WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Belly Timber

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Belly Timber

We know many things about aristocratic foods and meals during the Regency era, likely from all the Jane Austen books and adaptions we consume, but let’s have a brief review just the same.

Huge meals were the order of the day, and eating carried on what we would consider late into the night. Breakfast was served nearer what is now commonly called lunchtime (when you’re at a ball til the break of dawn, you don’t want breakfast til the break of noon, I suspect.). With such a late ending of one’s fast, there was no further food until dinner, which fell around 6:00pm in the country and as late as 10:00pm in Town. Yes, afternoon tea (not high tea, ever!) became a novelty after its introduction by the Duchess of Bedford, but she was lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria, so it is not a Regency era construct. It was also not the mini-feast it has turned into today. Think tea with biscuits, not tea with a three-course lunch. Dinner was a formal affair and could last several hours, what with pre-dinner socializing (i.e., drinking and inspecting each other’s wardrobes) and the passing of course after course at the table. Supper, when taken, fell however many hours after dinner the hostess deemed necessary and appropriate, often midnight or later.

Foods served ranged from traditional English fare (what excellent boiled potatoes!) to the continental or worldly dishes of one’s premier chef (Italian if you please, or French if you must, but only after the exile of the Corsican); butter, cream, eggs, and spices were the order of the day, to reflect one’s wealth. Possession of domestic and exotic fruits in a personal orangery was the veritable icing on the dining cake. As the period progressed, the idea of a more organized, mid-day snacking began to take shape – we’ve all read of ladies taking “nuncheon” or “noon shine” nibbles such as bread, cheese, biscuits, and tea –  but it was not a formally-recognized practice until later in the 19th Century. Picnics or riding excursions needing treats, however, could also occur on a whim during the day, taking place anywhere and anytime.

A Brighton Breakfast or Morning Comforts, 1802. Print made by Charles Williams and published by S.W. Flores, British Museum. Mrs Fitzherbert, on the right, says, “Won’t you take another Comforter? we must make haste I expect Noodle [the Prince] here presently.” Her companion replies, “I think your Comforters are bigger than my Johns.” Saucy Gillray.

Regency aristocrats enjoyed more variety in food and drink than ever before, and with this greater choice came more creative ways to cook and bake the victuals. Food preservation techniques were on the rise during this industrious period, as was the phasing out of open-fire cooking in favor of huge (but still labor-intensive) stoves. Bless the poor servants who had to not only make these meals, but sneak their own in at some point during their long and arduous day.

Belly Timber

Food of all sorts.

So what did all this largesse look like? The folks at The Supersizers Go… are so glad you asked. In the final episode of this excellent and entertaining show, The Supersizers Go…Regency, and the world is much better for it. It is well worth your time.

 

  • Find a treasure trove of information and pictures of Georgian and Regency fare at the History Cookbook.
  • Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.
  • The Jane Austen Centre has a fine list of Regency Recipes for you to try at home.
  • If you’re much too busy and too refined to be entertained by the likes of Sue Perkins washing her face with a combination of brandy, milk, and lemon juice, whilst a scrambled egg white cleans her hair, well … I feel sorry for you. But you can read a thorough recap of the show at Just Hungry. They breakdown the entire episode, relaying every dish served and every ingredient abused for beauty purposes. Bon appétit!
WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Balum Rancum

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Balum Rancum

This week’s word deals with dancing prostitutes, so as you can imagine, period illustrations were a bit hard to find. Thank goodness the upper classes had no compunction about acting a bit shamefully on occasion. Or at least enough to satirize.

Exhibition Stare Case, print made by Thomas Rowlandson, 1811 (?), British Museum. Visitors to the Royal Academy struggle up and down the steeply curving staircase of Somerset House. The wild display of bare legs brings delight to the spectators.

Blaum Rancum

A hop or dance, where the women are all prostitutes. N. B. The company dance in their birthday suits.

Waltzing! or a peep into the Royal Brothel Spring Gardens dedicated with propriety to the Lord Chamberlain, 1816, British Museum.

Far from an illustration of prostitutes, but based on the description of the engraving, there is a definite spirit of balum rancum afoot.

Three couples dance immodestly in a space bordered by a red rope behind which are many spectators. The breasts and shoulders, and sometimes the arms, of the women are bare, their skirts short and edged with transparent lace. A fourth couple stand arm-in-arm on the extreme right, inspecting a lady seated on a bench. A corner of the musicians’ gallery is on the left. The men’s costume also is caricatured. All wear tail-coats and high collars; one wears very tight and short pantaloons, another loose baggy trousers resembling plus-fours (cf. No. 12825). There is a carpet with a large lyre for centre-piece (or perhaps this represents the designs then chalked on ball-room floors). Above is a gas-chandelier with many jets. On the wall are three pictures. (1) ‘Naked, but not ashamed’: three women with bare breasts and short petticoats, two wearing hats, and two having a grotesque stoop (cf. No. 12840). (2) Two men raising their hats; one wears short loose trousers, the other tight breeches with top-boots. (3) ‘Tobacco Pipe imitations of Female Dress—or Smoking the Fashions of 1816.’

The Royal Joke, -or- Black Jacks Delight by James Gillray, published by Samuel William Fores 25 April 1788, National Portrait Gallery.

Fiddling, dancing, royalty, gawkers, and a whip – who needs prostitutes?! And while the colorized etching is held at the National Portrait Gallery, the description is pure British Museum:

A scene in Carlton House. The Prince of Wales, seated in a chair, holds a stout, good-looking lady (Mrs. Sawbridge) across his knees and chastises her with upraised hand; she holds out her arms imploringly. Alderman Sawbridge (right) faces her in profile to the left, playing a fiddle and dancing; from his pocket hangs a piece of music inscribed ‘The Reform’, a new Motion. On the extreme left Lady Archer stands in profile to the right, holding a driving-whip, and pointing angrily at the injured lady. A little girl (Sawbridge) stands full-face, clasping her hands in horror at the treatment of her mother. Behind are a number of onlookers: a very fat lady in profile to the left is Miss Vanneck; Mrs. Fitzherbert watches, not displeased; Fox, his arm round her shoulder, gazes amorously at her…

 

Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.