The Supersizers Go...Restoration: No water, lots of meat

I was not intending to do a recap of each episode of The SupersizersGo, but they are so interesting and just right up my alley. So, if you don’t have access to BBC 2, are here for the Japanese recipes, or both, please indulge me. I’ll try to be brief.

In Episode 2, Giles and Sue visited the >Restoration period, in the 17th century - the time of the restoration of the monarchy (Charles II), the Great Plague, the Great Fire of London, and perhaps most importantly, Samual Pepys, one of the best diarists in the English language. When the Great Fire broke out, Pepys took care to bury his prized Parmesan cheese in the back garden to protect it - never mind his wife or his house, the cheese was more valuable.

It seems that this was a time of great indulgence by the upper classes, who felt liberated and happy after their beloved monarch was put back on the throne. Indulgence in those days mainly meant lots and lots, and lots, of meat.

restor1.jpg

And boy did they eat meat. All kinds of meat. This was supplemented by fish and shellfish, but it was mostly meat. It was mixed together and stewed, or made into great big pies. The one that Sue and Giles are enjoying in the screenshot is called a ‘coffin’, and is filled with all kinds of game birds and chicken and meat, including whole chicken heads. The coffin is supposed to last a week, and the pastry is reused. Cockscombs, the fleshy wavy part on top of a cockerel’s head, were great delicacies - mainly, it seems, because they were so difficult to prepare.

Water was undrinkable in London, so everyone, even babies, drank ale (mostly ‘small bear’, a weak ale), wine (for the upper classes) and other alcoholic drinks. The lack of water really seemed to wear down the intrepid pair of food time travellers.

Vegetables were considered to be rather unsafe and dirty, because they were covered in dirt! That is until a forward thinking gentleman called John Evelyn wrote a treatise about the health benefits of vegetables, and market gardens sprang up all over. (Sue, who it seems prefers to be a vegetarian, almost cried with joy when she tucked into an all-vegetable meal on Day 5.) Cheese also became more popular at this time - mainly because there was no other safe way to consume dairy products that were shipped a far way, say to London.

Still, it seems most people who could afford to do so ate tons and tons of meat. An unfortunate side effect of this was that people got very stinky. (This reminded me of the prejudice that used to exist in Japan about gaijin or Japanese people who ate too much like those gaijin - that they smelled of butter (and not in a good way) because they ate so much meat and dairy products!) The sight of so many piles of uncooked and grey, stewed meat made me feel rather queasy, but this big pot of stewed ground beef and almonds (I think), with a great big sprig of rosemary sort of growing out of it, was quite fetching.

restor2.jpg

Other fun facts:

  • People ate several course, and each course consisted of several savory and sweet dishes all served at once. (This was the case from the Middle Ages, if my recollection of history is right.)
  • Tansy and wormwood were two herbs that were very popular (the dish both Giles and Sue liked the most was a tansy omelette). Both are toxic though; wormwood later became the key ingredient in absinthe.
  • Parmesan became a popular luxury item, and was spelled “Parmezan”.
  • During the Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell, women were encouraged to acquire and education; once the monarchy was restored, they were put back in their place for fear their weak brains would get damaged from all that learning.
  • Anchovies also became popular during this period, and ice cream was the new in dessert.
  • Forks (with two prongs) became fashionable during this time.
  • Men peed into a bucket in the corner of the room during dinner. The bucket could be hidden behind a screen discreetly, but it seems some just peed wherever. (I’ve read about the noblemen of Louis XIV’s court peeing into any handy receptacle in Versailles.)

Next week’s episode will be about the Victorians. Now, I do have one big beef (no pun intended) about the series: why not present the episodes in chronological order? It seems from Giles Coren’s article that they started in the 16th century and went up to the 1970s. The jumping around from era to era makes it a bit confusing. But still, this is one of the most fun food related TV shows that I’ve seen in a good while. Down with competition reality shows, more of this kind of stuff!

List of foods and recipes mentioned in this episode

Breakfast (eaten anytime before 11 AM):

  • A Barrel of Oysters
  • Bread and Cream
  • Ale (‘small ale’, 3.5% alcohol)

Dinner (midday meal, taken between noon and 4 PM):

1st course:

  • Stewed Carp
  • Jowl of Salmon (the eye sockets were sucked out and eaten)
  • Pullet in Almond Sauce
  • Claret

2nd course:

  • Neat’s Tongue wrapped in Caul (ox tongue wrapped in the amniotic sac of a calf)
  • More Claret
  • Tansy (a sweet omelette with tansy)
  • Cheese (wrapped in linen)

At the coffeehouse:

  • Coffee

Supper:

  • Pigeon Pie, aka Coffin (very thick, reusable pie crust filled with cock’s heads, cockscombs, sweetbreads, sheep’s tongue, bone marrow, a couple of pigeon breasts, veal, oysters, a bit of nutmeg; baked once a week eaten over the course of the week. Sow’s udders and larks can also be added.)
  • Cold Meats
  • Cheesecake
  • Claret

Breakfast (Giles by himself)

  • Gruel

Not edible:

  • Sue gets her corns treated by putting snails on her feet, to eat off the skin or something.

