Friday, September 21, 2012

Historical Cooking for Beginners Part 2

This week's post is Part 2 in GP's Historical Cooking for Beginners series.  Please welcome our newest guest writer, Chef Gaston Boudin, Hôtel de Valois

“Houde was the head chef at Boodle’s, which stood on the same street
as Westcott’s club, White’s. Of all of the famous club in the
neighborhood, Boodle’s was the least political and, traditionally, the
most resistant to foreign innovation. Its members were mainly
fox-hunting men, country gentlemen, and landowners, and their tastes,
left to their own devices, would probably have run to beefsteak, port
wine, and … more beefsteak. But management had decided that Boodle’s
was not to be left behind by such establishments as White’s and
Brooks’, at least in matters culinary, and had acquired their own
Frenchman. Houde’s pedigree was good, if not quite as stellar as the
famous Carême, who had cooked for Tallyrand and the Russian tsar and
now the Prince Regent and was rumored to be headed for the Pulteney
Hotel” (Banks, p. 112).

Marie-Antoine Carême was the most famous chef of his time and one of
the most famous chefs ever. He was most important for simplifying and
codifying cuisine, making it easier for chef and cooks to discuss
cuisine with a set of rules defining basic sauces and techniques. He
also popularized the, relatively, new idea of restaurants. And he
standardized what is still recognized as the “Chef’s Uniform.”
"Cooking for Kings" Ian Kelly
Before restaurants most commercially produced meals were eaten at
inns, public houses, chop houses and private clubs. Most of these
places had a ‘menu’ (if you really want to call it that) with a single
‘special of the day’ and maybe a soup. Your only choice was to eat
what was offered or not eat. In the case of the chop houses and many
private clubs this choice was the same day after day – beefsteak.

Carême’s arrival in England paved the way for an increased interest in
cuisine. This interest in food, especially French food, was further
aided by the Prince of Wales’ fondness for food, drink and parties.
With the end of the Napoleonic Wars food and drink supplies from
Europe became readily available again.
The Prince of Wales & Careme at the Brighton Pavilion

Beverage choices had also been limited by the Napoleonic wars. Beer
and Ale were just fine for the common folk (and sometimes for
breakfast in the upper classes), but the aristocracy had more refined
taste. Port was very popular in no small part because trade with
Portugal was strong. French brandy was consumed more than French wines
as both had to be smuggled, but brandy got you more alcohol from your
smuggling efforts.

All of this continental food and drink did not deter some Englishmen
from sticking to more traditional fare. The Sublime Society of
Beefsteaks was established in 1735 and continued to meet until 1867.
The Order’s menu consisted of beefsteak, grilled onions and a baked
potato. Toasted cheese was often offered as a second course and for
beverages you had a choice of port or porter.
Sublime Society of Beefsteaks, courtesy of "Supersizers Go: Regency"

Bon Appétit,
Chef Gaston Boudin, Hôtel de Valois

Banks, T.F. (2003). The Emperor’s Assassin
Kelly, Ian (2003). Cooking for Kings

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Annual Rendezvous at Fort Bell, Washington

Shooting the trail at Ft Bell

Over Labor Day Weekend,  Theo and I had the opportunity to be the guests of
the Columbia Cascade Company at Fort Bell.

The Columbia Cascade Company is Fur Trade Era (pre-1840) Muzzle Loader
group. Every year they host a Rendezvous over Labor Day weekend. They
offer a variety of trail and novelty shoots as well as activities for
the Ladies and children.

This year Theo and I arrived on Saturday morning. Prior to shooting, we visited at the encampment of
 our good friends, Craig & Deanna Schmidt.  After which, I went off with Craig to
shoot the rifle trail while Theo stayed behind with Deanna and made beeswax candles with the other ladies.
The Fort Bell rifle (and Trade gun) trail consists of 25 target
ranging from 5 yards to 85 yards at various elevations and a wide
variety of shapes.

