The Ladies' Tea Guild

Friday, April 6, 2018

Historic Cooking: Hannah Glasse's Rich Cake from 1774.

Hannah Glasse's Rich Cake from
The Art of Cookery, 1774.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
The Redone Challenge: #21: Party Foods (October 7 - October 20, 2016) If there’s a party, there has to be food! Pick a dish meant to be served to a crowd, or at a festive gathering, and show your work! 

At the school where I work, the 5th-grade classes spend a whole school day studying the Revolutionary War history of the United States, with a day of living history activities called Colonial Day.  The students rotate through a list of different activities ranging from candle dipping and writing with a quill and ink, to learning about the Boston Tea Party and enjoying a “party” at the “Governor’s Palace” in Williamsburg, VA.   The previous librarian used to assist with the Boston Tea Party activity, and I inherited that job when I took her place in the school library. My love for tea and history prepared me to coordinate the “party” part of the activity, as well as make the tea, and teach about tea and etiquette in the 18th century.
18th century Rich Cake/Great Cake, iced.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach

While the students’ parents were supposed to sign up to bring the treats for the “tea party”, only a few promised to bring food (although several things turned up unannounced on the day of the event), so I decided to bake something so that there would be enough for every student to have at least one piece of cake or one cookie.  Although the parents had previously brought 20th-century treats like banana bread and scones with frosting on them, I wanted to increase the historical accuracy of the activity.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Historic Cooking: Californio-style Chocolate from ca. 1777.

A cup of Californio-style Chocolate.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
The Redone Challenge(s): Sweet Sips and Potent Potables April 5 - April 18, 2015 and History Detective (January 29 - February 11, 2016) 

Foodways from the Spanish and Mexican colonization period of California’s history, is not a very widely-talked about subject.  The documents that contain the information about food during this period are largely still in 18th century/early 19th century Spanish, although some of them have begun to be translated into English and other languages in the past few years.  The available documents are also mostly from the very beginning of the Spanish colonial era (begun in mainland Mexico in the 16th century) or from the very end of the Mexican colonial era – or even afterwards, in the later memories of the people who lived in California during that time.  Therefore, a fair amount of extrapolation is necessary to re-create foods that would have been familiar to the Californios – people of Hispanic descent who lived in California before the Gold Rush. 

Chocolate began as a bitter, spicy beverage among the Aztec elite.  They drank it for ceremonial purposes as well as ordinary ones, and incorporated many local flowers and spices in its manufacture.  They used cacao beans and pods as a form of currency, and presented it as gifts to other rulers, including the Spanish conquistadors, when they first arrived. 

The Recipe: The recipe I ended up using is an amalgamation of multiple original recipes from the period.  The earliest Spanish recipe that I could find for chocolate was written by Antonio Colmenero, translated by Don Diego de Vades-forte in "A Curious Treatise of the Nature and Quality of Chocolate" which was published in London in 1640, in Spain before 1631.  It includes the original Aztec ingredients, as well as Spanish substitutions for some of the items that were unavailable in Spain, and instructions for preparing the cacao beans and spices so that they are ready to melt in hot water.  

“To every 100 Cacaos, you must put two cods of the long red Pepper, of which I have spoken before, and are called, in the Indian Tongue, Chilparlagua; and in stead of those of the Indies, you may take those of Spaine; which are broadest, and least hot. One handfull of Annis-seed Orejuelas, which are otherwise called Vinacaxlidos: and two of the flowers, called Mechasuehil, if the Belly be bound. But in stead of this, in Spaine, we put in sixe Roses of Alexandria beat to Powder: One Cod of Campeche, or Logwood: Two Drams of Cinamon, Almons, and Hasle-Nuts, of each one Dozen: Of white Sugar, halfe a pound: Of Achiote, enough to give it the colour. And if you cannot have those things, which come from the Indies, you may make it with the rest.”
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)