Dinner at Ham House, in honor of the return of King Charles II, service a la française:

1st course:

  • Ordinary Pottage
  • Olio Podrida (20 kinds of meat including partridge, guinea fowl, pigeon, capons, tongue, venison, etc. all cooked together and served in a huge bowl requiring two people to carry in)
  • Stewed Oysters
  • Quaking Pudding (sweet wobbly cake of almond, rosewater and candied peel)
  • Boiled Pike (cooked with pomegranate)

2nd course:

  • Hash (the pot of ground beef with rosemary, with almonds and nutmeg)
  • Tongue pie
  • Lobsters
  • Buttered Crab
  • Snowe Cream (egg white whipped with rosewater)
  • Larded Pigeon
  • Mince Pies
  • Peas (garnished with cockscomb)

The Banquet course:

  • Ice Cream (the latest sensation)
  • Pineapple (ditto - becoming a status symbol of the super wealthy)
  • Strawberries
  • Jellies
  • Candied Fruit and Nuts
  • Metheglin

Each course is served with wine - no water!

Breakfast at a traveller’s inn (actually a Little Chef)

  • ‘Venison’ Pasties (often made of beef passed off as venison, cooked in its own blood and spices; the pasties were sealed with clarified, meant to keep for a week)
  • Turnips
  • Buttered Asparagus

A Puritan dinner in the country

  • Marrow pudding
  • Scotch Collops
  • Roast Chine of Beef with Buttered Cabbage
  • Whitepot (the original bread and butter pudding, made with bone marrow instead of butter)
  • Caudle (a nourishing drink made by stewing oats in hot spiced ale)

Supper at Magdalene College, Cambridge

  • Pease Pottage
  • Chewitts (small pies made from minced tongue and candied fruit)
  • College Pudding (one of the early steamed puddings: see also The Pudding Club where the institution of the pudding is celebrated today)
  • Stewed Prunes
  • Ale

Sue takes a bath

  • In a tub of claret with wormwood

Vegetarian dinner at Covent Garden, following the teachings of John Evelyn

  • A City Sallet (a pickled mixed salad)
  • 1 hour boiled mushrooms
  • Pickled samphire
  • Carrot pudding
  • Lettuce

Giles goes on a date at a tavern

  • He freshens up his armpits with rocket (arugula) seed
  • Fishheads
  • Prawns and lobsters
  • Sweet potato and burdock tart
  • Claret

Sue sells oranges at the theatre

  • Oranges
  • Herrings
  • Candied sweetmeats

(Charles II’s mistress Nell Gwyn allegedly began her career as an orange seller.)

Plague Picnic Dinner

Remedies for the Great Plague.

  • Roast Shoulder of Lamb
  • Boiled Onions (Onions were left outside plague houses to ‘absorb the vapors)
  • Gallbladder of a Hare
  • Ships Biscuits
  • Parmezan (Parmesan; so expensive it was traded as currency amongst the rich)
  • Sack

Samuel Pepy’s Stone Feast of 1663

To celebrate the anniversary of the removal of his bladder stone; held every year. Lots of toasts; with each toast a whole glass of wine was quaffed.

  • Fricassé of Rabbits and Chicken
  • Leg of Mutton
  • Three Carps fricasséd
  • A Side of Lamb
  • Roasted Pigeons
  • Lobsters
  • Apple, Quince and Pear Tarts
  • Lamprey (eel) Pie, made with a live eel from the Thames
  • Anchovies
  • Several wines

  • Sack posset

Supersizers Go recaps

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Ugh. The peeing wherever or

Ugh. The peeing wherever or right into a bucket in the dining room is new to me—but I did know that during that time, it was not considered odd for a gentleman to arrive at dinner with LICE crawling in his hair. Oh, disgusting.

I like cooking out of period cookbooks—but I wouldn’t cook a coffin big enough to last a week (especially without refrigeration, hello Porcelain Idol) and the pastry would go to a friend’s dogs, thanks all the same.

OTOH, about eating tansy omelets: The problem with modern scientists declaring tansy toxic is that you have to eat a large amount of tansy to make yourself sick. If you ate a whole nutmeg, you would also be poisoning yourself. I think that in the amounts used in a typical recipe, tansy is perfectly safe. The question probably never would have arisen if tansy had never gone out of fashion as a culinary herb; the scientists in question would have grown up eating the stuff and not thought twice about it.

Jenny Islander | 28 May, 2008 - 22:11

I missed this one too

I missed this one too because they moved The Apprentice to the same time slot. I’ll catch the full show on replay. It is an interesting experiment they’ve done - the health effects and science side is interesting too. I was stunned to learn both of them lost weight on the WWII diet seeing as it was so carb heavy. Also missed Gordon Ramsey’s The F Word - why schedule all these great shows at the same time?? So unfair. Thank goodness to replay weekends.

Lyvvie | 29 May, 2008 - 13:18

Love this show!!

I had the pleasure of watching the War time episode and then I had to go back to the States where we can’t get it.!!!!!!!! My only way of getting my fix of this series is by this website and your recap of the show. So THANK YOU!! Hopefully it’ll be exported to the States or published in DVD form. Keep up the good work!

cathie | 30 May, 2008 - 19:40

I too want to say thank you!

I too want to say thank you! We aren’t getting these in the States at this time (at least I can’t!) and I love historical recipes and the history of food and cooking so this is fascinating.

Karmatir | 2 June, 2008 - 18:32

What was the book...

… of Restoration chat-up lines that Giles used on his date?

anon. | 4 June, 2008 - 11:46

It was called… The

It was called…

The Mysteries of Love & Eloquence, Or, the ARTS of Wooing and Complementing, As they are manag’d in the Spring Garden, Hide (sic) Park, the New Exchange, and other eminent places.

(they don’t give books nice titles like they used to anymore!)

maki | 4 June, 2008 - 14:48

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