musing about the menu at Lady Mary’s and Lady Edith’s wedding receptions
Downton Abbey thrills again!
My, oh my, what a surprise. Lady Mary gives in to her inner urges and allows herself to be truly happy with her race car driving Henry Talbot. He sure is handsome and he sure loves her. Of course, Tom is pleased to have another automobile aficionado in the family. So even after Mary’s wretched behavior towards Edith (and because I know Edith is going to live in the sun after all), I’m happy for this union. Besides, Mary deserves to enjoy life and take a break from trying to perfect everything around her.
The wedding happened faster than a Las Vegas minute and as they drove off in their car I kept thinking wait! no! we have to go to the reception now! What was this, budgetary constraints? Time constraints? The entire Mary/Henry events could have taken up an entire season (and I do feel somewhat robbed), or at least some more time than that entire hospital hub-bub received. But I digress. The point is, I kept longing to attend the party that would surely have taken place if Mary’s perspective on Mr. Carson’s reception bears any indication of her feeling about where and how Downton wedding receptions need be. Sigh.
That’s okay, we can imagine the wonderfulness, can’t we? I researched weddings and cookbooks and menus from the era. This was fun. Downton Abbey Cooks has taken to reviewing each episode and provide recipes alongside them. Lots of references to The Great Gatsby popped up in my online searches. Here’s a fun article from Christopher Hitchens via Vanity Fair about West Egg published back in 2000. I also made a trip to our local used bookshop, Mermaid Books, in my quest for era appropriate recipes. Owner Hatley Mason was quick to locate the Rumford Complete Cook Book published in 1926. It’s a joy to visit places like Mermaid and find some pages that can immediately and directly connect you to a different time.
a successful visit to Mermaid Books in Williamsburg, VA
Here, I’ve put together an imaginable feast for Lady Mary’s (lower-key second) wedding reception. Undoubtedly, a luncheon at the Abbey with lighter but interesting fare. It was definitely a challenge trying to determine the appropriate number of courses a formal lunch of this kind would include. Because Mary hunts, I assume there would be game, so there’s roasted duck.
LADY MARY’S WEDDING RECEPTION MENU
ON THE OCCASION OF HER MARRIAGE
TO HENRY TALBOT
To begin, something sweet and fresh such as
FRUIT COCKTAIL Place grapefruit, peach, pear, and oranges bites in a cocktail glass then cover with halved white grapes. Top with fruit syrop (1/4 sugar and 1 cup boiled fruit juice). When cool, garnish with whole fresh, pitted cherry and sprinkle with chopped nuts, if desired.
followed by something warm and welcoming
ASPARAGUS SOUP Cook one bunch asparagus in small amount of boiling water, then drain and set water aside. Cut tips off some of the stalks for later garnish. Puree 1 cup whole milk, asparagus liquid, and asparagus until smooth. With an additional cup of whole milk, pour pureed mixture into saucepan and heat until soft boil. Add up to 1 tablespoon butter, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper to taste. Pour into warmed soup cups, garnish with reserved asparagus tips and serve immediately.
with the addition of a second amuse-bouche
DEVILED EGGS Peel and cut in halves ½ dozen hard boiled eggs. Remove yolk, being careful not to break the whites. Mash yolks; season with salt, pepper. butter and bits of ham and sweet pickles. Mix with mayonnaise; refill whites; serve on lettuce leaves.
then entree courses of
CREAMED FISH (for each serving) cooked white fish; 1 teaspoon butter; 1 teaspoon flour; ¼ cup milk; 3 drops onion juice; salt to taste. Make sauce of butter, flour and milk. Season. Add fish and reheat.
SWEET POTATO CROQUETTES Mash two cups of sweet potatoes and mix with 1½ cups ground English walnuts. Portion off servings size pieces, roll in beaten egg then cracker crumbs of choice and fry in deep oil until light brown.
BRAISED DUCK Cut 1/4 pound pork into pieces and fry, add 1 diced carrot, i sliced onion, i bay leaf, and small amount of parsley and cook five minutes. Put in 1 good-sized duck, either trussed or cut into joints and cook in fat until browned then place in baking dish. Pour vegetables and fat over it and add three cups of boiling water. Cover tightly and cook over moderate heat until tender, adding more water if necessary.Dish the bird and thivken the gravy with two tablespoons of flour and of butter rubbed smoothly together. Season highly ad serve with currant jelly.
PEA SALAD Mix together 1 cup fresh peas, 1 cup chopped celery; ½ cup chopped nuts; and ¼ cup chopped sweet pickles. Serve with cream salad dressing.
