Mar 172018
 

Today is the birthday (1846) of Catherine “Kate” Greenaway, a Victorian children’s book illustrator and writer whose work influenced the children’s dress styles of the day. She is part of what is called The Golden Age of Book Illustration which actually covers a huge raft of styles and techniques.

Kate Greenaway was born in Hoxton, London, the second of four children. Her mother, Elizabeth Greenaway, was a dressmaker and her father, John Greenaway, was a wood engraver, whose business failed when he took a commission to engrave illustrations for Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers from a publisher who went bankrupt. As a young girl Kate lived with relatives in Rolleston, Nottinghamshire. John wanted to work without interruption on the Dickens engravings and sent the entire family away for about two years, a period that for Kate, according to children’s literature scholar Humphrey Carpenter “was crucial … she felt it to be her real home, a country of the mind that she could always reimagine.”

John Greenaway

On the return of his wife and children the family moved to Islington, living in the flat above a millinery shop Elizabeth Greenaway opened to provide an income. There was a garden outside the building, which Greenaway wrote about in letters and an unfinished autobiography in the 1880s, describing it as place with “richness of colour and depth of shade.” Her father took on work for The Illustrated London News, often bringing home the wood blocks to carve during the night. Kate was interested in her father’s work, and through him was exposed to the work of John Leech, John Gilbert and Kenny Meadows.

As a young child Kate was educated at home and also sent to series of dame schools. When she was about 12 she began formal art education when enrolling in the National Course of Art instruction,[5] first at Finsbury School of Art and later at the South Kensington School of Art headed by Richard Burchett. The curriculum was design-based with a focus on technical skills, with emphasis on geometric and botanical designs to create patterns for architectural elements such as decorative wallpapers and tiles. She completed the five stages of ornamental courses in one year and the ten stages of the drawing courses with similar speed. In 1864, she completed the final course, “Elementary Design,” winning a national bronze medal for her designs. Later awards included a national silver medal in 1869 for a set of geometric and floral decorative tiles.

She later attended the Royal Female School of Art. With classmate Elizabeth Thompson, Greenaway augmented her studies by learning to draw the human figure from life and the two women rented a studio in South Kensington for a year for this purpose. At the school she did have the opportunity to work from models dressed in historical or ornamental costumes but she continued to be frustrated that nude models were not permitted in the women’s classes. Later she enrolled in night classes at Heatherley School of Fine Art where she met Edward Burne-Jones, Edward Poynter and Walter Crane and in 1871 she enrolled in the Slade School of Fine Art.

By 1867 she began to receive commissions, in part the result of the national awards she received and in part because of exposure at exhibitions. The publisher of People’s Magazine, W. J. Loftie purchased a set of six watercolours Greenaway exhibited in 1868, printing them in the magazine set to verse written by his contributors. A year later Frederick Warne & Co purchased six illustrations for a toy book edition of Diamonds and Toads.

Her first book, Under the Window (1879), a collection of simple verses about children, was a bestseller. As well as illustrating books Greenaway produced a number of bookplates. Greenaway was elected to membership of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours in 1889.

She lived in an Arts and Crafts style house she commissioned from Richard Norman Shaw in Frognal, London, although she spent summers in Rolleston. Here’s a gallery:

Greenaway died of breast cancer in 1901, at the age of 55. She is buried in Hampstead Cemetery, London.

Greenaway’s paintings were reproduced by chromoxylography, by which the colors were printed from hand-engraved wood blocks by the firm of Edmund Evans. Through the 1880s and 1890s, her only rivals in popularity in children’s book illustration were Walter Crane and Randolph Caldecott. “Kate Greenaway children” were dressed in her own versions of late 18th century and Regency fashions: smock-frocks and skeleton suits for boys, high-waisted pinafores and dresses with mobcaps and straw bonnets for girls. Liberty of London adapted Kate Greenaway’s drawings as designs for actual children’s clothes. A full generation of mothers in the liberal-minded “artistic” British circles who called themselves The Souls and embraced the Arts and Crafts movement dressed their daughters in Kate Greenaway pantaloons and bonnets in the 1880s and 1890s.

