Restoration themed Recipes
By M. J. Logue
Winter draws on – or at least, cold, wet, autumn.
It always makes me wonder what my characters would have made of it, in the mid-seventeenth century. I know my hero, the very slightly metropolitan Major Russell, has a slight thing for coffee – or at least coffee-shops, those Restoration hotbeds of gossip and dissent – and no taste at all for tea, no matter how novel it was at the time. (Complains about it tasting like lukewarm dishwater, which as the Stuarts served it without milk or sugar and it was phenomenally expensive, he probably isn’t wrong.)
But his wife, now, is another thing. Thomazine Russell is very much a good country housewife – even if she does have to live in London and have adventures occasionally – and she hates those new fancy foreign drinks that curdle your belly and keep you wakeful. (Her words, I might add, not mine.) Thomazine is much more in favour of old-fashioned healthful drinks: caudles and possets.
Posset, you may have heard of.
If you are an aficionado of children’s fiction of a certain age, you may recall the Inspector’s suggestion to Kay Harker in John Masefield’s “The Box Of Delights”
But you young folks in this generation, you don't know what a posset is. Well a posset," said the Inspector, "is a jorum of hot milk; and in that hot milk, Master Kay, you put a hegg, and you put a spoonful of treacle, and you put a grating of nutmeg, and you stir 'em well up, and you get into bed and then you take 'em down hot. And a posset like that, taken overnight will make a new man of you!
Thomazine, on the other hand, wouldn’t have owned the Inspector’s recipe, and nor would most women of her day. Sir Kenelm Digby’s recipe of 1669 is much more typically rich – and alcoholic:
Take a pottle of Cream, and boil in it a little whole Cinnamon, and three or four flakes of Mace.
To this proportion of Cream put in eighteen yolks of eggs, and eight of the whites; a pint of Sack; beat your eggs very well, and then mingle them with your Sack.
Put in three quarters of a pound of Sugar into the Wine and Eggs, with a Nutmeg grated, and a little beaten Cinnamon; set the Bason on the fire with the Wine and Eggs, and let it be hot.
Then put in the Cream boiling from the fire, pour it on high, but stir it not; cover it with a dish, and when it is settlede, strew on the top a little fine Sugar mingled with three grains of Ambergreece, and one grain of Musk, and serve it up.
So as you can imagine, the posset is definitely a drink for the wealthier sort: very rich and spiked with luxury spices. Caudle, on the other hand, is anybody’s business – the Good Huswife’s Handmaide gives us:
Take a pinte of good Muscadine, and as much of good stale ale, mingle them to-gether, then take the yolkes of twelue or thirteene Egges newe laide, beat well the Egges firste by themselves, with the wine and ale, and so boyle it together, and put thereto a quarterne of Suger, and a fewe whole Mace, and so stirre it well, til it seeth a good while, and when it is well sod, put therin a few slices of bread if you will, and so let it soke a while, and it will be right good and wholesome.
Still creamy and rich, but the creaminess coming from the eggs, like a custard, rather than from pints of cream. It’s interesting to see how the caudle changed over time from the Tudor meal-in-itself, with eggs and bread as well as wine and ale, into its rather more puritanical Victorian form - which was a sort of thickened oatmeal gruel with added beer. Sam Pepys recommends them for helping you get to sleep – they feature in his diary as a sort of nutritious nightcap on several occasions – but whereas the rather refined posset is very much a drink of conspicuous consumption the caudle is considerably more prosaic. It’s also interestingly political, in the mid-17th century, according to a recent exhibition by the Royal College of Physicians on alcohol, because – “During the English Civil War and Commonwealth, beer was the drink of puritans and wine the choice of royalists, used for elaborate toasts in honour of the exiled Prince Charles, the future Charles II”. Caudle is a wholesome blend of the two. Fortunately it’s been turning up in recipes since the 15th century, or I might have suspected a little Restoration spin being placed on that recipe….
It’s thought the English word “caudle” comes from the Latin word caldellum, meaning hot drink, and it’s also fascinating that in the Netherlands one can drink kandeel from the same derivative - a home brewed alcoholic drink made of white wine, lemon, cloves, cinnamon, sugar and egg yolk. The kandeel is not only a warming winter drink, not unlike advocaat, but traditionally it’s associated with childbirth: you can see why, with the amount of easily-absorbed nutrition in the form of eggs and warming spices. It’s still sold in the Netherlands and a modern website describes it to “help the breastfeeding and aid the baby to sleep” - I just bet it does!! "Cake and caudel" or "taking caudle" became the acceptable term for a "lying-in visit", when women went to see their friends' new babies; these were strictly women-only visits, and it rapidly became something of a euphemism – right up into the Victorian period – for a session of scurrilous feminine gossip!
Caudles – and kandeels – were traditionally served in little two-handed bowls with a small spoon. A number of the bowls dating to the Restoration period portray Charles II with assorted mottoes, which lends a little bit of credibility to my theory of the drink as a symbol of political unity, but there were also many made in silver and a much more workaday tin-glazed ceramic which are still in existence. Because of their association with childbirth, the caudle-cup was an acceptable maternity gift. Interestingly enough, there was a tradition in France (according to Montaigne) of bringing the bridegroom a restorative caudle in the middle of his wedding night. The mind boggles.
A Deceitful Subtlety
By M. J. Logue
How far can you rely on a woman’s intuition…?
Thomazine and Major Thankful Russell should be enjoying married life.
With one teething baby and another on the way, life at the newly-rebuilt house at Four Ashes in the Chilterns is never dull, and they’re hoping to put the debauchery of Restoration London behind them.
But then the indomitable poetess Mistress Aphra Behn arrives at their door…
Aphra claims to have promised to marry respectable merchant William Scot, who she met on a previous spying mission in Belgium. But he never turned up for the wedding.
She’s determined to discover his fate – and she wants Thankful to help her search Bruges.
Which may be how married couples behave in sophisticated London society, but there’s no way Thomazine is letting her husband loose on his own with the lovely, flirtatious Mistress Behn.
It looks like the couple will once again have to put domestic bliss aside to unravel this intriguing mystery…
A Deceitful Subtlety is the second book in the Thomazine and Major Russell Thriller series, by M. J. Logue.
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A Deceitful Subtlety
M. J. Logue
M. J. Logue (as in cataLOGUE and epiLOGUE and not, ever, loge, which is apparently a kind of private box in a theatre) wrote her first short novel on a manual typewriter aged seven. It wasn’t very good, being about talking horses, but she made her parents sit through endless readings of it anyway.
Thirty-something years later she is still writing, although horses only come into it occasionally these days. Born and brought up in Lancashire, she moved to Cornwall at the turn of the century (and has always wanted to write that) and now lives in a granite cottage with her husband, and son, five cats, and various itinerant wildlife.
After periods of employment as a tarot reader, complaints call handler, executive PA, copywriter and civil servant, she decided to start writing historical fiction about the period of British history that fascinates her – the 17th century.
Her first series, covering the less than stellar career of a disreputable troop of Parliamentarian cavalry during the civil wars, was acclaimed by reviewers as “historical fiction written with elegance, wit and black humour” – but so many readers wanted to know whether fierce young lieutenant Thankful Russell ever did get his Happy Ever After, that the upcoming series of romantic thrillers for Sapere Books began.
M. J. Logue can be found on Twitter @Hollie_Babbitt, lurking on the web at asweetdisorder.com, and posting photos of cake, cats and extreme embroidery on Instagram as asweetdisorder.