Digging Up Vintage Recipes |

Royal Wedding Week with Mrs. Beeton


Monday, April 25th, 2011

As we all know, thanks to endless media hype, at an ungodly hour (American time), England will get a new Princess. I admit, I tried to resist the hype as long as I could – I didn’t seek coverage out, and had to Google yesterday to figure out what one writer meant when referring to KM’s hats. I have, however, given up and decided to just let myself stop thinking deep things about class and monarchy and just enjoy it.

Well, maybe I’ll keep thinking a few deep things to alleviate some of the guiltiness of this pleasure. But you won’t see them here. Instead, you’ll be getting some brilliant mid-century hostessing wisdom from Mrs. Beeton, a paragon of British housewifery.


Technically, the edition I have (1960) is not the work of Mrs. Beeton (pictured above), who lived and wrote during the Victorian era. The original work is in the public domain, and you can find the whole thing online. I love the 60s version because it addresses the shift to an electronics-based household, but still has classic old-school British cookery (including haggis, which I’m totally trying one of these days). I’ll have some fun recipes (scones of course!) coming over the next few days, so keep tuned. In the meantime, here are a few tips from Mrs. Beeton suitable for an early morning brunch…

The Afternoon Tea or Morning Coffee Party
“These . . . rely mainly on the refreshment offered for their interest. The guests are usually women friends of the hostess, about for to eight being the usual number. Guests stay about an hour, and conversation provides the main entertainment. Apart from plentiful supplies of good tea or coffee, refreshments usually include cakes, biscuits or scones, with emphasis on the more dainty and rich and ‘fancy’ types of food. Small tables, with pretty china and linen, should be provided.”

Mrs. Beeton has a few ages on the subject of coffee and, of course, on tea:
Tea: The most popular non-alcoholic beverage is tea, now considered almost a necessity of life. It is a pleasant beverage which has an exhilarating and refreshing effect.”
To Make Tea: To make good tea it i necessary that the water should be quite boiling and freshly boiled. It is a good plan to empty the kettle and refill it with fresh cold water, and make the tea the moment the water reaches boiling-point. The tea pot should be thoroughly warmed before making the tea. The boiling water should be poured on the tea then left to stand for 3-4 min., it should never be allowed to stand for longer. Some people like to stir the tea before pouring it out.”

Now let’s start getting excited about princesses, wedding gowns, and hats!