Tuesday, November 17, 2020

A Parsnip in a Pear Tree?

I was recently introduced to the idea of parsnips as holiday food. I thought it a fine idea, even though I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a parsnip. But I discovered that Mrs. Beeton had a great deal to say of them in her Book of Household Management, which we’ve discussed before

According to Mrs. Beeton, parsnips are native in Britain and in season from November through June. They could be found growing wild in meadows and along the roadsides but were also cultivated. She warns that the young root is sweet and smells good, but an older root can cause vertigo and delirium. Parsnips can be used to make bread and wine as well as eaten as a vegetable. As a vegetable, they were served with salted cod and egg sauce, as an accompaniment for boiled beef, as dressing for a sheep’s head, and as garnish for boiled leg of pork.

So, courtesy of Mrs. Beeton, I give you two recipes for parsnips.

Parsnip Soup

1 lb sliced parsnips
2 oz. butter, melted
1 quart beef, vegetable, or chicken stock
Salt and cayenne to taste

Put the parsnips into the stewpan with the butter, and simmer them till quite tender. Then add nearly a pint of stock, and boil together for half an hour. Pass all through a fine strainer, and add the remainder of the stock. Season, boil, and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Boiled Parsnips

Parsnips, washed, scraped thoroughly, and black specks removed; cut into quarters if large
Water, salted at the rate of 1 heaped tablespoon of per gallon

Put parsnips into boiling water, and boil them rapidly until tender, ½ to 1 hour, depending on the size of the parsnips. Drain and serve. Serves 1 parsnip per person.

Need a little company while you’re cooking for the December holidays? Consider preordering the audiobook for Never Marry a Marquess. It’s available for preorder now and can be downloaded beginning December 8. 



Happy Thanksgiving! Marissa and I will be out next week. We'll see you on Tuesday, December 1.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Walking Out in Style

1809 through about 1812 were especially good years for La Belle AssemblĂ©e fashion plates: the illustration quality, production values, and sheer delightfulness of the clothes make them standouts in the magazine’s long history. And this Walking or Carriage Dress from the May 1809 edition is no exception.

The text reads:

English Costume

No. 1.— Walking, or Carriage Costume

A fine cambric round gown, with high collar, finished with needle-work and scalloped lace; a correspondent trimming round the bottom of the dress. A Spanish spenser of black or puce-coloured velvet, edged with gold lace. A waistcoat or wrap front of marble, or leopard satin, with collar the same as the spenser, edged also with gold lace. The Vigonian helmet, or Patriotic bonnet, composed of the same materials; the helmet edged with gold lace, and the crown crossed with gold cord, terminating on one side with a cone tassel. Hoop earrings of wrought gold; necklace of variegated amber; gloves, York-tan, and half boots of tan-coloured kid, laced with black cord.

I just love this plate—so tailored and elegant! The long points on the spenser are unusual (and unexpectedly modern), and the masculine styling on the waistcoat a charming contrast with the smooth flow and flirty lace hem of the cambric dress. The masculine theme continues in the watch and chain (complete with a fob!) at the waist, suspended from the bottom of the waistcoat. I’m intrigued by the description of the waistcoat fabric as potentially being of leopard-patterned satin—unexpected for a Regency-era dress!

The description of the quietly stylish hat also intrigued me. A “Vigonian helmet”—sounds like something from Star Trek, doesn’t it? But it turns out that “Vigonian” pertains to items of felt made from vicuña hair…though as it states that the hat is made from the same materials as the waistcoat and spenser, color me confused.

What do you think of this outfit?

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Date That Word!

Many authors of historical fiction work hard to use period-correct terms. For many years, I coveted a copy of The Oxford English Dictionary, which dates the origin of words. I was overjoyed to come upon an abbreviated version (The Oxford Universal Dictionary, only 2,515 pages) at a rummage sale a few years ago. I also knew about Google ngrams, which track the use of words in digitized books held by Google. For example, from 1804 to 1810, the use of the word redingote increased, only to plummet from 1810 to 1812 before increasing again. But this week I stumbled upon the Merriam-Webster Time Traveler site, which I must admit is rather addicting!

The Time Traveler shows which words first appeared in print for a particular year. For my Nothing Short of Wondrous, set in 1886, I might have used apochromatic (describing a lens that corrects aberrations), attackman, and Broncobuster. My hero and heroine might have eaten French fries and drank milkshakes. I thought snow-in-summer particularly appropriate for Yellowstone.

On the other hand, 1804, the year my Grace-by-the-Sea series is set, debuted such gems as apiculate (ending abruptly in a sharp point), chicken-livered, shunpike, and underclothing. Dr. Bennett of The Artist’s Healer might not have been pleased to see medicinal leech come into vogue, and Rosemary Denby, who will be the heroine in the upcoming The Governess’s Earl, would not like to be called a vulgarian. But what surprised me most was that 1804 was the first year Sir Roger de Coverley appeared in print. I had thought both the dance and the fictional character to predate that time.

Then again, words that first appeared in my birthyear included biodegradable, DEFCON, hovercraft, microcircuit, radio-galaxy, and upmanship. I think I’ll take apiculate instead!

And speaking of dating words, Marissa and I are going to time it so that we take turns posting on Tuesdays, so look for a post from her next week and me the week following.