The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.

L.P. Hartley, The Go-Between

I’ve never actually read The Go-Between but I assume that it exists, like all great novels, to provide a useful quote to showcase my fragile intellect and act as a punny title for my amateurish blog attempts.

This blog is very much a work in progress, born of a desire to do more of the things I’m passionate about (history and eating) whilst not really wanting to commit to any real or meaningful New Year’s resolutions that might actually benefit me. You know, like reading more history books or learning to cook a meal that could be accurately described as something more than just ‘brown’.

Amazingly, my husband did not consider these cakes a healthy alternative to fruit or “a good example to set for our daughter at breakfast time.”

So with that in mind welcome to The Past is a Foreign Pantry – a blog where I’ll be making meals, cakes, breads, snacks and other culinary curiosities from history. I’ll try to stick to as authentic ingredients as far as budget and reality will allow (looking at you, 1665 medicinal recipe for ‘Plague Water’ containing powdered unicorn horn), but won’t be worrying too much about authentic methods, because who has actually got time to hand mill grain when there’s season 2 of You to watch?

Other than that no time period or foodstuff is off limits and I’ll also try all the food myself, just to add in a bit of moderate peril to make it more exciting. Obviously I’ll share the recipes as well so that anyone who wants to can try them out for themselves.

So if you’re a history buff and foodie whose idea of a good time is boring impressing your friends with fancy-pants meals that may or may not give them food poisoning then you’re in the right place. Enjoy!

E x

10 thoughts on “Welcome!

  1. Hi there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this site before
    but after browsing through many of the articles I realized
    it’s new to me. Regardless, I’m definitely happy I discovered it and I’ll be bookmarking
    it and checking back regularly!

  2. Hello! What a splendid blog. It’s great to see Experimental Cookery in action. You might be interested in having a look at our blog, which, unlike yours, is only occasionally about food but you might enjoy these archival culinary adventures. I am working on adding images to our online catalogues and I hope to have the Webley-Parry recipe book (full of wonderful things like ‘Musharoon Catchup’ and ‘Hare Soop’, and featured several times on our blog) web-mounted soon. Looking forward to reading more of your work. All the best – Ania (one of the archivists)
    Here’s our link: https://archifdyceredigionarchives.wordpress.com/

    1. Hello! Thank you for your comment, that’s really kind of you. I really like your blog – I noticed you have a few photos of Aberystwyth on there, which is a place I know quite well as both my parents and my sister went there for uni (but not me, to my mum’s eternal disappointment – I think she was hoping a full set would mean a lecture theatre would be named after us or something!)

      1. Hi! You would have loved Aberystwyth. Everyone does, and they stay and never leave. We are based in Aberystwyth so naturally we have lots of Aber documents although we do cover the whole county.
        i am now quite inspired to add the Webley-Parry book to the website. I will let you know as soon as it’s up; perhaps you might be tempted to make something? I made (& blogged) biscuits and shrub so far. It would be lovely to have some kind of collaboration (nothing formal, but if you made something from that book, we’d love to be mentioned and we’d tell our audience about it in turn). What do you think?

      2. Hello 🙂 I agree Aber is beautiful! I know my sister loved it there.
        I’d be really interested in seeing the Webley-Parry book on your website, I had a quick look and found your (delicious looking) caraway seed biscuits but couldn’t see any info on the cookbook itself, do you have a link to info about it? It would be really interesting to make something historical from an original source, I’d be very up for a collaboration.

  3. Hello again. How exciting! We’d love to see your creations. The blog is only a blog, our main website is at http://www.archifdy-ceredigion.org.uk. Here is the link to the catalogue entries for the recipe books: http://www.archifdy-ceredigion.org.uk/sched/wp02.html&open_str=,m64,c281 – if you look at the file tree on the left of the page, you’ll see the other parts of the Webley-Parry collection incl. an intro. The catalogue description is very brief – the idea is that people visit us and request to see the item – but I hope to add scans of all the recipes soon (I’m working from home right now, obviously, and am having trouble connecting to the network drives). It will then look something like (e.g.) this: http://www.archifdy-ceredigion.org.uk/sched/mus227.01.html
    I once did a talk on recipe books in our collections and mentioned this one. A chap in the audience said something very interesting in response to my speculating why some of the recipes are entitled ‘Mrs Brigstocke’s Cake’ or whatever when we are pretty sure that Maria Brigstocke nee Webley-Parry would NEVER have sullied her hands with cooking! His mother was in service when she was young. He said the books were kept by the cook; when cooks to the gentry met, they might exchange recipes – or indeed be instructed to do so – and the recipe would be written down under the name of the recipe source’s employer. I wonder if this is something you can corroborate.
    I’ll let you know as soon as the scans are online.

    1. Thanks, I’ll have a look!
      The bloke in audience was right; it was actually very common practice, when one wealthy household invited multiple wealthy household (often aristocratic) to refer to all the visiting maids, footman etc as their master or mistresses name. The idea was that as a Duke would outrank an Earl, so too would the Duke’s staff would outrank the Earl’s staff – meaning that the Duke’s staff would be lodged in better rooms, served first at dining and enter formal occasions before the Earl’s staff. By calling the staff the name of the master or mistress it was easier to see who worked for who and what rank they were. So it’s very possible that the cake isn’t Mrs Brigstocke’s own homemade recipe, but rather one belonging to her cook, according to the custom.

  4. Hello again.
    Thank you for the domestic hierarchy explanation, all makes sense now.
    I’ve web-mounted part of the recipe book – see here: http://www.archifdy-ceredigion.org.uk/galwp2-1.php – pages are a bit misaligned because the images are larger than usual, for legibility.
    I thought we’d scanned the whole book but I can only find some of the scans. We’ll either rescan or find the missing scans when we have access to the office again!
    I hope something will catch your fancy; let us know if you do!

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