On visiting any pub in England one would be hard pressed not to find at least one meat pie on the menu. They have been a staple of pub fare since the medieval era, if not before. There is something infinitely hearty and comforting about meat and vegetables swimming in a rich gravy wrapped in a thick, flaky crust. I daresay working men in England have been popping round to the pub for a pie and a pint in the middle of the day to get them through afternoons on the job since that very same medieval era.
As a historical note, wrapping food in a sort of pie crust has been around since the Egyptians. Once Alexander the Great started building his empire this Egyptian staple soon moved on to Greece and eventually the Romans acquired it… about the same time they acquired Greece. The Romans moved on to occupy Britain and whilst those early Brits did all they could to shove the Romans back to Rome, they did like the idea of baking meat and vegetables into a pie crust so they pilfered the recipe. Seems a small price to pay for slaughtering a large portion of the Celtic population and murdering Bodiccea.
Fast forward to today and the meat pie is part of the very culinary fabric of Britain. And it is definitely one of the very best things to order in any pub in England. Pubs take a great deal of pride in the reputations of their pies. There are even annual contests for the best pub pies in counties, districts, and even the entire country.
By definition, a meat pie is any meat dish served in a pie crust. Which means everything from the lofty Beef Wellington to the lowly Cornish pasty can be considered a meat pie.
Chef Gordon Ramsey’s recipe for Beef Wellington is considered the epitome of Beef Wellington recipes.
The D-shaped Cornish Pasty, a hand pie with a storied history that comes filled with beef, potatoes, swede (rutabaga) and onion was developed as lunch fare for workers in the ancient English tin mining region of Cornwall. it played such an important part in the history of mining in Cornwall that the dish was awarded Protected Geographical Indication status in 2011 to prevent it being copied by imitators.
Here is a recipe you can imitate for a scrumptious pasty.
Now cooking your own pub pie might sound well and good, but frankly I much prefer acquiring a good pub pie in its natural habitat – a pub in the UK! There is something to be said for the flavor added to a pub pie by the rafters and hearth of a pub that has been around for several hundred years. And nothing can compare to strolling about an English village or a stately home or the grounds of an ancient castle only to wind up in the local pub with a delicious pub pie and the local ale or a hot cup of tea on a scarred oak table ready for you to enjoy.
For me, however, it is the out-of-the-way, small village pubs that cook up the best pub pies. Nothing can compare to a local cook striving for bragging rights and desiring nothing more than to provide the comfort of a great pub pie for their friends, families, and neighbors.
And nothing can compare to a meal of steak and ale pie at a historic pub with one’s fellow travelers after a day visiting stately homes and a village unchanged in hundreds of years. Sometimes it is the food that makes an indelible memory. Sometimes it is the company. And if you are very fortunate, it is both. Who’s ready to take a trip to The George for some glorious pub grub?
WHAT TO SERVE AT ALL OF THOSE DINNER PARTIES, SUPPERS, AND VENETIAN BREAKFASTS
Most readers of Regency romance don’t read them for detailed descriptions of the food one’s characters eat. However, should an author mention serving fish and chips at a soiree or pancakes and waffles at a Venetian breakfast… Well, suffice it to say the most sharp-eyed and avid Regency romance fans might well be provoked to throw said author’s book into a compost pile, never to be seen again.
Fortunately, cookbooks are one of those items that stand the test of time. Today, families create their own cookbooks – collecting grandma’s recipes to preserve them for future generations. Rest assured, cooks during the Regency, be they chefs engaged by dukes for their townhouses in London or matronly ladies who ruled over the kitchens of those massive country homes, collected recipes as well. And fortunately for those of us who write Regency romance, many of those cookbooks are available to us today.
Favorite foods, foods prepared and served simply to show off a character’s wealth, or even foods a hero or heroine cannot abide will help to paint a more vivid picture of the people and events in a romance novel. Never forget, food can be a sensual experience as well. Yes, even British food can be sexy!
There are a great many facets of food preparation, availability, storage, taste, and menu combinations one must investigate if one wishes to write an accurate portrayal of food during the Regency era. Below is a selection of some wonderful resources on this subject.
