Saturday, June 28, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly #2: Soups & sauces

2. Soups and Sauces June 15 - June 28
Soups, stews, sauces, gravies! Make a soup or a sauce from a historical recipe.

I decided to try something that I have no idea what it is supposed to look like, taste like, or even be.  It's called Chet Soup.  ...And I'm still not sure what that is.  However, here is the original late 15th Century Recipe:
For to mak soupes chet

To mak soupes chet tak almond mylk mad with
good brothe and sett it on the fyere to boile put ther
to clowes maces pynes raissins of corrans guinger
mynced and plente of sugur.
A Noble Boke off Cookry  (Holkham MSS 674)  

Isabella's translation:

To Make Chet Soup: Take almond milk made with a good broth & set it on the fire to boil. Put there in cloves, mace, pine nutes, raisins, minced ginger, and plenty of sugar.

Okay so...

First I made the almond milk. I've never actually made almond milk before. I normally just buy whatever they have at the store. However, since this is to be made with a "good broth" rather than water, I threw some pre cut, pre blanched almond slices into the blender with a small amount of chicken broth and got this:

...I know. It looks like French Vanilla Ice Cream. It didn't smell like Vanilla Ice Cream. It smelt like chicken broth. After a half hour of making a small dent to put in the chicken broth, mixing the broth with the almonds (it thickens fast!), and then pressing the mashed almonds against the strainer, I got a nice small bowl full of almond milk.

I then set the almond milk to boil. It got a very interesting glassy "skin" as it heated up. I kept stirring it to help prevent that.

I then added whole cloves, mace, pine nuts, raisins, ground ginger, and lots of sugar. I *think* I added maybe 8 whole cloves, about 1 teaspoon of mace, 3 tablespoons of pine nuts, probably a good 1/2 cup of raisins, 1 teaspoon of ginger, and nearly 1/3 cup of sugar. I don't really measure anymore because, well, they didn't. I just sort of go by smell and taste.

After about five minutes of boiling, it was done. The soup gets pretty thick but it's still soupy. It's surprisingly good. If anyone has had peanut soup, the sweetness/savoriness is sort of at that level.  It's sweet, but not overbearing.  It's really creamy and actually pretty nice for a summer day despite it being a "hot" soup.   I really enjoyed it and will totally have it again.

The Challenge:
Soups & Sauces

The Recipe: (where did you find it, link to it if possible)A Noble Boke off Cookry (Holkham MSS 674)  

The Date/Year and Region:
England, 1460's

How Did You Make It: (a brief synopsis of the process of creation)
See above

Time to Complete:
About 1 hour

Total Cost:
I had blanched almonds on hand as well as raisins, ginger, sugar, and cloves. The Mace was $7 but I barely used more than a teaspoon. The pine nuts were $10 - again, only used maybe 1/3 of the package. The chicken broth was $2.35.

How Successful Was It?: (How did it taste? How did it look? Did it turn out like you thought it would?)  As I stated above, it's actually really good.  I had no idea what it was going to look like or taste like.  It wasn't nearly as sweet as I thought it would be given the ingredients.  It's a really nice nut based soup.   I'm going to probably make it for my family and see what they think. I might also try it with veggie broth in the future so I can have it during Lent. 

How Accurate Is It?: I made the almond milk myself. Yes, I may not have made the broth myself but given how long it took to make the almond milk, I'm totally calling this accurate. :-)

Saturday, June 21, 2014

First Costume Roulette Challenge!

For the Costume Roulette Challenge, I was given three catagories to choose from. The first was Natural Form, the second was Turn of the Century (1890's/1900's pigeon breast), and the third was 1930's. I suck at anything 1870's/1880's, so I'm hesitant on the Natural Form one. Turn of the Century is what I still plan on doing but I need to work on the undergarments to get the correct silhouette. I figured I could throw 1930's in the sewing plan pile as well for fun since 1930's is perfectly fine as "everyday" wear.

