Blencowe Families' Association Newsletter Vol. 19 No. 4 December 2004

‘Launching’ the Cookbook

For one reason and another, the printers didn't get The Receipt Book of Lady Ann Blencowe to Tina Stapley in time for her 17thC Tudor Cookery workshop at the Weald and Downland Museum near Petersfield. This didn't stop a small group of our members and others from enjoying Tina's demonstration.

The Museum is well worth a visit in its own right. Numerous historic buildings have been brought there and re-erected in a beautiful location on a farm worked using traditional methods. Huge Shire horses pull the ploughs and draught oxen can be seen pulling simple sledges that replaced wheeled transport. There are sheep, of course, pigs and cattle. A great day out for youngsters of all ages, especially city-dwellers.

Tina conducted her workshop in an original centuries-old Tudor kitchen and showed her pupils how traditional ‘goodies’ could be produced using simple ingredients and minimal cooking facilities. An open fire with the smoke going out through the roof seemed to be the main source of heat! Outside the old building was a kitchen garden and acollection of traditional culinary herbs.

Two weeks later the books came to hand and we were invited to an elegant book store in Petersfield for the ‘launch’. Tina modelled the superb dress she had commissioned in the style of that worn by Lady Ann in the portrait featured in the book. Refreshments included cookies ‘baked the Marston way’. A good number of interested persons attended, as did the local press. The book was reviewed for The Herald by artist and author Rita Greer:

‘This is time travel indeed. Imagine you are back in the latter part of that chaotic century. No electricity or gas; no super markets, fridges, canned food, freezers; no NHS if you fall ill, no ‘A & E&rs. You might get some help from the local vet or a concoction from the local apothecary, or you might have someone like Lady Anne to sort you out. She had a garden and a still room as well as wild hedgerows and woodland to provide her with herbs and plants for medicinal recipes. But first Lady Anne's kitchen and what it produced.

Looking through the book I cannot but feel envy for the occupants of her house, who must have enjoyed delicious food; all organic vegetables, meat and fish, organic butter, milk and cheeses, and everything homemade.

Some of the delicacies you will recognise, such as ratafias, gingerbread, egg custard and marmalade. But they won't be anything like the ones we get today from the supermarket.

Take biscuits, for instance. No queuing to buy biscuits full of hydrogenated fat, sugar and salt, manufactured in a factory by machines, to stay shelf fresh for months. Instead ponder on freshly made home-baked biscuits made with butter, layered overnight with fresh red rose petals, freshly ground wholemeal organic flour from the local mill, home made wine and rose sugar.

There would also be elegant and rich dishes for entertaining and celebrations, with generous use of eggs and cream. Remember these were days of innocence, before anyone knew about the dreaded cholesterol.

On the physic front I do feel sorry for those dosed. The ingredients of some of the medicines are quite ghastly —

Christina Stapley has not just entertained us with this book but also given us more. than a glimpse of 17th-century life \n the kitchen and still room. It would have been all too easy to swamp Lady Anne's original book with a modem approach, but she has accomplished it with sensitivity and empathy.

This is an absolutely fascinating book with recipes you can actually use in your own kitchen. Regarding the medicinal recipes, pass! The author does warn us not to try them, but they make interesting reading all the same.’

I took a hundred copies home to distribute to members and, to use an appropriate metaphor, ‘they have gone like hot cakes’; I am awaiting a second delivery. In UK you can have copies at £7.00 including p&p. For American members we have settled on US$15.00 for a single copy or US$14.00 each for two or more. That's p&p included, by ‘Book Post Surface Mail’. Cheques (checks!) payable to the Association, as for your annual subscriptions. I'll work out an appropriate price for ‘downunder’.

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Blencowe Families' Association   Vol. 19 No. 4 December 2004
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updated: 30 July 2005