We have to go with apple pie to celebrate Kate Greenaway, and Mrs Beeton has to be our guide. I have given modern recipes for apple pie in other posts, but this one works fine. Adding beer or sherry to the apples would work fine as long as you pick the right ones. A dark or amber ale would be all right. I would use a dry sherry rather than a sweet one. Then again, I would prefer brandy.

APPLE TART OR PIE.

  1. INGREDIENTS.—Puff-paste No. 1205 or 1206, apples; to every lb. of unpared apples allow 2 oz. of moist sugar, 1/2 teaspoonful of finely-minced lemon-peel, 1 tablespoonful of lemon-juice.

Mode.—Make 1/2 lb. of puff-paste by either of the above-named recipes, place a border of it round the edge of a pie-dish, and fill it with apples pared, cored, and cut into slices; sweeten with moist sugar, add the lemon-peel and juice, and 2 or 3 tablespoonfuls of water; cover with crust, cut it evenly round close to the edge of the pie-dish, and bake in a hot oven from 1/2 to 3/4 hour, or rather longer, should the pie be very large. When it is three-parts done, take it out of the oven, put the white of an egg on a plate, and, with the blade of a knife, whisk it to a froth; brush the pie over with this, then sprinkle upon it some sifted sugar, and then a few drops of water. Put the pie back into the oven, and finish baking, and be particularly careful that it does not catch or burn, which it is very liable to do after the crust is iced. If made with a plain crust, the icing may be omitted.

Time.—1/2 hour before the crust is iced; 10 to 15 minutes afterwards.

Average cost, 9d.

Sufficient.—Allow 2 lbs. of apples for a tart for 6 persons.

Seasonable from August to March; but the apples become flavourless after February.

Note.—Many things are suggested for the flavouring of apple pie; some say 2 or 3 tablespoonfuls of beer, others the same quantity of sherry, which very much improve the taste; whilst the old-fashioned addition of a few cloves is, by many persons, preferred to anything else, as also a few slices of quince.

VERY GOOD PUFF-PASTE.

  1. INGREDIENTS.—To every lb. of flour allow 1 lb. of butter, and not quite 1/2 pint of water.

Mode.—Carefully weigh the flour and butter, and have the exact proportion; squeeze the butter well, to extract the water from it, and afterwards wring it in a clean cloth, that no moisture may remain. Sift the flour; see that it is perfectly dry, and proceed in the following manner to make the paste, using a very clean paste-board and rolling-pin:—Supposing the quantity to be 1 lb. of flour, work the whole into a smooth paste, with not quite 1/2 pint of water, using a knife to mix it with: the proportion of this latter ingredient must be regulated by the discretion of the cook; if too much be added, the paste, when baked, will be tough. Roll it out until it is of an equal thickness of about an inch; break 4 oz. of the butter into small pieces; place these on the paste, sift over it a little flour, fold it over, roll out again, and put another 4 oz. of butter. Repeat the rolling and buttering until the paste has been rolled out 4 times, or equal quantities of flour and butter have been used. Do not omit, every time the paste is rolled out, to dredge a little flour over that and the rolling-pin, to prevent both from sticking. Handle the paste as lightly as possible, and do not press heavily upon it with the rolling-pin. The next thing to be considered is the oven, as the baking of pastry requires particular attention. Do not put it into the oven until it is sufficiently hot to raise the paste; for the best-prepared paste, if not properly baked, will be good for nothing. Brushing the paste as often as rolled out, and the pieces of butter placed thereon, with the white of an egg, assists it to rise in leaves or flakes. As this is the great beauty of puff-paste, it is as well to try this method.

Average cost, 1s. 4d. per lb.

