Rules: oldest restaurant in London, serving traditional British food

Rules was established by Thomas Rule in 1798 making it the oldest restaurant in London. It serves traditional British food, specialising in classic game.

Source: Oldest restaurant in London. It serves traditional British food.

Rules restaurant, at 35 Maiden Lane, Convent Garden, London, “serves the traditional food of this country at its best – and at affordable prices. It specialises in classic game cookery, oysters, pies and puddings.” I must confess, their version of “affordable” is not exactly mine (a situation often the case here in the U.S., as well), but I would nonetheless love to go there!

The website notes,

“Rules is a heritage restaurant. There is a demand for the best in life as we are confronted with so much mediocrity. In an age when everyone is deluged with homogeneous brands, we like to create the special. There is a real unfulfilled need and desire to experience it.”

With that, I cannot disagree!

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Fried Chicken In The 18th Century? 300 Year old Recipe | Townsend

An old English recipe from Nathan Bailey’s 1736 cookbook, “Dictionarium Domesticum,” courtesy of Jas. Townsend & Sons. Sounds tasty!

The Medieval Garden | Dave’s Garden

Tofts&Crofts – Medieval Garden

Today we purchase most of our food from a supermarket; our pharmaceuticals and cleansers are largely synthetic. Many of us tend purely ornamental flower borders. We are far removed from medieval times when gardens were essential for survival, and plants grown for food, medicine and enjoyment were often one and the same.

Source: The Medieval Garden | Dave’s Garden

Two of my greatest loves are the Middle Ages and gardening – herbal and vegetable gardening, in particular. Indeed, one of the reasons I love herbalism so much is that it combines my love of nature and the outdoors with my love of history!

Humans have had gardens for at least as long as we have been a largely settled people; that is to say, probably pretty much since the neolithic period. But a remarkable number of our gardening and agricultural practices – I am speaking of traditional ones, mind you, not industrial agriculture! – may be traced back to the medieval period, and particularly to monastic farms and gardens.

These include double-digging and marling, crop rotation (e.g., letting fields lie fallow for a time), and the use of “manure” (as used in earlier ages, a mixture of animal dung with other types of what we would now call compostable materials).

Many of us may be familiar with Ellis Peters’ superb “Chronicles of Brother Cadfael” serious of medieval crime fiction, in which the lead character, Brother Cadfael himself, was Benedictine monk-herbalist (and former Crusader) in 12th century Shrewsbury. His primary occupation in the monastery was growing herbs and keeping an herbal apothecary, from which he assisted both brothers of the Abbey of St. Peter and St. Paul and also local townsfolk with their various ills and injuries, but in the usual manner of literary detectives, crimes and mysteries in need of solutions kept finding him!

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The Brother Cadfael chronicles are works of fiction, of course; but Edith Pargeter (whose pen name was Ellis Peters) was an academically-trained medievalist, and her research was solid. Medieval monks really were avid gardeners and farmers; they had to be, to support their foundations.

The Rule of St. Benedict required that monks support themselves by their own labours – ora et labora (prayer and work) was a major axiom of the Benedictine Rule. And of course, in an agrarian society like the Middle Ages, that largely meant farming, although of course monks also did many other things, in addition (manuscript-making, running hospitals and guest-houses, bread-baking, and beer-brewing, to name just a few). Notably, all of these (including manuscript-making, as medieval manuscripts were scriven on vellum or parchment, made from specially-prepared animal skins) were also closely linked with gardening and/or farming.

At any rate, for a variety of reasons – whether a love of history, especially medieval history, a desire to recapture and practice traditional arts and crafts, or as a hedge against a possible crisis which would require greater self-sufficiency, among others – some of us might want to consider recreating a medieval garden, or elements thereof, as our circumstances allow.

The above-linked article by Gwen Bruno provides an excellent general history of the medieval garden, and thus inspiration for the endeavor. For additional inspiration, as well as helpful hints and suggestions on how to do it, and a variety of useful resources and instructions on historical gardening in general, I recommend Designing a Medieval Garden, on the Wyrtig blog. If your goal is primarily medicinal, you might also want to consult English Heritage‘s “What to Grow in a Medieval Garden,” which lists nine of the most commonly-grown medieval medicinal herbs.

A Brief History of the Great British Sunday Roast

Sunday Roast

Source: A Brief History of the Great British Sunday Roast

When mighty Roast Beef was the Englishman’s food,
It ennobled our brains and enriched our blood.
Our soldiers were brave, and our courtiers were good
Oh! The Roast Beef of old England,
And old English Roast Beef!

