever.


So there you have it. The name Hodgson Burnett might sound familiar: she was the writer of A Little Princess (1905) and The Secret Garden (1911). Little Lord Fauntleroy was a much earlier work: it was published in 1886. I found the book to be an unexpectedly good read; it was very enjoyable, funny at times, and with a great and amusing use of language. It was so engaging even that I finished it in less than a day. You can read it online here.

An interesting fact is that this book, just like Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, influenced fashion. Little Lord Fauntleroy’s velvet suit with a white collar and his soft curls are mentioned often in the book, and apparently started a fashion (mostly with mothers of young boys) for little suits and pincurls for boys!

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It would go too far to describe the entire history of gardening in the Nineteenth Century, so I’ll just give you some tidbits:

Wardian Case: The Wardian case was invented by Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward, in 1829. By accident he found out that his ferns grew very well in bottles, and he developed this idea to a larger case to hold full-grown flowers. This meant a great increase in the amount of flowers available in Europe. It became easier to import flowers because they were encased in a constant climate and did not suffer from the change of air and temperature while they were transported, and it was easier to keep exotic flowers alive during winter.

(Image from Wikipedia.)

Lawnmower: The lawnmower was invented in the first half of the Nineteenth Century, and was inproved quickly from a large and difficult machine to something that could be used by hand, by everybody. (Of course, women would not mow lawns.) The invention of the lawnmower caused a big rise in lawns in garden design around 1840, where before mostly flower arrangements and grit were fashionable.

Using flowers in interior design: Of course the Victorians were keen to find new ways to decorate the interior. Flowers were increasingly used in the Nineteenth century, not just as a bouquet but arranged as large ornaments. Here are some images from the book “The Victorian Flower Garden” by Jennifer Davies.

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A popular pastime in the Nineteenth Century: an organized fern hunt. Found ferns could be added to ones fern collection, which was immensely popular.
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Recently I stumbled upon this interesting article about the changes in dinner time. Here are some excerpts about dinner times in the eighteenth and nineteenth century:

Capitalism, colonialism, and then the industrial revolution were changing the world’s economy. People had more money, and in the cities at least, more goods were available, including candles and lamps. People began staying up later with the better lighting, and many of them didn’t have to get up so early in the morning anymore. There was also more to do at night.
Artificial lighting allowed for later mealtimes. In Fritz Syberg’s Supper, a working-class family sits down to a meal of porridge with the clock in the background reading 8:25.

With these late hours for entertainment and parties, and with more artificial lighting, many people in the cities began going to bed later and rising later in the morning. Mealtimes were pushed back as a result. In London, by the 1730s and 40s, the upper class nobles and gentry were dining at three or four in the afternoon, and by 1770 their dinner hour in London was four or five.

In the 1790s the upper class was rising from bed around ten a.m. or noon, and then eating breakfast at an hour when their grandparents had eaten dinner. They then went for “morning walks” in the afternoon and greeted each other with “Good morning” until they ate their dinner at perhaps five or six p.m. Then it was “afternoon” until evening came with supper, sometime between nine p.m. and two a.m.! The rich, famous and fashionable did not go to bed until dawn. With their wealth and social standing, they were able to change the day to suit themselves. The hours they kept differentiated them from the middle and lower classes as surely as did their clothes, servants and mansions.

By 1800 the dinner hour had been moved to six or seven. For early risers this meant a very long wait until dinner. Even those who arose at ten a.m. or noon had a wait of anywhere from six to nine hours. Ladies, tired of the wait, had established luncheon as a regular meal, not an occasional one, by about 1810. It was a light meal, of dainty sandwiches and cakes, held at noon or one or even later, but always between breakfast and dinner. And it was definitely a ladies’ meal; when the Prince of Wales established a habit of lunching with ladies, he was ridiculed for his effeminate ways, as well as his large appetite. Real men didn’t do lunch, at least not until the Victorian era.

Since the middle classes were still eating dinner in midday for the most part, they had no room for luncheon in their day. In the late 1700s and the 1800s, that began to change with the development of factories and then trains and streetcars. People began to work further from home, and the midday meal had to become something light, just whatever they could carry to work. The main meal, still usually called dinner, was pushed to the evening hours after work, when they could get home for a full meal.

Indoor gas or oil lighting came to many homes in the 1800s. It was getting easier and easier to stay up in the evening. By the 1840s dinner had been pushed back to as late as eight or nine for the wealthy, People once again grew hungry in the long interval that was now eight hours between new lunch and late dinner. And women once again led the way in mealtime inventiveness. Tea with biscuits and pastries had been popular since the 1700s as a refreshment to serve visitors. Now ladies began taking tea and snacks of light sandwiches and cakes around four or five in the afternoon, regardless of whether or not they had visitors. At first they had this snack in relative privacy, in their boudoir or private sitting room. But by the 1840s they had established afternoon tea as a regular meal in drawing rooms and parlors all over Britain.

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