June in the Victorian Kitchen
Steaming Sunday this month coincided with our fabulous Steampunk Extravaganza weekend. So, the Victorian Kitchen had as a ‘Taste of History’ samples of all the recipes on offer so far this year.
The overarching thought behind this decision was –
“If a dish is worth cooking once, it has to be worth cooking and therefore eating, again!”
So, to the delight of many visitors, they were able to sample –
- Caraway Seed Cake – a firm favourite with the Victorians
- Yeast Cake – a cross between a fruit cake and a tea bread
- Jumbles – lemon flavoured, crisp biscuits, the origins of which are lost to the mists of time
- Spiced Biscuits – similar to a fruit shortbread with just a hint of mixed spice and cinnamon
- Eliza Acton’s Gingerbread (the Mary Berry of the 19th century). This was her own family recipe
All these were available over the two days. There was never any plan to ‘organise a competition’ as to which one was the overall favourite but . . . . it was the Gingerbread plate which needed topping up the most often!
However, they were all favourites with someone. As with any food, the tastes and textures brought out long forgotten memories and their associated stories. These are just a few that we heard –
The mild aniseed flavour of the caraway seeds transported many of our older visitors back to their grandmothers’ kitchens where, as children, they watched this confection being sliced for tea.
For some, it was the spiced biscuits and cookery lessons at school when they made a similar recipe. These biscuits had all been eaten on the way home so there were only a few currants and biscuit crumbs to look at in the bottom of the tin. The family were not happy about this!
Another of our visitors found the texture of the Jumbles reminded him of when, as a child in the school holidays, he worked in the local biscuit factory alongside both his immediate and extended family. These, for him, were very happy recollections.
We as volunteers love hearing all these, but one of the most fascinating stories for me this weekend was when a young Mum approached, clutching the recipe sheet for, of all things, the Yeast Cake! She was so excited she could hardly speak as she pointed to the ingredients list, exclaiming that they were the same ones as were used in her native Russia for a Yeast Cake, traditionally cooked at Easter! This cake was cooked in a tall tin and then tied up with ribbon and given as a present to family and friends.
We both found it intriguing that a recipe which has a version in almost every area of the United Kingdom, was the same as one baked thousands of miles away in another country.
Food can be a very unifying force!
So, why not have a go, try one of the recipes on the website, that is if you haven’t done so already, and see what memories they evoke for you!