Skip to 0 minutes and 9 seconds I’m going to leave you with one question. What’s your favourite historical period in terms of cooking food, gastronomy? Put the answer below. Before you do that, just have a look, we’ve put down for you some classic, typical flavour combinations from each of those periods. Have a look, get your juices going. If I could go back in time, and if I could taste anything, it would have to be Charles II’s the 231 pound chocolate recipe. This recipe was designed entirely for luxury. It was filled with vanilla, chilli, cardamom, ambergris, civet. Anything expensive that you could bung into this was bunged into this chocolate recipe. It really was the epitome of luxury.
Skip to 1 minute and 0 seconds I would say that I find the food of the Georgian Era some of the most sumptuous, some of the most exciting. But possibly that’s because it’s some of the food that’s the closest to the sorts of things we enjoy today. When it comes to enjoying a meal for the complete difference than a medieval or Tudor meal is fascinating because you get to add a whole layer of manners and ways to eat it. Unfortunately, many scientists, me included, never practice what they preach. So we’re using our models to look at high meat diets, and I’m afraid my preferred diet would also be a high meat diet.
Skip to 1 minute and 35 seconds So I might not be too keen on hearing the results of the health aspects of this as we move through the course. But let’s see. For me, the best foods in Victorian Britain are puddings. There is nothing as British as a pudding. Puddings say Britain like no other food. My absolute favourite is one which is, I think puts me firmly in the class of plebeian. You take suet crust pastry, so 8 ounces flour, 3 ounces of suet. Roll it out into a large rectangle, spread it with sausage meat or bacon and onions, roll it out like a Swiss roll, put it in a pudding cloth or indeed an old shirt sleeve.
Skip to 2 minutes and 10 seconds You then boil it for 2 hours, take it out, and you can eat it as is. But if you filled it with sausage meat, you can do an even better thing. Which is when you slice it up, and then you fry it in dripping. And you have crispy suet crust and crispy meat. And then you have gooey suet crust in the middle. I mean you know what is not to like about that? I think I would choose a seafood platter. I’m very fond of seafood. And, yes, it would have lobsters on. But I understand that Henry VIII liked to serve dolphins at his table.
Skip to 2 minutes and 43 seconds And there are no dolphins on my seafood platter, lobsters and prawns and things like that only. And after it, I’d have a great big fruit salad of special fruit from all over the world.
Which era tasted the best?
In this final activity, Heston sets the perfect challenge to wrap up the course: Which historical era do you think tasted the best? Having explored the food served to five very different monarchs, which would you most want to taste?
In this video, hear our experts describe some of their favourite foods, and which foods they would travel back in time to taste.
To inspire you in this last discussion, we’ve pulled together some key flavours that epitomise each period. Some of these may be familiar to you from the cook-a-long activities each week.
Tudor – pomegranates, ginger, venison, pike and beer
Elizabethan – sugar, oranges, capon [chicken], rosewater and quince
George I – anchovies, bone marrow, tansy, chocolate and currants
George III – cream, brandy, mace, orange flower water and veal
Victoria – parsley, cayenne, perfect peaches, tea and mutton
So, it’s over to you. Which era do you think tasted the best? And is there a particular dish that you wish you could try?
For those of you keen to continue your studies on Queen Victoria and her food, we’ve compiled a list of suggested further reading material, provided by previous Learners in a PDF at the bottom of this Step.
© University of Reading and Historic Royal Palaces.