Since I need a new dress to wear this weekend, I figured I'd try a 1930's style dress. I've done 20's before and late 40's/early 50's but never 30's. This was new to me. The pattern I choose was Vintage Vouge 2671. The pattern is one from 1933 that was re-issued. I had it in the pattern stash.

Overall, this was complicated only because the directions were ridiculous. I ended up giving up on the directions and just doing my own thing, like normal.

This is the way the dress looks right now. Yes, it's sheer. :-) I do have a summer slip to go beneath it. I cut up an old sari I got at the thrift store for $4. Turns out, the sari was 100% silk. Fun! The pallu (decorated shoulder flap part of the sari) had a few holes in it. I used the petticoat part of the sari for the dress.

Adding the inserts for the skirt was fairly easy. The hard part of this pattern is the craziness of the shoulder cape in the front. I still don't think I have it. I just got it to where it works. The left side should open to allow your head to pop through. You also have to leave the left side of the dress open to allow you to put on the dress. The sash that should go around the dress looked ridiculous so I added a nice gold belt instead.

More pictures and info later!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Historical Sew Fortnightly #11: The Politics of Fashion

The Challenge:The Politics of Fashion
Fabric: Cotton Sateen
Pattern:  My own!
Year:  1864 ish
Notions: Lace, hooks and eyes.
How historically accurate is it? The pattern is correct. Using a sewing machine is correct. However, I should have lined the skirt (it would have helped a lot from it riding up on the hoop constantly! gah!) so, eh.
Hours to complete: The research was the worst part of this one. That was a good two days! The outfit itself only took maybe 5 or so hours.
First worn: June 14th
Total cost: I think I paid $20 for the fabric many MANY years ago. I'm destashing. The lace was some lace someone gave me.

Additional Information:

First, read here on my investigation into what the heck I'm wearing. :-) I originally thought that there must be something "political" about the Swiss in the early 1860's to get the name. However, it turns out, it might just be re-enactor politics instead. The Swiss Bodice in period was a little girl's garment that laced up the front - not the thing I'm wearing. Instead, this, it turns out, was called a corsage.

I have no idea why we call it a Swiss waist today when they clearly didn't in period. My only guess is that someone - probably back in the 1960's which is wear all bad terms seem to come from for all re-enactor type circles (SCA, CWA, ect)- declared that they were wearing a Swiss waist and no one ever questioned it because the person wearing said garment was an "authority" on such matters. I've seen it happen -and accidentally done so myself- many, many times. It's how the eye twitching "but purple is only for royalty" got started.

However, the dress I'm wearing also shows a bit of the politics of the 1860's. The 1860's was a time of war. Not only did we have the American Civil War; the second Opium war had just ended in 1860, France took over Mexico in 1863 because they could, Italy was in shambles, all of South America was at war, and New Zealand had it's own issues to worry about as well. ...and that's just to name a few. Basically, the world was a mess at the end of the 1850's/start of the 1860's.

This, of course, affected trade. The American South's entire cotton distribution was vastly disrupted. Importing it from India - which was under reconstruction via the Brits at the time- was going to be outrageous. So to have cotton at all showed that either I re-made an old dress or I had some money. This is why so many dresses from the early 1860's are just remade 1850's pieces - you had to because it was next to impossible to buy cloth to make clothing unless you had some money. The cloth itself speaks to the politics of the era.

What's in a name? Or an investigation into "Swiss Waists".

The Swiss bodices (not pretty for grown people) are charming for little girls. They consist of a stiff bodice, covered with silk, and made without sleeves; a chemisette and full puffed sleeves are put on, and over this the Swiss bodice, which is sometimes tied with a bow and ends of a ribbon – Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine Vol 5 Issue 25 – Vol 6 Issue 36 pg 141

The Swiss Bodice and various cinctures, of which we have often spoken, are also much worn by little girls over white dresses, with large bows and flowing ends at the back. – Peterson’s Magazine V45-46 (April 1864)

These were two of the many quotes I found when I first started to look into Swiss Waists.  The first thing I discovered was that, in period, there were Swiss Bodices but no Swiss Waists.  However, Swiss Bodices were for children...despite seeing what we call Swiss Waists as part of fashion plates on grown ups right next to Swiss Bodices are for kids!  So, I decided to do research.