The Jane Austen Cookbook – Maggie Black and Deidre Le Fey
Whilst this book includes a discussion of Jane Austen’s thoughts on food and her use of it in her novels and also outlines mealtimes, entertaining, and its importance in the social life during her era (1775-1817,) the best part is the inclusion of Martha Lloyd’s entire Household Book. Martha Lloyd was a dear friend of Miss Austen and lived with the family for a number of years. Her Household Book includes over one hundred recipes used on a daily basis in the Austen household. Used copies can be purchased quite cheaply here.
Everlasting Syllabub and the Art of Carving – Hannah Glasse
This version of Hannah Glasse’s work features recipes for rice pudding, barbecued pork, trifle, and other scrumptious non-French desserts and even a recipe for curry the Indian way – the first such recipe recorded in Britain. She also includes tips for choosing the best ingredients and the best methods for carving meats served at table. As an oddity there are even cures for the bite of a mad dog. Copies of this book are extremely well-priced here.
The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy – Hannah Glasse
Originally published in 1747 in England, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy is perhaps the best resource for recipes for good, common English fare. It includes instructions on how to shop based on the season of the year, how to prepare meats and preserve vegetables, how meals are to be served at table, and it even has specific menus for each month of the year. There is a section on distilling and even some recipes for home remedies for common complaints. It is definitely one of my favorite resources and it actually became a bestseller for over 1oo years after it was published in the United States in 1805. Paperback copies are very reasonably priced here.
The Art of Cookery Made Easy and Refined – John Mollard
First published in 1802, this step-by-step cookbook is a wonderful look at the basic cooking of the Regency era. Instructions for the preparation of a variety of stocks – beef stock, veal stock for soups, consume and essence of meats – and various gravies and benshamelles, followed by recipes for a variety of soups begin this book of cookery instruction designed to take the cook through the courses necessary for a full meal. There are a variety of surprise recipes one might not expect to find in an early nineteenth-century cookbook, including one for onion rings (using Spanish onions) that would not be out of place at the local fast-food restaurant. Copies of this book can be a bit pricey so search the usual suspects. Fairly reasonably priced copies can be found here.
Georgian Cookery Book – Margaretta Ackworth
This is strictly a cookbook and the recipes would very likely have been found in the kitchens of any worthy Regency era cook. The book consists of ninety recipes transcribed from the handwritten kitchen journal of an eighteenth-century London housewife. The authors also include a brief history of Mrs. Ackworth’s family and some fascinating insights into Georgian era cooking. The original recipe is included along with a modern version for the intrepid Regency romance author to try. Cheap copies of this book can be found here.
Harvest of the Cold Months : The Social History of Ice and Ices – Elizabeth David
This book is an interesting addition to any Regency research library, first of all, because it is a fascinating read, and more pertinent to the Regency, it presents insightful research into the acquisition, use, and storage of ice during the era and provides every sort of detail imaginable on the introduction of, preparation of, and Regency era affinity for ices and ice cream. As so many Regency romances include a visit to the famous Gunther’s, any author interested in a bit more information as to how such an establishment came to be such a popular venue would do well to read this book. Hardbound copies can be found at quite reasonable prices here.
The Household Companion – Eliza Smith
This book was originally published in the early eighteenth-century as The Compleat Housewife. By 1758, thirty years after Eliza Smith’s death, it was in its seventeenth edition and was the first cookery book published in America. This compilation of household hints and instructions and recipes was gleaned from Eliza’s years of employment in the most fashionable and noble households in England. The recipes are fantastic, but also of great interest will be the directions for creating a variety of cures for illness for everything from the common cold to consumption. There are also directions for beauty concoctions and even a recipe for making one’s own paint. It is an intriguing read and copies can be had very reasonably here.
The Housekeeping Book of Susanna Whatman (1776-1800)
This book is included as it does contain some recipes, but also discusses household practices, housework, and how households were run during the Georgian era. For an author in search of the daily routines and expectations of the mistress of the house and how the housekeeper and servants met those needs this is an excellent resource. Cheap copies can be found here.
Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management – Isabella Beeton
Isabella Mayson Beeton was born just after the Regency era and her book is considered more of a Victorian era housekeeper’s / cook’s volume. However, many of the housekeeping tips, household managing tips, and even the recipes in it are those handed down to Mrs. Beeton from ladies of the Regency. There are menus for each month of the year, methods of preserving, butchering, and storing food – all of which would have been used during the Regency. For those authors who write Regency romance set in the late Regency / early Victorian era Mrs. Beeton’s will be a priceless reference guide. Be certain to look for the unabridged edition and an annotated edition is even better. Reasonably priced copies are available here.
The Art of Dining : A History of Cooking and Eating – Sara Paston-Williams
Whilst not strictly a cookbook, this volume is an invaluable resource for the author who wants to create authentic images of the kitchens and kitchen accoutrements in a variety of stately homes. It covers kitchens and dining from the medieval era through the Victorian age. There are recipes from each era and the author has even included modern adaptations of each recipe thus allowing the Regency romance author to prepare and enjoy the meal her character might enjoy. An informative and elegant read, hardbound copies of this beautiful book are available at great prices here.
British Food : An Extraordinary Thousand Years of History – Colin Spencer
Whilst this book covers far more than the Regency era it is an exceptional recount of the evolution of English food and the reasons behind the many twists and turns this evolution took. Imminently readable and beyond informative, the author traces the roots of many Regency era dishes from the early medieval era. He does spend a great deal of time covering the foods of the Georgian era, a plus for any Regency romance author, and discusses not simply the preparation of the food and the serving of said food, but the social manners and implications of food as well. He traces the decline of good English fare to the social stigma attached to serving common food which reached its zenith in the Victorian era when society became completely obsessed with French cuisine. Reasonably priced copies can be had here.
A History of English Food – Clarissa Dickson Wright
This is a fun and informative read. The author traces the progression of English food from the Second Crusade to the present day. The most useful information concerns when certain spices, food items, and cookery techniques were first used in English cooking. A handy thing to know when trying to decide whether to include certain foods in one’s Regency romance novel. The author also does an extraordinary job of describing what it was like to sit down to dinner at a variety of meals from medieval feast to Regency supper party and she goes to the trouble of including meals of every day people as well as those of the aristocracy. Hardbound copies are more than reasonably priced here.
The Country House Kitchen 1650-1900 : Skills and Equipment for Food Provisioning – Leeds Symposium on Food History 1993
This book is a thorough discussion of exactly how self-sufficient the country house was and how it became so. It delineates the skills of various servants, the many processes needed to grow, harvest, prepare, preserve, and store various food items, and the equipment necessary to do so. It covers everything from the ice house to the distillery to the dairy and more. The evolution of cooking vessels, equipment, and the various stoves is fascinating to read and gives a Regency romance author a complete view of life behind the green baize door of the country house kitchen. Specific houses are discussed at length and photographs are provided as well. Another great resource for the Regency romance author who wants to know exactly what goes on in the background before those lovely dinner parties and ball midnight suppers. Reasonably priced hardbound copies can be found here.
Caution! (Again, in case you missed it the first time!) I have been told that my book reviews have caused some people to fall into the same horrid addiction from which I suffer. This affliction may necessitate hiding your credit cards, avoiding all bookstores – online and off – especially those that specialize in old books and history books. And should your spouse discover my role in your sudden Regency research book fetish, I will deny everything!
My very first Regency Romance for Scarsdale Publishing goes live on May 22nd ! I am thrilled to be writing a book in Scarsdale’s popular and highly successful Marriage Maker series.
Sir Stirling James, the man Society calls the Marriage Maker, is back this Season to work his magic at uniting couples—and never has his talent been more tested.
Miss Emmaline Peachum needs a hero. She’ll settle for a husband, however, if he can rescue her reputation from further scandal and save her beloved library from the bailiff and his henchmen. But what sort of gentleman will agree to marry the daughter of England’s most notorious con artist?
After eighteen years in His Majesty’s Navy, Captain Lord Arthur Farnsworth wants to retire to the life of a country gentleman. But first he must discharge his final duty to his men and retrieve the money that was swindled from them.
