The Ladies' Tea Guild

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly Soups & Sauces Challenge: Caviche.

ingredients for Caviche.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
So, I'm still working on Challenge #1 for the Historical Food Fortnightly: I'm having trouble finding a piece of literature that mentions a specific dish that I have a period recipe for!  There's a lot of general mentions of meals, without saying what dishes or foods make up the meal, or only mentioning foods that don't really require a recipe, like fruit or a glass of wine, or foods that are made exactly the same way today as they were in the period (like tea and coffee).  I've decided on Calf's Foot Jelly, mentioned in one of the earliest novels, in 1807.  I think I ruined it, though, so I'll have to come back to the recipe and post about it later!  In the meantime... 

The Challenge: Soups & Sauces 

The Recipe: "Caviche" from the recently printed excerpts from Recipes from the White Hart Inn by William Verral, originally published in 1759.  The original recipe reads: 

Take three Cloves, 7 scruples of Coriander-seeds bruised ginger powder'd and Saffron, of each half a Scruple, three Cloves of Garlick, infuse them in a pint of good white-wine vinegar, and place the bottle in a gentle heat, or in water to warm gradually.  It is to be used, as Catchup, in small quantity as a sauce for cold-meats.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Surprise: Antiques Roadshow!

Souvenirs of the Antiques Roadshow!
 Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
The book that I brought: souvenir illustrations from the
Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1915 in San Francisco.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
Back in April I found out that the Antiques Roadshow was going to be at the Santa Clara Convention Center, which is less than 20 minutes from my house.  I missed them when they were in my home town a few years ago, because you have to put your name/e-mail address in a drawing on their website before a certain cut-off date, and then check the website after the deadline to see if you were chosen; I didn't find out about it until the date had already passed.  This time, though, I saw their ad after watching the show, put my e-mail address in, and actually got chosen for tickets!  The tickets are free, and each e-mail address chosen gets 2 tickets; each ticket holder gets to bring 2 items to be appraised.  I offered my second ticket to my friend Rose from the costume guild, and we had an exciting, if tiring day today at the Roadshow!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Back from the Land of 10,000 Lakes

My grandma's family home.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
We arrived back in California on Saturday afternoon, and went right into Memorial Day, with a block party in my sister's neighborhood, then laundry and re-stocking the fridge today, and I'm still not totally back on California time!  We'll see how that works when I go back to work tomorrow ...

Kitzville School, where my grandma attended.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
While I was gone we had a heat wave here in California, and we must have brought some California weather to Minnesota because, apart from a chilly rainy day the first day we were there, it was sunny and really warm the entire time.  Beautiful weather for my grandmother's funeral, which was nice.  Got to take a drive around town with my great uncle seeing a bunch of historic places, which I do remember doing the last time or two we were there when my grandma was alive, but it was different this time.  Before, we were always tagging along on her visit, we were only there to accompany her and make sure she was o.k., and although we were seeing family, we only ever saw them on these types of occasions; she was the one who had a relationship with them, and we were kind of the proverbial "third wheel" in the equation.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Catching up -- I'm so behind!

My grandparents' wedding
portrait from 1945.  Photo:
Elizabeth Urbach.
We've been keeping busy around here lately.  My grandma, who passed away last month, wanted to be buried in her hometown of Hibbing, Minnesota, up near the Canadian border with the U.S., and the weather has finally warmed up enough that they can have her interment.  So, several members of my family will be flying out to Minnesota next week and spending a few days there with the family for my grandma's second funeral and burial.  It will be a lot of flying and driving, and hopefully, a really good experience with the family, since it will also probably be the last time we go out to Minnesota, and maybe the last time we see those relatives in person ...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Busy days.

Christina and I making the tea. 
Oh my gosh, it's been something like a month since I last posted!  A lot has been going on.

First, we had our 6th annual Cat Rescue Tea in San Jose, and it was another success!  We served about 120 people over 2 days, and raised close to $5,000 for 13th Street Cats!