We get a clue as to what these children's Swiss Bodice looked like from a satire magazine from 1860:

This is what they say about the 15th Century dress in the picture:
The form that was most fashionable was to have the front left open from the neck down to the waist, with a turnover roll collar, made of a dark colour bordering the aperture. A stomacher of cloth or linen covered the breast beneath, and occasionally the gown was laced together over it in the mode of the Swiss Bodice.

First, it makes me giggle to no end that the mid 19th Century equivalent to the Onion is trying to describe a Burgundian gown and failing miserably. Does that make it a double fail or a win since it's a satire? I have no idea.

Anyway, it does give us a big clue as to what a Swiss Bodice really is - it's what unfortunately every single lazy e-bay seller calls a corset today; something that has lacing across the front of it. It doesn't matter if it's actually a corset or not, it has criss cross lacing on it! Apparently, sadly, this is not a new thing but rather been renamed.

However, when I went to test this theory that all things with laces on children's dresses are Swiss failed.

Fig 2 – Child’s dress. The skirt is of mauve polin-ette, with three flounces.  The waist is white muslin tucked, made square, and trimmed with Valenciennes lace.  The sleeves are one puff.  Over this is worn a little green silk corsage, which consists of side bodies only, the front and back being merely straps of the silk. Godey's 1862

Alright, so maybe it's just because it's a jumper dress and not a bodice/waist?   Despite this, I did find some crediance to my theory of "any laced up the front is Swiss!"

Their pleasing appearance is much heightened by their graceful dress.  Over their white linen chemisettes, made with full short sleeves, they wear bodices laced up in the front like the Swiss, and frequently ornamented with gold brocade; The Ladies' Companion, and Monthly Magazine

From the NY Public Library

So what is the black thing around the middle ladies waist called then if not a Swiss waist? Here's the description of the middle dress from Godey's:

Fig. 3. — Lavender poplin dress, with black velvet
corsage. The skirt is trimmed with black velvet in
hands, lozenges, and bows, the same as on the body and
Mauves of the dress. Small lace collar, with black

So here it is called a "corsage" but is that what everyone called it?  Apparently not.

In Peterson's from March 1864, it's referred to as a waist.

This is one of the very few times it is referred to as a Swiss bodice (not waist) from Godey's 1862.

From Godey's Magazine 1865:
Fig 3 – Skirt of a delicate shade of mauve goat’s hair cloth, ornamented by two bands richly embroidered in chain-stich.  Fancy corsage of purple silk, trimmed with guipure lace and jet buttons.  Guimpe and sleeves of French muslin, tucked and trimmed with embroidery.  Leghorn hat, trimmed with one purple and black feather.  The hair is rolled from the face and galls in curls at the back. 

Again, it's referred to as a corsage. Doing a quick search through books from 1855-1865, it looks like corsage was the most common term for what we today call a Swiss Waist.

I have no idea how the term evolved from corsage to Swiss Waist over the past 150 years. However, I originally looked into the term thinking there must be something going on with the Swiss at that point to get the term. Although all things Swiss was was mostly because of the fan following of the Swiss Family Robinson. Sort of like every single young adult and adult book series in the past 15 years.....(OMG! It has a Twilight/Harry Potter/Hunger Games/Game of Thrones reference!!!! MUST HAVE!!!!)

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly #1: Literary Foods

Let's face it; if you ask anyone to name any 16th century or early 17th century author, it will be Shakespeare...despite the fact that technically, he's not an author; he's a playwright.  So I decided to stick to my 16th Century guns and just randomly look up mentions of food in Shakespeare.   I knew he had some but most of it was generic like "meat" and "bread" or very specific ingredients like "strawberries" or "garlic" - very little was to call out a specific baking creation. 

