Stretching from the West End to the City, the coffee-houses of 17th and 18th century London formed the capital’s intellectual and social heartbeat.
Coffee, a relatively new and exotic import, was only half the attraction: coffee-houses were forums for intellectual discussion, havens for dirty business deals and places where lords and sharpers won and lost enormous fortunes.
When coffee-houses first appeared in London in the mid-17th century they were largely indistinguishable from one another.
However, as they faced ever-stiffer competition over time, each coffee-house developed its own character, playing host to diverse clienteles and catering to different needs.
Some coffee-houses became so closely identified with specific groups or interests that Tatler, an early newspaper-journal, decided to group its stories under the names of coffee-houses.
The first issue, in 1709, proclaimed that “all accounts of Gallantry, Pleasure, and Entertainment shall be under the Article of White’s Chocolate-house; Poetry, under that of Will’s Coffee-house; Learning, under the title of Graecian; Foreign and Domestick News, you will have from St James’ Coffee-house”.
There were many coffee-houses frequented by literary men, the first famous one being Will’s Coffee House in Covent Garden.
John Dryden and his literary circle, known as the ‘Wits’, gathered there to discuss and review the latest plays and poems, and to read out their own work. As well as serious literary criticism, much amusement was to be had over the latest scurrilous pamphlets.
Samuel Pepys records having heard a “very witty and pleasant discourse” at Will’s, though whether this was about weighty matters of allegory and hexameters, or gossip about Charles II’s latest mistress, he doesn’t say.
After Dryden’s death, Will’s began to decline: in April 1709, Steele lamented in Tatler that “this place is very much altered since Mr. Dryden frequented it; where you used to see Songs, Epigrams, and Satires, in the Hands of every Man you met, you have only now a Pack of Cards, and instead of the Cavils about the Turn of the Expression, the Elegance of the Style, and the like, the Learned now dispute only about the Truth of the Game”.
Tea and Damper by A . M. Ebsworth. Image Credit: From Digital Collection of the State Library of Victoria
by Blake Singley,
The first European settlers in Australia used a dizzying array of flora and fauna in their kitchens – but they cooked them in a traditional British style.
The relationship between European settlers and native Australian foodstuffs during the 19th century was a complex one.
While the taste for native ingredients waxed and waned for the first century of European settlement, there’s ample evidence to demonstrate that local ingredients were no strangers to colonials’ kitchens or pots.
British settlers needed to engage with the edible flora and fauna of the continent almost immediately upon arrival.
The journals of First Fleet officers record not only their reliance on native food, but the relish with which they enjoyed it.
For example, First Fleet surgeon George Worgan noted in his diary a feast held to celebrate the King’s birthday:
We sat down to a very good Entertainment, considering how far we are from Leaden-Hall Market, it consisted of Mutton, Pork, Ducks, Fowls, Fish, Kanguroo, Salads, Pies and preserved Fruits.
Break up the meat with a fork and scatter the garlic, onion and dry seasonings over it, then mix them into the meat with a fork or your fingers.
Let the bowl of meat sit out of the icebox for ten or fifteen minutes while you set the table and make the salad.
Add the relish, capers, everything else including wine and let the meat sit, quietly marinating, for another ten minutes if possible. Now make your fat, juicy patties with your hands.
The patties should be an inch thick, and soft in texture but not runny. Have the oil in your frying pan hot but not smoking when you drop in the patties and then turn the heat down and fry the burgers about four minutes.
Take the pan off the burner and turn the heat high again. Flip the burgers over, put the pan back on the hot fire, then after one minute, turn the heat down again and cook another three minutes. Both sides of the burgers should be crispy brown and the middle pink and juicy.
Spice Islands stopped making Mei Yen Powder several years ago, according to Tan. You can recreate it, she says, by mixing nine parts salt, nine parts sugar and two parts MSG. “If a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of Mei Yen Powder,” she writes, “use 2/3 tsp of the dry recipe (above) mixed with 1/8 tsp of soy sauce.”
Steak and cauliflower cooked in charcoal – but don’t use cheap briquettes.
Photograph: Katherine Anne Rose for the Guardian
Dirty food, to most people, is burgers served in doughnuts, deep-fried birthday cakes or some diabetes-inducing culinary challenge served in a hubcap.
Thankfully, we’ve moved on. It’s no longer 2014. This summer, for me, is going to be all about dirty barbecue.
This has nothing to do with the other dirty food. This is way more literal. The late, great Josh Ozersky cooked me some dirty steaks last year.
If I’m honest, Ozersky had had a few bourbons and they could have been a little better, but he learned this trick from my mentor and United States barbecue guru Adam Perry Lang, who also taught me a few years ago.
He calls it “clinching”.
Most people fear the meat will burn, but it won’t. Photograph: Katherine Anne Rose for the Guardian
Dirty cooking is awesome in its simplicity. Instead of using fancy grills and barbecues, just grill the food directly in or on the hot charcoal. The most important thing is to use decent charcoal.
Don’t use cheap briquettes and dispense with chemical lighter fuels, too.
Get some nice charcoal online or from your local butcher that is made from wood and nowt much else – there are plenty of companies that sell additive-free briquettes.
You don’t even really need a barbecue, just charcoal, air and something to cook. I
f you have a normal barbecue, use that without the grill. Or you could “acquire” something like a metal shopping basket, placed on a few house bricks and filled with charcoal.
You could probably use a cake cooling tray on some concrete or an old colander. Be innovative. All you need is something to put the charcoal in, air to get to the coals and a base that won’t go up in flames.
Forget about mannerisms, eye colour and preferred occupations, our most important family trait – apparently – is how we construct a Cornish pastie.
The Sarah family originally lived in Probus, Cornwall, then in 1879 sailed to Australia on the Scottish Lassie as free settlers, bringing the pastie secret with them.
Two great chroniclers of our family history, Elsie Price and Gwen McGregor amazingly listed the Sarah family traits – red hair, prominent noses, twins (particularly lots of boys), long fingers and small wrists, musical interests (in choirs and instruments), a love of horses, dogs and cats – in that order.
And lastly, hay fever and allergies.
Oh and let’s not forget those pasties!
Photo: Susie Sarah.
I’m happy to tick off quite a few traits on that list.
I have long fingers and small wrists, have sung in choirs, played the flute and massacred the piano. I owned a couple of chestnut horses, heaps of dogs and masses of cats – in that order, and enjoy a nice range of allergies.
But what is the relevance of those Sarah pasties?
I note owning bakeries is common in our family and my first job was in a cake shop.
My mother and grandmother were into baking and we often said mum should run a roadhouse – with my sister as a madam of a house of ill repute at the rear – catering to the needs of truckies.
It seems business is big in our family – we come from a fine lineage of shop keepers.
Being in trade has never been an embarrassment to us, but rather a claim to fame.
This bar, which debuted in 1923, was the first chocolate bar to be marketed as nutritious; advertisements touted the nut-packed treats as “candy made good.”
Though Sperry’s Chicken Dinner was discontinued in the 1960s, its success helped spawn the power bar industry, paving the way for brands like Clif and Luna, whose bars offer vitamins alongside hearty doses of chocolate, caramel and more.