I made 8 batches of Meyer lemon curd, and coordinated a bunch of other things, including jam donations, tea donations (from Satori Tea Bar and Thompson Tea Company), and put together 2 afternoon tea baskets for the silent auction, as well as collected a bunch of other tea things for the raffle for both days.  I also helped make tea sandwiches, served the lemon curd, jam, and butter, and with my friend Christina, made all the tea that was served at the event.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Irish tea and treats for St. Patrick's Day

Well, even though I'm not Irish, how can I pass up celebrating a holiday that honors a nation of tea-drinkers?  My mom always makes a corned beef, cabbage and potato dinner, and has lately started buying Irish beer for my dad and brother.  I, on the other hand, am more a fan of cider and wine rather than beer, and much more a fan of tea and treats.
I've made seed cake, shortbread and soda bread before, but not barmbrack, which according to modern recipes, is a fruitcake where you first plump the dried fruit in hot tea and then add it to the cake.  I may have to try that today for elevenses (morning tea and treat at 11 a.m.), which according to some Irish cultural websites, is as much an Irish tradition as an English one!

I think this is the recipe I used when I made the Soda Bread in the photo:

Irish Soda Bread.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach

Marilyn O'Reilly's Irish Soda Bread
3 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 T. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
4 T. unsalted butter
2 T. caraway seeds
1 c. raisins [soaked in orange juice or tea]
1 c. buttermilk
1 egg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. and set rack in middle position in the oven.  Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly.  Rub in the butter, as for scones, then stir in the caraway seeds and (drained) raisins.  In a separate bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the egg, and add to the dry mixture.  Stir to combine.  Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead gently for a minute or so until the dough comes together, then shape into a round loaf.  Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, and cut a deep cross into the top of the loaf.  Bake at 400 for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F. and bake another 20 minutes or until browned and the loaf tests done with a toothpick.  Cool on a wire rack and serve with butter or marmalade.
-- recipe from
Seed Cake.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.

The soda bread and the seed cake were both really good, but different because I'm not used to tasting caraway seeds in a sweet food.  The flavor really grew on me, and caraway seeds were first added to foods (in the British isles, at least) as a digestive aid. The cake and bread were both on the dry side, which made them perfect companions to a good cup of tea, but they didn't go stale quickly and lasted, wrapped in plastic wrap, on the kitchen counter for a few weeks without losing flavor or texture.

Elevenses is such a good idea; I think I need to start bringing more tea things to work, because I don't eat breakfast before I leave the house, and I don't usually get a break for tea and a morning snack until around 11 a.m. ... So join me in a cup of tea and a treat, and have a Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Finally finishing a project ...

Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
Several months ago I began to make a dress for the museum where I work.  We conduct custom tours for 3rd grade classes in our Victorian house, and the tours include a short dress-up session and photo opportunity.  The girls' costumes that we use are Jessica McClintock and similar Edwardian-inspired dresses from the 1970s through 1990s, that are not only historically inaccurate for the time period of the house (1855 - 1875) but they're getting really ratty, faded, and in need of replacement.  But hey, they were donated 15 years ago (i.e. FREE) ...

Anyway, I decided to use some of the smaller lengths of fabric (under 4 yards) from my stash to make some more accurate costumes to replace some of the ones in the worst shape.  To this end, I bought the two Civil War girls' dress patterns from Simplicity, and set aside a few lengths of fabric to use, and during my time backstage at our last Lyric Theatre production, I got one dress cut out and partially sewn together.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to finish it, so it remained on my "unfinished project" list for several months!  Lately, though, I've gotten it back out, and finished it by hand.  I had to make a few alterations to the pattern, though, to suit its purpose as a dress-up costume that needs to be easy to put on and take off, and needs to fit easily over a girl's regular clothes.  I chose the largest size the pattern offered (size 8) and then cut it a bit larger -- as much as I could get out of my fabric, which was only about 3 yards, when the
pattern called for closer to 3 1/2!  I saved fabric by making the lining from plain white cotton instead of my fashion fabric, and by making the skirt less full, since it won't have to go over petticoats or a hoop.

I also left the bodice and skirt completely open up the center back, and put in a strip of hook-and-loop tape to close the neck, and made waist ties to close the waistline at the back.  I also didn't put in the growth tucks so the skirt will be long enough to cover the girls' modern jeans.  I hope it's big enough; we get a lot of big girls on our 3rd grade tours!  I'm hoping to take it in to the museum next week.  
Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)