The Ladies' Tea Guild

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #23: Soda Nectar from 1869.

Ingredients for Soda Nectar: sugar, lemon, soda.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
The Challenge: # 23 -- Sweet Sips and Potent Potables Whether it’s hard or soft, we all enjoy a refreshing beverage! Pick a historic beverage to recreate - remember to sip responsibly!

This is definitely a catch-up posting, but I have a feeling that I'll be re-doing this challenge several times over the next few months, as the weather continues to heat up!  I have been collecting historical beverage recipes, both alcoholic and Temperance, for a while now, and it was really difficult to choose which one to make.  I didn't have all of the ingredients for some of the most interesting recipes, and I didn't have all of the equipment necessary to make others.  I still intend to make drinking chocolate the 18th century (or earlier) Spanish California way – once I get a chocolate pot and chocolate mill – and also a related drink called Racahout from 18th and early 19th century England, as well as some kind of punch and some of those Civil War-era soda powders (especially ginger!).  However, it took a particularly warm spring day, a dinner of Chinese take-out, and a lack of things to drink, to get me to complete this challenge, with things I already had in the kitchen.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Back to costuming: the mid-Victorian sheer dress.

Original sheer muslin dress, 1840s.
Old Sacramento Living History Museum.
Mid-Victorian daytime fashions were not all about heavy, opaque fabrics; warm weather allowed for light dresses of semi-transparent fabrics like muslin and barege, trimmed with embroidery, ribbons and lace for a cool, floating visual effect.  These gowns, called sheer dresses, or "clear muslin dresses", were especially popular at seaside and tourist resorts, during the 1840s through the 1870s.  They were worn for morning, afternoon and evening, changing the bodice style, and were popular in England and North America, as well as when visiting warmer climates like Italy.  These followed the lines of mainstream fashion, but included characteristic features such as shorter sleeves, lower necklines, partial bodice linings, and depending on the transparency of the fashion fabric, separate colored under-dresses.  This article, first published in the Greater Bay Area Costumer's Guild's newsletter, Finery, will focus on day or afternoon styles for these dresses. 

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)