BUTTER.—About the second century of the Christian era, butter was placed by Galen amongst the useful medical agents; and about a century before him, Dioscorides mentioned that he had noticed that fresh butter, made of ewes’ and goats’ milk, was served at meals instead of oil, and that it took the place of fat in making pastry. Thus we have undoubted authority that, eighteen hundred years ago, there existed a knowledge of the useful qualities of butter. The Romans seem to have set about making it much as we do; for Pliny tells us, “Butter is made from milk; and the use of this element, so much sought after by barbarous nations, distinguished the rich from the common people. It is obtained principally from cows’ milk; that from ewes is the fattest; goats also supply some. It is produced by agitating the milk in long vessels with narrow openings: a little water is added.”

MEDIUM PUFF-PASTE.

  1. INGREDIENTS.—To every lb. of flour allow 8 oz. of butter, 4 oz. of lard, not quite 1/2 pint of water.

Mode.—This paste may be made by the directions in the preceding recipe, only using less butter and substituting lard for a portion of it. Mix the flour to a smooth paste with not quite 1/2 pint of water; then roll it out 3 times, the first time covering the paste with butter, the second with lard, and the third with butter. Keep the rolling-pin and paste slightly dredged with flour, to prevent them from sticking, and it will be ready for use.

Average cost, 1s. per lb.

BUTTER IN HASTE.—In his “History of Food,” Soyer says that to obtain butter instantly, it is only necessary, in summer, to put new milk into a bottle, some hours after it has been taken from the cow, and shake it briskly. The clots which are thus formed should be thrown into a sieve, washed and pressed together, and they constitute the finest and most delicate butter that can possibly be made.

Mar 142017
 

Today is the birthday (1836) of Isabella Beeton, known now universally as Mrs Beeton, whose recipes from her Book of Household Management I have given here many times.  There’s no great need to review her life and history of publication of her cookbook, which has gone through multiple editions and is still in print. Of course, the recipes from 1861 have gone the way of all things. Later 20th century editions used metric measures, were very precise in their lists of ingredients, and all the recipes were thoroughly kitchen tested.  When I was growing up my mother used a 1939 edition (affectionately known as “Ma Beeton”) which was given to her as a wedding present in 1944, inscribed lovingly by her parents who were born in the Victorian era, and who spent their whole working lives as household servants.  This was my first cookbook too when I was a boy, and I inherited it from my mother after she died.  I always imagined that Mrs Beeton was a starchy mob-capped old Victorian household cook (hence “Ma Beeton”). It never dawned on me that she was a well-to-do woman who died in her twenties until I started exploring her history. I also never realized the vast difference between her recipes and those in later editions until I bought a facsimile of the first edition.  In my oh so humble opinion, the first edition is still the best.  You can peruse it here:

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/10136

In the 20th century the first edition came in for a lot of criticism for being a work of plagiarism and for the assertion that Isabella herself had little knowledge of cooking. Based on my own research I think that this criticism is unfair.

Isabella’s unmarried name was Mayson, and she was born in Marylebone, London. Shortly after Isabella’s birth the family moved to Milk Street, Cheapside, where her father Benjamin traded linen. He died when Isabella was four years old, and her mother, Elizabeth, pregnant and unable to cope with raising the children on her own while maintaining Benjamin’s business, sent her two elder daughters to live with relatives. Isabella went to live with her recently widowed paternal grandfather in Great Orton, Cumberland, though she was back with her mother within the next two years.

Three years after Benjamin’s death Elizabeth married Henry Dorling, a widower with four children. Henry was the Clerk of Epsom Racecourse, and had been granted residence within the racecourse grounds. The family, including Elizabeth’s mother, moved to Surrey and over the next twenty years Henry and Elizabeth had a further 13 children. Isabella was instrumental in her siblings’ upbringing, and collectively referred to them as a “living cargo of children.” The experience gave her a great deal of insight and experience in how to manage a family and its household at an early age.

