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English breakfast

25 Mar
English breakfast

English breakfast in London circa June 2010. Is it that different from what Isabella Beeton is proposing?

Never know what to serve for breakfast? Think cereal is ok? Maybe toast and jam? Isabella Beeton, that 19h century doyenne of all things cooking, would think you were a jelly short of a proper luncheon. Here’s what she recommends for the “comfortable meal called breakfast”:

Broiled fish, such as mackerel, whiting, herrings, dried haddocks, &c.; mutton chops and rump-steaks, broiled sheep’s kidneys, kidneys à la maître d’hôtel, sausages, plain rashers of bacon, bacon and poached eggs, ham and poached eggs, omelets, plain boiled eggs, oeufs-au-plat, poached eggs on toast, muffins, toast, marmalade, butter, &c. &c.

I wonder if it’s low GI…

Btw if you have any interest in Mrs Beeton at all, and even if you don’t, be sure to read Kathryn Hughes’ biography – once you’ve read it, you’ll never think of Isabella in the same way again.


Oh to be a fatso!

4 Mar
Strawberry tarts

Yes, I can eat those! These tarts would be approved on Brillat-Savarin's diet plan.

Every thin woman wants to grow plump: That is an avowal which has been made to us a thousand times.

Maybe in 1825 when you wrote that lovely line Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, but not anymore. And I am one of them. I want to be thin too. Or at least thinner. And so, in the name of thinness, over the last three weeks, I have denied myself all the things that make life good – cheese, bread, pasta, deep fried bounty bars…

But Brillat-Savarin, the much acknowledged granddaddy of gastronomy, would’ve thought me a twit of the highest order. Here’s the diet he prescribed for all those thin ladies who wished to “fill out their curves”:

GENERAL RULE. Much fresh bread will be eaten during the day, and particular care will be taken not to throw away the crumbs. Before eight in the morning, soup au pain or aux pates will be taken, and afterwards a cup of good chocolate.

At eleven o’clock, breakfast on fresh broiled eggs, petit pates, cotelettes, and what you please; have eggs, coffee will do no harm.

Dinner hour should be so arranged that one should have thoroughly digested before the time comes to sit down at the table. The eating of one meal before another is digested, is an abuse.

After dinner there should be some exercise; men as much as they can; women should go into the Tuilleries, or as they say in America, go shopping. We are satisfied that the little gossip and conversation they maintain is very healthful.

At times, all should take as much soup, potage, fish, etc., and also meat cooked with rice and macaronies, pastry, creams, etc.

At dessert such persons should eat Savoy biscuits, and other things made up of eggs, fecula, and sugar.

And then this, my favourite line:

This regimen, though apparently circumscribed, is yet susceptible of great variety.

I think I could manage a diet where the variety involved eating lots of fresh bread, noodle soup, hot chocolate, eggs, chops, meat with rice, macaroni, pastry and cakes made with eggs, flour and sugar, not to mention a punishing exercise schedule of shopping and gossiping. It sure beats no carbs, that’s for sure.

Sicilian canoli

No need to say to canoli on the Brillat-Savarin diet.

Brillat-Savarin, Jean Anthelme.  The physiology of taste, or, transcendental gastronomy [electronic resource] translated from the last Paris edition by Fayette Robinson,

What to do when you run out of milk

18 Feb

Don’t have any milk for your morning coffee or tea? Mrs Isabella Beeton, in her classic 1861 Book of Household Management, solves the problem easily and, in her opinion, excellently:

An excellent substitute for milk or cream in tea or coffee

1815. Ingredients. – Allow 1 new-laid egg to every large breakfast-cupful of tea or coffee.

Mode. – Beat up the whole of the egg in a basin, put it into a cup (or a portion of it, if the cup be small), and pour over it the tea or coffee very hot. These should be added very gradually, and stirred all the time, to prevent the egg from curdling. In point of nourishment,  both these beverages are much improved by this addition.

Sufficient – Allow 1 egg to every large breakfast-cupful of tea or coffee.

Call me crazy, but I never thought to have my morning egg in my morning coffee.