Sir Stirling James offers the captain the perfect opportunity to find the missing funds. Arthur will marry the bookish hoyden whose father cheated his men of their last farthing and seduce her into telling him where the money can be found.
The problem with this plan lies with the defiant, beautiful, and wickedly witty Miss Emmaline Peachum, who must have inherited her father’s larcenous tendencies. While Captain Farnsworth is intent on retribution, she is stealing his heart.
Lotteries in Regency England
A Lottery is a taxation Upon all the fools in creation;
And Heav’n be prais’d It is easily rais’d. . . The Lottery
In writing Stealing Minerva I had to do a bit of research on lotteries in early England. My heroine’s father is a con artist who swindles thousands of pounds from citizens of every walk of life by setting up a fake lottery and absconding with the money.
There were state lotteries in England as early as 1690. They were established and run by the Bank of England. They were used to raise money for good causes, government projects, the British Museum at Montague House, and even helped finance the war against Napoleon.
Lottery tickets were quite expensive. In addition to individuals, boroughs bought lottery tickets in order to raise money for the feeding and clothing of poor children. The Church had no issues with clerics gambling on lottery tickets to raise money for their parishes. People who could not afford to buy a full lottery ticket pooled their money and bought shares in a single ticket, sometimes advertising for partners in the newspaper.
Here is a sample of what a winning ticket might be worth.
Then, as now, a winning lottery ticket might change a person’s life forever. In 1798, four people on servants’ wages won 20,000 pounds (a value of 1.2 million pounds today!) The lucky winners were a female servant from Holborn, a servant of the Duke of Roxburgh, a keeper of a fruit stall and a vegetable carrier from Covent Garden.
Most lottery tickets were winners of at least the price of the ticket. However, every fourth or so ticket might be a blank – a losing ticket. Forward thinking institutions came up with insurance programs for lottery players, a way to insure one received at least the value of their ticket back.
As today, lottery ticket drawings were public events, although not nearly as rowdy and glamorous. They were public in order to display the event as fair and aboveboard.
In spite of this there were a number of lottery scandals and scams during the Georgian / Regency era. To find out how one such scam worked check out my novella A Lady’s Book of Love ! It has been up for preorder and goes live on Amazon TODAY !!
“You don’t strike me as the sort of woman to surrender so easily.”
“Some men think women are made for surrender. That we seek it so as not to have the burden of thinking or making our own decisions.”
“I am not one of those men.”
She snorted. “I am almost persuaded.” Her fingers ran along the spines of the books. He nearly sensed her touch on his skin. “Almost.”
“I don’t believe it is in a woman’s nature to surrender. It is something she is taught or has beaten into her. The one who maintains her true nature will fight long past a single hope of winning. And when life forces her to surrender, she despises herself for it. The only person she despises more is the man who has forced her to submit to that state so completely counter to her nature.”
She turned to face him, her back pressed against the shelves, a worn leather volume gripped tightly in her hands. “What would a man like you know of surrender?” She peered up at him, her eyes all too cynical and discerning to suit him.
His mind froze. His ability to dissemble fled, so he gave her the truth. “Far more than I care to admit, Miss Peachum. I cannot recommend it.”
“You? In war?” She gave him a subtle smile that threatened to take his breath away. “In love perhaps?”
For more historical romance by Louisa Cornell check out her Amazon Author page !
Anyone who reads our blog knows I write Regency romance. I met Mr. Darcy at the age of nine and I have been writing my own version of him ever since. Because of my love of all things British – especially British history – I strive to make certain my Regency romances are as true to the era as possible. Without reading like a history book on steroids. The romance is always first, but it is possible to write a historical romance with historical accuracy and simmering passion.
I read Regency romance voraciously – good, bad, and unfortunately, some ugly. And I realize my tastes in Regency romance will not be everyone’s tastes. Regency romance can be written without a great deal of historical information included in the story. I’ve seen it done, and some of it is done quite well. Conversely, I’ve seen Regency romance written with heavy historical content that had even me nodding off. Balance is probably the best a writer of Regency romance can strive to achieve. In order to know how much or how little historical background and information to include, a writer must have a great grasp of what they know and an even greater grasp of what they do not.