Her wedding cake this time around wouldn’t be too ordinary, maybe something such as
BURNT SUGAR CAKE 1½ cups sugar; cup butter; 2 cups flour; beaten whites of 2 eggs; 1 cup water; 2 teaspoons baking powder; 1 teaspoon vanilla; yolks of 2 eggs. Cream butter, sugar and yolks; add water and flour; beat 5 minutes; then add burnt sugar and flavoring; afterward mix in 2 tablespoons flour with baking powder (saved from the 2 cups); fold in whites of eggs; bake in slow oven. Filling: Stiffly beaten whites of 2 eggs. Boil 2 cups sugar with cup water until it threads. Pour over beaten whites; add 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 teaspoon burnt sugar.
BOILED FROSTING Boil 2 cups sugar, ¼ cup water until it “spins a thread”. Pour over 2 beaten whites of 2 eggs. Beat until cold and thick enough to spread. Add ¾ cup chopped walnuts, if desired. Put between and on top cake.
And, champagne all around and everywhere!
Now for Lady Edith and her save-the-day Bertie Pelham, I mean her save-the-day 7th Marquess of Hexham.
Clearly Edith marrying a Lord is deserving a something bit more fancy. We might expect a traditional ten course meal but they might have shortened it to eight because Edith has a no-nonsense sensibility and recognized the changing times. Eight would seem like more than plenty for her first wedding (never mind about that adorable Marigold).
LADY EDITH’S WEDDING RECEPTION MENU
ON THE OCCASION OF HER MARRIAGE
TO THE 7TH MARQUESS OF HEXHAM
They would probably have something grander, likely a dinner beginning with
OYSTER COCKTAIL Place 5 small oysters in an appropriately dainty glass. Cover with a mix of tomato sauce, a drop of hot sauce, small dollop of horseradish and a few drops of lemon juice. Prepare and let stand for at least 3 hours before serving.
VEAL KLOPPS Add juice of one onion, salt and pepper to taste, and small amount of lemon rind to 2 cups finely minced veal to form a paste of seasoned meat with the unbeaten whites of 3 eggs. Shape with hands into small balls and drop into boiling salted water in a shallow pan to cook for five minutes. Serve on rounds of buttered toast covered with either a tomato sauce or rich white sauce.
first two courses followed by
APPLE SALAD Pare, core and chop finely 1 quart of ripe apples; add ½ cup sugar. 1 cup nuts chopped fine; 3 or 4 tablespoons salad dressing.
CLEAR VEGETABLE SOUP 1 small carrot; 1 turnip; 1 potato; 1 onion; ½ cup celery; 2 quarts water. Dice vegetables and boil until tender. Season with butter, pepper and salt.
The first main course would be lighter, likely fish such as
STUFFED FILLETS OF FISH Melt 2 tablespoon of butter and blend with 2 tablespoons flour then pour 3/4 cup of milk in slowly and stir until boiling, Season with salt and pepper and 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms, shrimps, of lobster. Trim 8 fillets of fish (your choice( neatly and spread with mixture before folding and fastening with a small skewer. Bake in a moderately heated oven with greased paper covering the pan and adding 1/2 cup of water to prevent burning. Serve with horseradish sauce.
and the second main course would be heavier, likely beef such as
POT ROAST OF BEEF Four pounds of top sirloin beef cut into a single compact piece. (You may need to tie and skewer to ensure it holds its shape.) Melt the drippings in a saucepan and brown the meat on all sides, then pour 1 quart of boiling water over it, lid tightly and simmer as gently as possible for two hours. Then season as desired, adding sliced or peeled onions, carrots, and turnips and cook until vegetables are tender. Remove meat and vegetables from pan and thicken gravy with flour mixed smoothly with a little cold water. If needed, add more water while the roast is cooking so there will be sufficient gravy to cove the vegetables.
with something acidic such as
BAKED TOMATOES Select smooth round tomatoes; cut piece from end. Take out inside of tomato; mix with bread crumbs and season with melted butter, salt and pepper. Put back into tomato and bake ½ hour.
Then the cheese course with a mix of strong English cheeses such as farmhouse cheddar, goats milk, cranberry, and stilton.
I imagine something a little different for Lady Edith and Bertie for their wedding cake:
COCONUT CAKE ½ cup butter; 1 full cup cream; 1 cup sugar; 1 yolk and 2 egg whites; 2 teaspoons baking powder and add flour until thick enough. Filling: Beat whites of 2 eggs; add sugar and coconut.
BON BON FROSTING 2¼ cups sugar; 1 cup water; ¼ teaspoon cream tartar; ½ teaspoon glycerine. Cook together till it threads. Pour on platter and when nearly cool beat with spatula till creamy; add beaten white of 1 egg, 1 teaspoon vanilla. With a few finely chopped candied cherries sprinkled about, red for love (just like the roses in her bouquet)!
Champagne served while guests awaited dinner, then imported wines served with the meal, and cordials at the end!
Cheers to the brides and grooms and all of the joy that Downton Abbey brought us!