However, I did find the clown in A Winter's Tale (Act IV, Scene III) does mention something that can be baked:

Let me see; what am
I to buy for our sheep-shearing feast? Three pound
of sugar, five pound of currants, rice,--what will
this sister of mine do with rice? But my father
hath made her mistress of the feast, and she lays it
on. She hath made me four and twenty nose-gays for
the shearers, three-man-song-men all, and very good
ones; but they are most of them means and bases; but
one puritan amongst them, and he sings psalms to
horn-pipes. I must have saffron to colour the warden
pies; mace; dates?--none, that's out of my note;
nutmegs, seven; a race or two of ginger, but that I
may beg; four pound of prunes, and as many of
raisins o' the sun.

 Warden pies sounds good!   Wardens (aka, pears) are easy to find at any local super market and I actually have everything else I need in my kitchen (even way too much saffron!).  So let's find a good 16th C recipe for Wardens:

How to bake Wardens.

Core your wardens and pare them, and perboyle them and laye them in your paste, and put in every warden where you take out the Core a Clove or twain, put to them Sugar, Ginger, Sinamon, more sinamon then ginger, make your crust very fine and somewhat thick, and bake them leisurely.  A Booke of Cookery 1584/1591

That will do it!  I've been making pie crusts for a couple of years using a variation on what they did in the middle ages/Renaissance.  In 1545, A Propere New Book of Cookrye states this about making "coffins":

Make paste of fine floure, egges, butter and faire water, therof make Coffins - How to bake Sparrowes or other small birds.
 then take fine flowre, yolkes of Egs, and butter, a little quantitye of rosewater and sugar, then make little coffins-How to make Chuets

And in 1575, we have this recipe for an apple pie with crust:

To make pies of greene Apples.
Take your Apples and pare them
cleane, and core them as ye wil a quince
then make your coffin after this man-
ner, take a litle fayre water, and halfe
a fishe of butter, and a litle Saffron,
and set all this upon a chafindyshe, tyll
it bee hote, than temper your flower
with this sayd licour, and the white of
two egges, & also make your coffin and
season your Apples with Cinamon,
Ginger and Sugar inough. Then put
them into your coffin, and bake them.

So the main parts of a 16th century English pie crust are...the same as today.  :-)  Flour, eggs, butter, and water to form the paste.  Saffron to color it yellow.  Sugar to make the crust taste sweet.

Although I can use most  of the ingredients, I can't have butter - at all.  Luckily, I'm not the first person in history to have a dairy allergy and they did use olive oil all the time in place of butter in the 16th century.  Easy!  

Crust recipe:

  • 2 cups of  flour
  • 1 pinch of saffron
  • 1/2 cup of water or so - added more as the dough was too dry
  • 2 generous tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon sugar

Mix all the ingredients together and then kneed the dough for a couple of minutes. Split the dough in half so you'll have a top and bottom crust. Roll out the bottom crust and throw that into a pan to bake for 10 minutes at about 375F.

Warden Pie:

  • 5 pears
  • sugar
  • cinnamon
  • ginger
  • 5 whole cloves

I didn't measure this part. I peeled and cored each of the pears - boiling them for 10-ish minutes once they were cored. I then stuck a clove in each one, put in about a teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 a teaspoon of ginger, and enough sugar to almost fill each pear. I then dumped them in the pie crust. Once all five were in, I rolled out the top curst and draped that over the pears. I also poked each pear with a fork once the over was on (so the pie could breathe). I baked the pie for 45 min at 350F.

I'm going to take it to a party and see how it tastes.  It smells delicious. 

