For some reason I’m Mischief Maker – who would have thought?
What is your favorite tipple?
Over the years I have gone from white wine to red and now mostly drink blush. Our tastes change over time – not quite sure why. As a young teen I loved candy/sweets but now can’t quite make myself eat them. My only weakness is good white chocolate – the Swiss kind and Milky Bars!
Nestle – Milky Bar – I can remember the first Milky Bar Kid (yes showing my age!) So in short it comes down to wine and chocolate – what more do we need?
Postprandial – definition: happening or done after a meal
The etiquette of meal times has changed drastically in modern times. Many households have meals balanced on laps while watching TV or plates are taken to separate rooms. The latter mostly for teenagers, I believe. Obviously, some families still enjoy meals at the dining table but unfortunately it is not common practice. I think we miss out on real connections with other family members when the dining table is abandoned.
When our story is set in a particular era, details such as meal etiquette enable us to create the right atmosphere. Let’s take the 18th century as an example.
It was customary for gentlemen and ladies to dress formally for dinner, primarily because it was an opportunity to meet a partner. The host and hostess were first to be seated and the closer you sat to them the more honored a guest you were perceived as. Meals were usually two courses plus a dessert although upper class diners could see up to 25 dishes from which they chose two or three.
Once the meal was finished, the gentlemen would stand and wait for the ladies to exit the dining room. Leaving them to smoke cigars and drink such beverages as brandy and cognac. At this time the dishes and tablecloth would be removed. The ladies gathered in the drawing room to exchange conversation and wait for the men to rejoin them for the evenings entertainment.
This sort of evening meal is not really practical now-a-days, with children’s activities, working parents and our frantic lifestyles but once in a while wouldn’t it be fun?
Have you discovered a ‘lost’ etiquette while researching an era?
Madeline believed wholeheartedly that the eyes were a reflection of the soul so no matter what a person might appear like on the outside, she knew it was their inner being that was their true self. When she moved into her new apartment she relished the golden light that shone through. It reflected her joyous nature. With a bubbly, friendly personality many people were instantly drawn to Madeline. She made friends easily and was known as a loyal and supportive person.
Although she had been living in the apartment for over two weeks, she had not met her immediate neighbor. Their apartment window was always dark and gloomy such a contrast to her own, even though they were facing the exact same direction. Madeline had heard movements through the wall and the murmurings of a television but nothing more. Wanting to make introductions, Madeline baked a batch of cookies on Saturday morning. Once they were cool she placed a dozen into a small tin lined with a napkin.
After taking a deep breath and with a broad smile on her face she knocked on her neighbor’s door. She waited and turned her head to listen. No footsteps. No response. Maybe she had missed them going out while she had been busy baking? A shuffling noise stopped her from turning away. The door slowly opened and an old man’s face appeared just above the door chain.
“What do you want?”
“Hello, my name’s Madeline. I’m your new neighbor. I wanted to introduce myself and offer you some cookies I baked this morning.”
The man’s brow crinkled, as he looked her up and down.
“Cookies you say?”
“Yes chocolate chip. Would you like them?”
“You want to give them to me?”
The man put his hand through the gap in the doorway and took the tin. A slight smile creased his lips.
“Well thank you. The name’s Boyd.”
Not waiting for a reply he shut the door.
Madeline was a little surprised but thought Boyd was probably lonely. From the small glimpse of his apartment she could see numerous cobwebs and there was a distinct stale odor. She thought her gift had given him a little happiness but wanted to help more. She would think on how that would be possible as she cleaned her own apartment.
Boyd sat in his armchair with a mug of coffee and ate the cookies hungrily. It had been a long time since he had such a treat. After Mildred passed he seldom left the apartment. Luckily the corner shop delivered the same food order every Wednesday so his only outing was to collect his pension once a month. He would pick up the money, pay his bill at the shop and return home. He felt anxious whenever he was outside; the neighbourhood had changed a great deal in the last five years.
Madeline’s idea came to her as she was folding laundry. She knew she would have to be convincing but maybe it would work. Once supper was cooked she made up an extra plate and knocked on Boyd’s door.
“Who is it at this time of night?”
