This year’s Special Collections Christmas party was slightly different to the usual festive celebration, as we continued to follow our Historical How-To theme. We brought along the decorations we have been making over the last few weeks (see Victorian Christmas decorations post), added lots of holly and cotoneaster with berries, as well as home-made crackers, lit all the candles the Girls Own Annual told us we needed for atmosphere, and brought pot luck historical recipes from our own collections.
Kirsty and Briony decorated themselves in Victorian costume while the 1830s ‘dish of snow’ adorned the table – made of whisked egg white heaped up over branches of fir to simulate snow – quite effective too!
Recipes included a venison pasty from 1780, to which a ton of brandy was added when it came out of the oven, presumably the Georgians didn’t want to risk the alcohol boiling off during cooking; macaroni cheese (1830s); pea soup, though after half an hour of trying to push boiled peas through a fine sieve I gave up and got out the liquidiser (1750s); a chicken curry from 1760, using spices sent home by the East India Company, and surprising similar in method and taste to how we would make curry today; sweet potato cakes, Swedish meatballs, roast turkey, fish pie, all from traditional recipes; Briony’s amazing trifle; gingerbread, almond simnel Christmas cake (1884) and 18th century lemon cheesecakes. All delicious.
Mulled wine by Marc B (featured in part II of this post) and Swedish Glögg by Rachel, both with amazingly succulent raisins which had been cooked in the wine, helped the evening go with a swing.
The evening also featured various Victorian entertainments, including parlour magic by Kirsty Lee, which will feature in a forthcoming blog post, and a Victorian quiz on English History from the McIntosh Collection (ms37118/9). Called a Game of Tritetts or Cross questions in English History, the packet of cards claimed that ‘The object of this game is to impress on the minds of the players important incidents in English History, thus combining improvement with amusement’.
Actually some of the answers are now not correct so that was amusing and we certainly improved our knowledge of English History once I had read out the answers.
- In the reign of Edward I there were only 2 clocks in England – where were they?
- Who banished wolves from England and how?
- Who were the first bankers in England and when?
See end of the post for the answers.
The most impressive entertainment was the game of snapdragon instituted by Marc C – a Christmas parlour game with a long history, even mentioned in several Shakespeare plays, but little played today as it involves setting light to a tray full of brandy and raisins, and trying to fish out the raisins and eat them without getting burnt. Very amusing to watch, and apparently great fun to play, and no-one got burnt – but maybe not one to try at home.
Follow on to Part II of this post where Marc B will show us how he made mulled wine for our party and, usefully, how this process can also help make ‘off’ or unpalatable wine delicious again!
Answers to the game of tritetts:
- On the gateway at Westminster and at Canterbury
- Edgar – he demanded tribute be paid in wolves heads (actually wolves were still fairly common until the reign of Henry VII)
- The Goldsmiths in the time of the commonwealth (but really after the Royal Mint was plundered by Charles I in 1640)