I will confess I have read some historical romance that made me wonder if the author simply woke up one day and said :
I think I’ll write a Regency romance!
Rather like I would get up one morning and say :
“I think I’ll take up downhill skiing!”
Now before all of those aspiring, new or even established Regency romance authors panic – I do not think every Regency romance author should camp out somewhere like this –
– never to be seen again.
And Regency romance authors shouldn’t look like this –
And spend all of their time and money on this.
There are certain things I find in the Regency romances I read, some by new authors and some by long-established authors, that make me cringe. And after reading some of these blatant historical errors I am fairly certain I felt a tremor in the earth that was Jane Austen rolling over in her grave. Of course, it was slightly easier for her to write Regency romance. Our Regency romance was her contemporary romance. No problem. Writing her style of Regency romance as our contemporary romance. BIG PROBLEM !!
In the interest of offering some tips to authors who do not want to spend their entire lives reading every book written about every aspect of the Regency era, (No, I haven’t done that, but I’m not dead yet.) I will be posting some brief reviews of books in my considerable Regency Romance Library here at Number One London from time to time. I will try to group these books by topic.
I have been told that my book reviews have caused some people to fall into the same horrid addiction from which I suffer. This affliction may necessitate hiding your credit cards, avoiding all bookstores – online and off – especially those that specialize in old books and history books. And should your spouse discover my role in your sudden Regency research book fetish, I will deny everything!
PROJECT REGENCY ROMANCE – REGENCY LONDON
The London Rich : The Creation of a Great City from 1666 to the Present
This is an excellent reference should one want to know where to situate a character’s home or where to situate a lunatic asylum or a children’s home or any number of institutions. After the Great Fire in 1666, London rebuilt and expanded. This book follows the migration of London’s wealthiest citizens, the establishment of exclusive neighborhoods around certain squares and the construction of stately homes within the boundaries of what eventually became the entire city of London. And as is the nature of the wealthy, once the city and lesser mortals began to encroach upon a neighborhood the wealthy picked up and moved to establish their elite conclaves somewhere else. This is a study of class differences in 17th through 20th century London, but for the most part in the context of the architecture and city planning aspects of class distinction. The maps and illustrations – color and black and white photographs – are beautiful and very informative. Also of great value is the author’s research into what happened to the beautiful homes – town houses and town mansions – once the wealthiest Londoners moved on. There is also great information on how the iconic Regency neighborhoods – Grosvenor Square, Berkeley Square – and others came to be. Hardbound copies can be had for very little and it is definitely a worthwhile addition to any Regency Research Library. You can buy the book here.
The Years of Grandeur -The Story of Mayfair
A beautifully written history of that most hallowed of Regency era neighborhoods – Mayfair. The author traces the evolution of the area from a little village within the confines of London to the most prestigious address in England, especially from the late eighteenth through the mid-nineteenth centuries. She divides the book into chapters on the most well-known landmarks and divisions of the area, which makes it a very useful resource for a Regency romance author. There are wonderful illustrations and maps. Making use of diaries, journals, newspaper articles, and documents from city planning the author creates an intimate picture of this elite section of London – how it was created, why, the evolution in prestige of the different addresses even within Mayfair. Most valuable, I believe, is the power of these pages to pull the reader into the atmosphere and character of Mayfair. Writing about it is far easier once you learn the living, breathing air of what Mayfair was during the Georgian era and how it acquired that character. Hardbound copies can be had fairly cheaply here.
Down and Out in Eighteenth-Century London
Its title denotes its concentration on the 18th century, the century leading into the Regency. However, much of the information in this book applies to the Regency era in that a great deal of what the book covers still existed during the Regency and indeed was cause and catalyst for much of life in Regency era London. At turns heartbreaking, shocking, comical, and horrifying – this book covers the lives of the “other side” of London. The author explores the lives of the match sellers, the sweeps, the tavern maids, and all of those eking out a living in the numerous poverty-stricken neighborhoods of London. It is an intriguing read and replete with ideas for minor characters, period flavor, and most of all – a great understanding of what life was like for the majority of London’s citizens from the eighteenth century going into the Regency era. Used hardbound copies are a bit pricey, but still fairly reasonably priced – click here.