After a brief education at a boarding school in Islington, in 1851 Isabella was sent to school in Heidelberg, accompanied by her stepsister Jane Dorling. Isabella became proficient in the piano and excelled in French and German.  She also gained knowledge and experience in making pastry. She had returned to Epsom by the summer of 1854 and took further lessons in pastry-making from a local baker. All in all, therefore, to accuse her of simply compiling recipes and household advice from others and then copying it is a gross distortion.  It’s true that she used recipes from the works of others, but this was (and is) normal practice.  Furthermore there is clear evidence that she kitchen tested most, if not all, of her recipes.  Isabella’s half-sister, Lucy Smiles, was asked after her death concerning her memories of the book’s development. She recalled:

Different people gave their recipes for the book. That for Baroness pudding (a suet pudding with a plethora of raisins) was given by the Baroness de Tessier, who lived at Epsom. No recipe went into the book without a successful trial, and the home at Pinner was the scene of many experiments and some failures. I remember Isabella coming out of the kitchen one day, ‘This won’t do at all,’ she said, and gave me the cake that had turned out like a biscuit. I thought it very good. It had currants in it.

I don’t see how you can read this and still think that Isabella was just a rank plagiarist. I think that her sister probably overstates the case in asserting that every recipe was tested, but I am sure the majority were.  What is more to the point is that her recipes are all clear and relatively easy to follow, unlike those of previous generations. She gives lists of ingredients with exact quantities, straightforward directions, and indications of seasonality and cost per person. Her additional remarks about farming practices, hunting, and the like are a bonus. It is true that you need to have some experience in cooking to follow her recipes, and you need to know something about the Victorian kitchen to make sense of the directions sometimes. If you’re not familiar with cooking on a wood-fired stove (which I am) you can get a little lost from time to time, but experience ought to direct you. The reason I give her recipes here frequently is that they are good recipes, and I applaud her on her birthday.

There is no mention in the first edition of birthday cakes, and very little reference to birthdays at all (only to birthday dinners in ancient Greece).  Never mind. Here is her recipe for yeast cake which I think is quite delectable and well suited as her birthday cake.

A NICE YEAST-CAKE.

  1. INGREDIENTS.—1-1/2 lb. of flour, 1/2 lb. of butter, 1/2 pint of milk, 1-1/2 tablespoonful of good yeast, 3 eggs, 3/4 lb. of currants, 1/2 lb. of white moist sugar, 2 oz. of candied peel.

Mode.—Put the milk and butter into a saucepan, and shake it round over a fire until the butter is melted, but do not allow the milk to get very hot. Put the flour into a basin, stir to it the milk and butter, the yeast, and eggs, which should be well beaten, and form the whole into a smooth dough. Let it stand in a warm place, covered with a cloth, to rise, and, when sufficiently risen, add the currants, sugar, and candied peel cut into thin slices. When all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed, line 2 moderate-sized cake-tins with buttered paper, which should be about six inches higher than the tin; pour in the mixture, let it stand to rise again for another 1/2 hour, and then bake the cakes in a brisk oven for about 1-1/2 hour. If the tops of them become too brown, cover them with paper until they are done through. A few drops of essence of lemon, or a little grated nutmeg, may be added when the flavour is liked.

Time.—From 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hour. Average cost, 2s.

Sufficient to make 2 moderate-sized cakes.

Seasonable at any time.

If you want to have a sugar fit you can add almond icing; I prefer the cake plain.

ALMOND ICING FOR CAKES.

  1. INGREDIENTS.—To every lb. of finely-pounded loaf sugar allow 1 lb. of sweet almonds, the whites of 4 eggs, a little rose-water.

Mode.—Blanch the almonds, and pound them (a few at a time) in a mortar to a paste, adding a little rose-water to facilitate the operation. Whisk the whites of the eggs to a strong froth; mix them with the pounded almonds, stir in the sugar, and beat altogether. When the cake is sufficiently baked, lay on the almond icing, and put it into the oven to dry. Before laying this preparation on the cake, great care must be taken that it is nice and smooth, which is easily accomplished by well beating the mixture.