Sunday, September 2, 2012

Historical Cooking for Beginners

Thank you to our readers for you patience, while we were on Summer hiatus.  Now we are refreshed from our various diversions, and have some fun postings to share over the next few months....

To kick off our return to Blogland, here is Professor D.R. Schreiber's review of Jas Townsend's historical food preparation videos: 

"The way to a man's heart is through his stomach" is a saying dating from around the turn of the 18th Century, and it is no surprise that the words still ring true today.  Food, its consumption, creation, gathering, cooking, and hunting of, was a central part of Regency life, just as it had always been and continues to be up to the present day.   Food’s importance in the past is evident through numerous portrayals in art from the Regency period.  Whether the paintings depict gentlemen hunting their next meal or the elite partaking of tea, these paintings tell the tale of food in the 18th Century.

While historically women may have been the main cooks and preparers of food, what man cannot appreciate a good meal?   I have no claim to being neither an excellent nor a decent cook, but I have become fascinated by a somewhat recent discovery, exposing me to intricacy of 18th century food.  The folks at JAS Townsend and Sons (, purveyors of fine 18th century wear, have created a weekly YouTube video series that focuses on the history of food from the 18th and early 19th Centuries.  In the three years since its inception, the series has discussed numerous topics, themes, recipes and histories, all regarding 18th century food.  A few recent topics have included the making of bread, the significance of the earthen oven to early cooks, the importance of salt in the preservation of 18th century food, and much more.   The amount of research put into creating each video is clear, filling each episode with volumes of information.  The writing and presentation is superb.  The production value (sound, lighting, camera movement and editing) makes this series as good as anything seen on broadcast television today.

In the past year, they have built a replica 18th century kitchen, complete with hearth, oven, food storage, and a preparation area, and are slowly filling it with authentic 18th century utensils, pots, and pans.  As they say in the videos, all of these items are available at the JAS Townsend website or print catalog.”

This video series has captured my and my two boys' imaginations.  As soon as we saw these recipes and demonstrations, we had to try it ourselves.  Since watching this series, we have embarked on creating our own twice baked beans, ash cakes, corn bread, stews and more, all cooked on our wood stove in the family room.  My boys are convinced we must build an earthen oven in the backyard this summer, and they just might be right.  The series has helped us to experience, first hand, the smells and tastes of the 18th Century.  While the main purpose of these videos is to display and sell JAS Townsend supplies and materials, the commercial aspect is nearly non-existent or so subtle that you would never consider it intrusive.  The sales aspect typically consists of a single line offering the items for sale, and since many of these items cannot be purchased from anyone else besides JAS Townsend, (unless you know a tinsmith or blacksmith that can create it for you) it is only fitting that JAS Townsend sell these items.

I must tip my hat to JAS Townsend for keeping history alive and for producing these great videos.  I look forward to many more videos, about the past, to come in the near future.
Images courtesy of 

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