“Opposite the Albert Memorial is the Royal Albert Hall, an immense oval brick building in Italian renaissance style, ornamented with a terra cotta frieze, executed by Minton & Co., and designed by eminent English artists. The exterior measurement of the Hall is 272 by 238 ft, and the interior 219 ft by 185 ft. The total cost of the building was £200,000, of which £100,000 was raised by public subscription, £50,000 was given out of the profits of the Great Exhibition of 1851, and the remainder was raised by the sale of the private boxes.” From Paterson’s Guide Book to the United Kingdom, 1885
Last year, Number One London Tours was invited to attend the Visit Britain travel expo in Brighton, where I was fortunate enough to meet travel and site managers from a wide variety of outlets in Britain. One of these was the guest services representative from London’s Royal Albert Hall, who told me that the private boxes were owned by individuals, many of whom had ancestors who had been the first to purchase the boxes, which at the time came with a 999 year lease. More often than not, the leases were left to the next generation via a will and the private boxes very rarely came up for sale. Intrigued, I decided to investigate this further.
In the 1860s, 1,200 of the Hall’s 5,500 seats were sold to private individuals for £100 each to finance the Hall’s construction, each seat having a 999 year lease and allowing access to most of its music, sporting and other events, subject to an annual service charge. Queen Victoria prudently snapped up 20, and the Queen’s Box, located on the Grand Tier, is still in the possession of the monarchy. The first Victorian box owners were also allowed to decorate their boxes as they saw fit, putting their personal touches to the space by the use of paint, fabrics, carpeting, plaster-work and mirrors.
Today there are around 1,300 seats – in boxes and the stalls – privately owned by individuals and companies. Members receive tickets for roughly 200 nights of the year, with a third of the annual 330 performances being ‘exclusive’, and sold separately by the Hall.
So, how much would a box fetch on the open market? Harrods Estates say that the last box of this size sold privately for £248,000, and 18 months ago another sold for £230,000 (it was bought as a wedding anniversary present). A larger, 10-seat box on the grand-tier was on the market for £300,000 in 1995, and another had an asking price of £375,000 in 2001. But keep in mind, for that price, you also get a lot of history.
The Royal Albert Hall was built on what was once the Gore estate, at the centre of which stood Gore House. The three acre estate was occupied by political reformer William Wilberforce between 1808-1828 and subsequently occupied between 1836-1849 by the Countess of Blessington and Count D’Orsay.
After the couple left for Paris in May 1851, the house was opened as the ‘Universal Symposium of All Nations’, a restaurant run by the first celebrity chef, Alexis Soyer, who planned to cater for the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park. After the Exhibition and following the advice of Prince Albert, Gore House and its grounds were bought by the Exhibition’s Royal Commission to create the cultural quarter known as Albertopolis, a complex of public Victorian buildings developed to house exhibits from the Great Exhibition and to further the study of art, science and industry.
But let us leave both the good Queen Victoria and good works behind us now and return to the filthy subject of money. The following is from an article in The Telegraph dated 9 January 2017:
“Members of the public with deep pockets are being offered a once in a decade chance to buy a box at the Royal Albert Hall next to the Queen for £2.5 million. Nicholas Shaw, sales manager of Harrods Estates Kensington, said he thought the box would be sold to “true lovers of the arts”. He said: “This Grand Tier box at the Royal Albert Hall is a real generational purchase, and is the first of its kind that is available to buy for almost a decade. The box is ideal for entertaining, with its twelve seats, and provides enviable views over the main stage and auditorium.”
“Richard Lyttelton, who was president of the Royal Albert Hall from 2010 to 2011, owns four seats but has never sold of them to third parties, choosing instead to return them to the box office for sale at face value. In 2011, a five-seat box on the second tier was put up for sale for £550,000. A ten-seat box on the Grand Tier was offered three years earlier for £1.2 million.”
A Royal Albert Hall spokesman said: “The seats are private property as set out in the royal charter which established the hall in 1861. As such the hall is not able to intervene as the seat holders’ rights are enshrined in law.”