EDIT: It tasted great.  The filling in the pears ridiculously good.  I'll definitely have to make this again. The crust could use a bit of work.  I think it needs more sugar and less kneading.  However, it was perfectly edible.  Everyone that tried it seemed to like it. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Trailer Painting

I tried to put the stencils on the trailer.  Spike came out okay.  The seal of Rassilon ?  Not so much.

The original idea was to make the Spikes all "silver" (also known as Milestone), and the seals either Pink (Strawberry Freeze) or Purple.  I placed the stencils on the trailer.

Left them with the paint to dry....

And got this....

 It's hard to tell in the photo but the seal looks horrible.  The Spikes at least look like seahorses.  I'm going to paint it over (I still have a lot of the blue) and then make a new stencil for the trailer. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014


A few weeks ago, I found this:

It is, in fact, a 14th C illumination of a painted wagon.   Of course, mine looks like a small house but it gave me some great ideas.  Notice the scroll work up top and the heraldry on the bottom half.  I also found one in this illumination that is plain up top but decorated on the bottom. I like this idea.  (The second one is also blue on the top!  Woohoo!)

So, I figured I'd add some sort of heraldry to the bottom of the wagon.  However, I still want to keep it TARDIS-esque for the lulz.  Therefore, my first thought was to paint the Doctor's name in Gallifreyan:

But I'm not quite that insane.  (Also, I don't think it's his name.  Remember River told him to "read" this on the cradle and then the Doctor got all excited.  I think it's the names of everyone who has ever slept in the cradle - which means only one of the circles his name.  Anyway...)

I wanted something...less crazy.  So I went with the seal of Rassilon instead.  It's Time Lady-ie and it looks Celtic too.  It's a win-win for the trailer!

Too bad I messed it up a bit. Basically, I drew it out and then cut it out with an xacto knife...forgetting things like needing to keep big empty spaces connected to the rest of the stencil. Luckily, duct tape does solve all problems.

..and I was way better with the second stencil that I wanted to create.

Meet Spike!   Spike is the very beloved populace badge of Atlantia.  Think of him being on the trailer as a license plate stating what state I'm from.  For Spike, I drew him out and then created the cut outs in a web pattern.  I didn't like any of the existing stencils (either WAY too complicated or way too simple) so I drew up my own. This took a grand total of 15 minutes.  The Seal of Rassilon?  One hour.

I thought about doing a couple of others but I think keeping it simple might be best.  I'll test out the stencils on the trailer tomorrow.

BTW, if anyone else is doing Pennsic prep- Home Depot has packs of 6 Tiki torches for $5.  They are the bamboo ones & a bit short but they are refillable.  I bought two packs and plan on using them as the border around my "camp".  :-)  Or, at least, part of it. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Mom's Late 1810's/Early 1820's Outfit

 Myself in my handsewn blue checked wool apron front I made last year and Mom in her new Regency Era outfit.  Mom actually liked the petticoat at least.  However, she ended up not liking the dress - she doesn't want a cross front- or the jacket.  *sigh*

Part of the problem was that the Sense and Sensibility pattern I used is ridiculously bulky.  Because I was already piecing the blue wool together from scraps, it ended up with even more seams than necessary as I took it in.  Below is the left back shoulder.  There should be one seam.  There are three.
Even with me taking it in, the jacket was still a bit big for her.   Oh well, it matched the bonnet!

I couldn't do much with the cross over dress - it had to cross over because of the way the tablecloth I used for the skirt was constructed.  It had scallops on three sides but not the fourth.  Therefore, the fourth side had to be hidden in a cross over.  I took off the scallops on the top side to use as trim around the neckline and sleeves. 

The stays and the petticoat are what Mom kept.  The stays are based on an extant pair in my collection.  The pattern for them is available up at Spoonflower.  The petticoat was super simple - just a bunch of trapezoids connected to a waistband with a wide eyelet trim at the bottom.  I also added the cording using a zipper foot - only two rows as I was trying to go for late 1810s/early 1820s.  I wanted the skirts to keep from getting stuck as Mom walked and figured the cording would help.  It did.  :-)