After returning for a delicious lunch of Duck Rillettes, bread, fresh
blackberries, grapes and brie cheese, as well as some blueberry-apple
cider for the Ladies and Smithwick’s Ale for Craig and I, we returned
to the trail to shoot the 14 pistol targets.
French Dragoon Pistol circa 1798

The next day I returned by myself and started the day with the ‘Luck
Shoot’ followed by the ‘Booshway Shoot.’ The ‘Luck Shoot’ consisted of
firing three shots at the blank side of a target marked with random
numbers – your score is the sum of the numbers. The ‘Booshway Shoot’
was a sort of obstacle course called the ‘Moose Milk Run.’ Competitors
had to set a foothold trap, throw knife and tomahawk until they stick

in a target, shoot at the 125 yard ‘Super Long Gong’ target, shoot at
a much closer target and finally milk a moose. This was done for time.
Despite having never set a spring trap or thrown knife or tomahawk I
did quite well – finishing third or fourth.
Foothold trap

Next, Craig and I did a fencing demonstration featuring smallsword,
sabre and singlestick.  Each form was played to best of five good
hits. I won the smallsword bouts after disarming Craig for the final
hit. Craig won the sabre bouts, rallying after a hard hit to the head.
And finally I won the singlestick bout.
After another delicious lunch, Craig still needed to shoot the Trade
gun Trail. I do not have a Trade gun, but shot the trail with my rifle
for fun.

This Rendezvous was quite the treat. I fully intend to camp the entire
weekend next year. I also need to get my own knife and tomahawk so
that I am not caught unprepared in the future.
Ft Bell Cannon

Best Regards
Colonel deValois

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Historical Cooking for Beginners

Thank you to our readers for you patience, while we were on Summer hiatus.  Now we are refreshed from our various diversions, and have some fun postings to share over the next few months....

To kick off our return to Blogland, here is Professor D.R. Schreiber's review of Jas Townsend's historical food preparation videos: 

"The way to a man's heart is through his stomach" is a saying dating from around the turn of the 18th Century, and it is no surprise that the words still ring true today.  Food, its consumption, creation, gathering, cooking, and hunting of, was a central part of Regency life, just as it had always been and continues to be up to the present day.   Food’s importance in the past is evident through numerous portrayals in art from the Regency period.  Whether the paintings depict gentlemen hunting their next meal or the elite partaking of tea, these paintings tell the tale of food in the 18th Century.

While historically women may have been the main cooks and preparers of food, what man cannot appreciate a good meal?   I have no claim to being neither an excellent nor a decent cook, but I have become fascinated by a somewhat recent discovery, exposing me to intricacy of 18th century food.  The folks at JAS Townsend and Sons (, purveyors of fine 18th century wear, have created a weekly YouTube video series that focuses on the history of food from the 18th and early 19th Centuries.  In the three years since its inception, the series has discussed numerous topics, themes, recipes and histories, all regarding 18th century food.  A few recent topics have included the making of bread, the significance of the earthen oven to early cooks, the importance of salt in the preservation of 18th century food, and much more.   The amount of research put into creating each video is clear, filling each episode with volumes of information.  The writing and presentation is superb.  The production value (sound, lighting, camera movement and editing) makes this series as good as anything seen on broadcast television today.

In the past year, they have built a replica 18th century kitchen, complete with hearth, oven, food storage, and a preparation area, and are slowly filling it with authentic 18th century utensils, pots, and pans.  As they say in the videos, all of these items are available at the JAS Townsend website or print catalog.”

This video series has captured my and my two boys' imaginations.  As soon as we saw these recipes and demonstrations, we had to try it ourselves.  Since watching this series, we have embarked on creating our own twice baked beans, ash cakes, corn bread, stews and more, all cooked on our wood stove in the family room.  My boys are convinced we must build an earthen oven in the backyard this summer, and they just might be right.  The series has helped us to experience, first hand, the smells and tastes of the 18th Century.  While the main purpose of these videos is to display and sell JAS Townsend supplies and materials, the commercial aspect is nearly non-existent or so subtle that you would never consider it intrusive.  The sales aspect typically consists of a single line offering the items for sale, and since many of these items cannot be purchased from anyone else besides JAS Townsend, (unless you know a tinsmith or blacksmith that can create it for you) it is only fitting that JAS Townsend sell these items.

I must tip my hat to JAS Townsend for keeping history alive and for producing these great videos.  I look forward to many more videos, about the past, to come in the near future.
Images courtesy of