WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Valentine

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Valentine

Guess what happens this week!

If you guessed Valentine’s Day, you’re only partially correct. I was shooting for the day after Valentine’s Day, when candy goes on sale for half-price or more. Now that’s something to celebrate, amiright?!

Anyway. On to the Word of the Week.

The observation of St. Valentine’s Day has its origins in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, a pagan fertility festival. That celebration involved lots of naked men running around the city spanking women’s bottoms, which was thought to increase their fertility. Ahem.

And like all good pagan rites of yore, Christians swooped in and usurped the pagan’s place in the festivities; after the death of Christ, February 14th became a date associated with the martyring of three different saints, all coincidentally named Valentine (or Valentinus, in the Latin of the day).

Now, the first documented association of Valentine’s Day with romantic love came with the publication of Parlement of Foules by Geoffrey Chaucer in 1382:

Ye knowe wel how, Seynt Valentynes day,
By my statut and through my governaunce,
Ye come for to chese — and flee your way —
Your makes, as I prik yow with plesaunce.

History also reveals a Frenchman (but, of course!) holds the honor as first to send a Valentine, although under tragic circumstances. After his capture following the Battle of Agincourt, the duc D’Orléans wrote a missive to his wife from his cell in the Tower of London. He addressed her as “my sweet Valentine.”

Poem from Charles, duc D’Orléans, to his wife in 1415. Photo courtesy BBC; original document at the British Museum.

Shakespeare brought the concept of Valentines and Valentine’s Day to the masses when  he penned Ophelia’s mournful song for Hamlet (Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 5).

Tomorrow is Saint Valentine’s day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.
Then up he rose, and donned his clothes,
And dupped the chamber door.
Let in the maid that out a maid
Never departed more.

The idea of sending notes specifically on Valentine’s Day took off in England, so much so that a how-to book was published in 1797, The Young Man’s Valentine Writer. The rampant popularity naturally meant the term would be adopted into the vernacular.

Hence this week’s timely slang term.

Valentine (noun)

The first woman seen by a man, or man seen by a woman, on St. Valentine’s day, the 14th of February, when it is said every bird chuses his mate for the ensuing year.

Early Valentines were personal and hand-made, specific to the tastes and feelings of the sender and recipient. Witness this lovely Puzzle Purse Valentine from 1816. The squares are numbered so that the message can be read in order as each section is opened. The final message or illustration takes the center spot. Who wouldn’t love to receive one of these?

Valentine Puzzle Purse, 14 February 1816. Image courtesy Nancy Rosin.

 

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WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Nug

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Nug

It’s February.

It may still be cold and wintry, but love is in the air, so things are heating up, of a fashion.

February hosts the most loved and despised of holidays – Valentine’s Day. Every year, more than 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate are sold across the United States. Heck, even 9 million people buy something for their pets. But take a stroll through social media anywhere near February 14th to find out what your single friends think of the so-called “love month.”

They just need to find themselves a Word of the Week.

Nug

An endearing word: as, My dear nug; my dear love.

Oh! Listen to the Voice of Love, James Gillray, 1799, National Portrait Gallery.

And here’s one’s dearest nug…at least prior to marriage.

Harmony Before Matrimony, James Gillray, 1805, British Museum.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Cold Pudding

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Cold Pudding

Hello, February.

The second month of the year in our Gregorian calendar, the only month with less than thirty days, and the only month whose name means both ‘Day of Purification’ (dies februatus, in Latin) and ‘Mud Month’ (Solmonath, in Old English). February’s flower is the violet and its birthstone the amethyst, the symbol of piety, humility, spiritual wisdom, and sincerity. It’s also the month crammed full with such random holidays as National Freedom Day (1st), checking groundhogs for shadows (2nd), eating/drinking/merrying for Mardi Gras (13th), Chinese New Year (17th, et. al.), commemorating the birthdays of two Presidents (19th), and Rare Disease Day (28th). According to Holidays Calendar, there are over 160 things you can observe, celebrate, or just ponder during the month of February.

How on earth did February come to hold the responsibility for all things love? And since Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day this year, will anyone give up chocolate for Lent? Especially since my favorite day in February is the 15th, when Valentine’s candy goes 75% off at Target.

Thou hast no shame in the discount candy game.

It’s interesting to me that the shortest month of the year commemorates the very emotion that is supposed to encompass people wholly, truly, and 4-ever. Valentine’s Day falls smack in the middle of this month of amour – the same day every year – and yet stores are still overrun at 5:00pm that day with males desperate to find something their loves will find worthy.

The Pearl Necklace by Frédéric Soulacroix (1858-1933), Art Renewal Center, New Jersey.

Might I suggest the word of the week?