— “The Roast Beef of Old England,” by Henry Fielding (1731)

I’m a bit late in the day for this week, but perhaps some inspiration for next Sunday…?

“The British love of beef, and particularly for lunch on a Sunday, is nothing new, as it is such a part of the national identity, that even the French call us ‘rosbifs’ (roast beef). The Sunday Roast came to prominence during the reign of King Henry VII in 1485 and the Yeoman of the Guard – the royal bodyguard – have affectionately been known as ‘beefeaters’ since the 15th century because of their love of eating roast beef.”

Read on for more! See also How to Cook the Perfect Sunday Roast, these Tips and Recipes for Cooking the Roast Beef, and of course, this guide to cooking the Traditional Yorkshire Pudding that is the classic accompaniment to the Sunday roast.

My own dear late mother cooked a roast of beef, with most of the traditional accompaniments (sans Yorkshire pudding), for midday dinner every Sunday through most of my childhood and into young adulthood. It was such a fixture that one of my brother’s girlfriends was once reported as asking, “Does she know how to cook anything else?” – since she only came over for dinner on Sundays, and of course, that was what was on the menu!

Ma’s version was of the “pot-roast” variety – the beef, potatoes, onions, carrots, and sometimes celery were cooked in the pressure-cooker, while we were at church, rather than in the oven, and she served it with “essence” (what the French would call au jus), rather than gravy – but for all that, it was nonetheless a continuation of the old tradition, and one I must say I rather miss.

The classic Ploughman’s Lunch: a how-to, from the UK’s “The Guardian”

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How To Eat is in a country pub trying to enjoy a ploughman’s lunch. But an argument is raging…

Source: How to eat: a ploughman’s lunch | Food | The Guardian

“This month, How To Eat is in a country pub trying to enjoy a ploughman’s lunch. But an argument is raging about what that means. Ham? One cheese or three? Is pate OK? Are pickled onions edible? Is this a sharing dish or best enjoyed solo?”

And here I had always thought that a “ploughman’s lunch” was the soul of simplicity: a thick slice of bread, a wedge of cheese, and a pickled onion, with a pint of ale! Who knew that there was this much controversy…? But there is, seemingly. To begin with,

“Pedants will take great pleasure in pointing out that this ‘classic’ was only actually given a name and a PR push in the 1960s, by the Milk Marketing Board; but people, including some ploughmen, had been eating bread and cheese with beer for aeons. Therefore, no matter how it has been glossed, this stands as a much-loved British meal, and one which people feel passionately about.”

Indeed! I would venture to guess that this was probably one of the most common, if not the most common, midday meals for working people in the countryside at least back to the Middle Ages, and probably beyond – so long a bread, cheese, and beer existed!

Bread and aged, hard cheese have the inestimable advantages of being easily portable, keeping well, and being relatively resistant to being dropped and knocked about; they also provide a good balance of protein and carbohydrates, to keep a person’s energy levels up whilst working in the fields.

And of course beer has been ubiquitous at least since the Sumerians… in fact, it’s been argued that grains may have been used for beer-making even before bread-making, making the brewing of beer the foundation of civilization!

Bread and cheese are similarly ancient: bread is now thought to possibly predate agriculture itself; while the first solid cheese dates back at least to the 13th century B.C., while “the earliest evidence of cheese-making in the archaeological record dates back to 5500 BCE, in what is now Kujawy, Poland, where strainers with milk fats molecules have been found.”

It doesn’t take the proverbial rocket scientist to imagine our forebears quickly realizing that these are (if I may adapt from an old advertising jingle) “three great tastes that taste great together”! And of course, the mildly intoxicating qualities of beer may have helped to ease the pain and stiffness of muscles strained by hard work in the field.

But now, back to Britain and the Ploughman’s Lunch: “How to Eat” includes these minimal components of the meal: “Bread, cheese, ham and some sort of pickled dimension. Traditionalists may question the necessity of ham, but without it this is just bread ‘n’ cheese, not a ploughman’s.” Call me a traditionalist (for I am, in many ways), but I was surprised to see ham in there!

No objection, mind you, from a culinary perspective. But I do wonder how authentically “ploughman’s” that is: unlike the bread, cheese, and beer, ham is more inclined to go “off” (spoil) in the hot sun. But if one is enjoying in the cool of the local pub, then by all means! I’m never one to refuse cured pig flesh… At least they are cautious to warn that the ham in question “should be baked, thick-cut, ‘proper’ pig, no limp, wet boiled ham” or “thin, pallid, suspiciously uniform slices.” Hear, hear!

