The Ladies' Tea Guild

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #18 Descriptive Food -- Tuff-Taffity Cream from 1670.

Ingredients for Tuff-Taffity Cream.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
The Challenge: # 18 -- Descriptive Food We all know those recipes that come attached to interesting and imaginative names - slumps, crumbles, buckles, trifles, flummery. Pick a historic recipe that has a descriptive title.

There were so many interesting-sounding recipes that I considered for this challenge, but I decided on Tuff-Taffity Cream because I wanted to know why it had that name!  Other descriptive recipe titles are a bit more clear, but this one ... I have read about a fabric called "taffety" – which became our modern "taffeta" – but I don't know what period taffety was like, and why a custard would be called by that name.  And the "tuff" part?  Modern taffeta is a stiff, glossy fabric that is used to make women's formal gowns, but it's also lightweight and can be luxurious, and I thought that might be the clue to the relationship between the fabric and this recipe. 

The Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities defines "tuftaffeta" (also spelled "tufted tafata") as a silk taffeta (a fabric which has a smooth finish), that has a pile or nap arranged in tufts, to create a decorated pattern: "creating a pile and then cutting some of it only so as to form a pattern was very popular in the sixteenth century and early seventeenth, but largely died out thereafter as different ways of finishing became available.  ... Tuftaffetas were normally made of silk and were therefore valued highly, but some were made of half-linen." So, "tuff-taffity" is really "tufted taffeta", which is a decorative silk fabric.  I guessed that the custard called "tuff-taffity cream" must have a silken, "tufted" texture, then.  I don't know that I've ever eaten a food with a "tufted" texture! 

Food historian Ivan Day contributed his opinion on the subject on his blog, Historic Food: "Quince marmalade or sliced quinces were added to apple pies and taffety tarts to improve their flavour. The taffety tart filling ... also contains preserved orange.Taffety tarts borrowed their name from the textile material called taffety, but why this was the case is not understood. A more elaborate taffety called tuff-taffety was popular for making hats in the Tudor period. Hannah Wooley, the seventeenth century writer on domestic matters gives a recipe for a tuff-taffity cream, which is a smooth frothy cream garnished with red current jelly." So there you have it!  Maybe "tufted" is the same as "frothy"?  Let's find out.
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)