Cold Pudding

This is said to settle one’s love.

Perhaps a little poetry wouldn’t go amiss. And chocolate. Must have all the chocolate.

The Lovers’ Tryst by Frédéric Soulacroix (1858-1933), Bonhams Gallery, London.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Lollipops

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Lollipops

Tomorrow is St. Valentine’s Day … or as I like to call it, the first Candy Holiday of the year. I’m not a big candy eater, but I do splurge on Candy Holidays: Valentine’s is for Nerds, Easter brings the Cadbury Creme Egg, Halloween calls for candy corn and pumpkins, Thanksgiving means caramel apples, and Christmas is of course reserved for Reese’s Christmas Trees.

Those vulgar Long Regency-ites had a slang term for candy that’s still in use today, although what we know now didn’t make its appearance until 1908, and with a stick. This word called for some era-appropriate recipes for 19th Century candy.

Lollipops (noun)

Sweet lozenges purchased by children.

Old Covent Garden Market by George Sharf 'The Elder', 1825, British Museum.

Old Covent Garden Market by George Sharf ‘The Elder’, 1825, British Museum.

Author Laurie Alice Eakes visited Vanessa Riley’s blog several years ago and left two lovely Regency candy recipes. Perhaps children bought these lollies once upon a time.

Confectionary Drops

Take double refined sugar, pound and sift it through a hair sieve, not too fine; then sift it through a silk sieve to take out all the fine dust which would destroy the beauty of the drop. Put the sugar into a clean pan, and moisten it with any favourite aromatic…Colour it with a small quantity of liquid carmine, or any other colour, ground fine. Take a small pan with a lip, fill it three parts with paste, place it on a small stove, the half hole being the size of the pan, and stir the sugar with a little ivory or bone handle, until it becomes liquid. When it almost boils, take it from the fire and continue to stir it: if it be too moist, take a little of the powdered sugar, and add a spoonful to the paste, and stir it till it is of such a consistence as to run without too much extension. Have a tin plate, very clean and smooth; take the little pan in the left hand, and hold in the right a bit of iron, copper, or silver wire, four inches long, to take off the drop from the lip of the pan, and let it fall regularly on the tin plate; two hours afterwards, take off the drops with the blade of a knife.

Chocolate Drops

Scrape the chocolate to powder, and put an ounce to each pound of sugar; moisten the paste with clear water, work it as above, only take care to use all the paste prepared, as if it be put on the fire a second time, it greases, and the drop is not of the proper thickness.

Author’s Note: A pound of sugar is about 2 cups by modern measurements.

Antique 19thCentury Primitive Shaker Treen Hair Sieve from www.worthpoint.com

Antique 19th Century Primitive Shaker Treen Hair Sieve from http://www.worthpoint.com

Another candy recipe that came about in the late Georgian era can be found at the Westminster City Archives in the fantastically named The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies.

Extract from an 18th century recipe for orange chips (candied peel) in The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies from the Westminster City Archives.

Extract from an 18th century recipe for orange chips (candied peel) in The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies from the Westminster City Archives at http://www.lostcookbook.com.

Orange Chips

Take yr whole oranges & scrape of the outward rind with a knife to make them look clear, then steep in water 4 days, shifting them 2 a day. Then cut them in halves & take out the clear lumps between the partitions as whole as you can with the point of a knife. Boyle yr peel in water, very tender. Then take out all the strings but take out as little of the white as you can. Then cut them in small long thongs as broad & thin as possible. Then take dubble their weight of dubble refind sugar & make it in a rich sirrip, the sugar only dipt in boyling water. Then put in yr chips & clear lumps, the seeds pick’d out with a pin. Boyle them slowly a good while, 3 qrs of an hour. Keep them in a china bason. Dont cover them till quite cold. When you do them for tarts, you may do them with powder sugar & slice some raw appels thin & boyle it in the sirrop with yr chips. Frensh appels or pippins are best.

So where could one purchase sweet treats? From a establishment similar to the one run by gentlemen such as George and Alfred Pill, pastry cooks and confectioners. Baldwin Hamey runs two fascinating blogs: his namesake, and London Street Views, where I found out about the brothers Pill. They learned their trade from their father and were also apprenticed out to other confectioners, George Ponton and John Coombes, before obtaining their freeman status and opening shop. Click here to learn about their “exquisite jellies” and which brother married his housekeeper!

Bow Steeple Cheapside, with the future location of the Pill Confectionary at number 51 marked, from Thomas Malton's Picturesque Tour of 1792, British Museum.

Bow Steeple Cheapside, with the future location of the Pill Confectionary at number 51 marked, from Thomas Malton’s Picturesque Tour of 1792, British Museum (courtesy London Street Views).