At any rate, read the article for more mouth-watering suggestions for taking this meal from a convenient, if unassuming, packet for a ploughman’s satchel to a culinary experience of high degree. Whether you limit it to bread, beer, cheese, and something pickled – with maybe an apple thrown in – to include boiled eggs or a slice of cold pork pie, watercress, radishes, or celery, and possibly even a “dessert” of fruit bread, it’s a sturdy, filling, and flavorful meal for anyone: not just an authentic ploughman!

Blighty Boys!

What is a “Blighty Boy”…?

Blighty Boy!

This is a Blighty Boy!

In notable contradistinction to his chief adversary, the distressingly numerous, if decidedly unimpressive, Nu-“Male” (note the quotes), the Blighty Boy is the John Bull of the 21st century. Rule Britannia!

I wish I could claim credit for creating this meme, and the concept it embodies! But alas, I did not. I found it on the internet, and adapted it slightly (the original was “Blighty Boi,” which is way too metrosexual for me) to suit the purposes of The Anglophilic Anglican.

With that change of spelling, The Anglophilic Anglican proudly declares himself a Blighty Boy – at least in principle and philosophy, despite not living in Blighty, and lacking (currently, but hopefully not permanently) “a wholesome, steady relationship.” And I further declare that “Blighty Boys” will be a new category and tag for this blog, referring to traditional English / British culture, viewed from a masculine perspective!

Some (potentially) helpful links and images:

Parliamentary sovereignty: actually, I believe in the sovereignty of the Sovereign: the Monarch, currently Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II – health and long life to her! But I can get onboard with the Sovereignty of Queen-in-Parliament… formally, in the UK, “Queen [or King] in Parliament under God.”

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Roast Dinner with seasonal, local produce – the latter recipes are a bit fancy, but hey! I’m a bit of a “foodie”…

Book of Common Prayer Service, plus an explanation of why “The Book of Common Prayer Is Still A Big Deal.”

The Book of Common Prayer Is Still a Big Deal

“Rugged, strong hands… Works on the land, in industry, or serving society in a useful way.”

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“Applauds Army parades and stands to attention for the National Anthem.”

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The “obligations [the class system] places on the privileged“:

“Paternalism is a much-discredited word these days, but it ought to be remembered that the old, aristocratic ideal of society, however much it involved one side knowing its place and another exercising an arbitrary authority, relied on re-distributing a small part of your largesse to those less fortunately situated… Noblesse continues to oblige, and in a world full of new, tax-avoiding, prole-hating, obligation-avoiding money, old, duty-conscious, stately-home money can sometimes seem a very desirable friend to cultivate.”

Deborah, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, was a scion of old-school aristocracy which is still bound by the concept of ‘noblesse oblige’Deborah, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, was a scion of old-school aristocracy which is still bound by the concept of ‘noblesse oblige’ (Christopher Thomond/The Guardian)

“Drinks loose-leaf tea with whole milk.”

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Impressive collection of Airfix models:

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“Loves a cheeky pint…”

 

While I understand, and even (to a point) sympathize with, those who choose –  for a number of ethical and health-related reasons – to adopt a vegetarian diet, I object to those who attempt to force that lifestyle on the rest of us.

So I found the lower two responses to the upper billboard quite amusing! I tend to fall into the second (lower right) category, although a) I wouldn’t be trying to “bang a hot vegan chick,” and b) it wouldn’t take an economic crisis for me to enjoy a nice dish of hassenpfeffer!


Nota Bene: While I view vegetarianism – especially ovo-, lacto-, and piscato-vegetarianism – as legitimate dietary preferences, I have more issues with veganism, for several reasons.

First, from a physiological and health viewpoint: we are, biologically, anatomically, and ecologically, predatory omnivores. We have more in common, in that regard, with bears or raccoons than we do with horses, cows, or sheep.

That is simple reality, as can be determined from observation of our stereoscopic (hunter, not prey) vision, our dentition (mix of carnivorous and herbivorous teeth), and our digestive system, which is clearly designed to digest both animal proteins and fats, and plant matter – but not exclusively the latter.

By attempting to adopt a plant-only diet, with no supplementation from animal foods at all, we are denying our nature (some would say, our God-given nature). That rarely if ever ends well.

In this context, it is perhaps worth noting that while there have been successful vegetarian societies, historically, there has been no known successful vegan society. That may be because there are nutrients essential not only to our health, but to our reproduction, that come only from animal sources.

Secondly, vegans are more likely to be ideological extremists than are vegetarians who also supplement with dairy, eggs, or fish. And as I indicated above, it is one thing to recognize that someone may choose a particular lifestyle or diet; it is another to have them trying to force that choice on you!