“Hello, Boyd, it’s me, Madeline, from next door.”
Boyd opened his door and peeked through the gap.
“I wondered if you would like some supper? I haven’t got used to making single portions and made far too much for one person.”
The aroma made Boyd’s stomach grumble.
“Well, it seems wicked to throw it away, I’ll help you out.”
Boyd took the chain off the door and opened it. Standing to one side he motioned Madeline to enter. Her heart ached when she saw how dark and dirty the apartment was. The poor man was obviously living alone and could not manage. Boyd followed behind Madeline shuffling with his cane.
“Just put the plate on the little table by the armchair. Thank you.”
Madeline surveyed the room, apart from the armchair, side table and the television everything else had a layer of dust covering it. It was obvious Boyd sat in that exact spot most of the time.
“If you will let me I could bring a plate over every evening.”
“Now why would you do that? We’re strangers.”
“Not anymore, Boyd, we’re neighbours. I hope we will get to know each other well, in time.”
Boyd looked at Madeline friendly, smiling face. It was a long time since he had anyone want to be his friend. A broad smile lit up his face and Boyd nodded as a single tear ran down his cheek.
“You are so very kind. I would like that very much.”
Over the following months Madeline managed to clean Boyd’s apartment and they regularly went for walks at the weekends, picking new coffee shops to visit on their way. Light began to reflect in Boyd’s window and his eyes. Madeline shared her light willingly.
Tizzy – definition: a very excited and mixed-up state of mind.
I can hear my grandmother saying this to me from a very young age. It brings back memories so sharply of visits to my grandparents bungalow in England. The rooms had a mothball scent as did my grandparents although my grandmother’s lily of the valley perfume nearly overwhelmed it. Afternoon naps, or ’40 winks’ as my grandfather called them, spent dozing on his lap in the front room in his wing-backed chair. Tea and biscuits ready when we woke up and a slight rash on my soft cheek where his stubble had brushed it. The kitchen backed onto the rear garden, which was sectioned into flower beds on one side and the vegetable patch on the other. I loved to pick fresh pea pods for supper with my grandmother, although I popped most of my harvest so I could eat the sweetest little peas. I enjoyed this garden so much, running around with my younger brothers and sister playing make believe. A real treat was going into my grandfather’s shed, which was always locked. It had the rich scent of sawdust and potting compost.
The scent of sweet-peas and lily of the valley are forever reminders of my grandmother. Both plants were in her garden, the lily’s delicate blooms I imagined as fairy hats and the glorious colors of the sweet-peas grew through the vegetable patch to brighten it up. I learned later that the sweet-peas attracted bees and ladybirds, which helped pollination and to keep the pests down.
When I was older I realized that my mother’s love of gardening came from her parents. She is the ultimate green thumbed person, making even dry sticks grow! Gardening was her escape from four noisy children, a way to save costs with mountains of vegetables and a passion to grow everything from seed. Alas I am nowhere near as great with gardening, although I can keep indoor plants alive and will ‘potter’ around the flowerbeds quite happily on a warm summer morning.
When my siblings and I got too noisy, my grandmother would shout out ‘That’s enough, you are all in a tizzy, come and sit with a nice glass of milk.’ Or if one of us was the ‘odd’ one out of a game and was throwing a tantrum – “There now, no need to get in a tizzy, come and help me.” Helping grandmother entailed rolling out pieces of surplus pastry and cutting them into shapes. She would bake them and then we could nibble on them or crush them up for the birds. Or if we were at the local playground she would take the upset child and put them onto another piece of play equipment away from the rest.
This photo shows a very similar cupboard to my grandmother’s where we would roll the pastry.
Years later my grandparents came to live with us and we got used to that word all over again in our home. Getting into a tizzy was considered a bad thing and something we had to get over and be quick about it. Different standards for raising children I suppose. There was little pandering going on, I can tell you.
Goulash – definition: a beef stew with onion, paprika, and caraway
An inspiring meal idea for today – in Alberta we are still in winter mode and although it is ‘warm’ today only -1, a hot bowl of goulash will certainly hit the spot. Alberta prides itself on its beef so how better to prepare it than a hearty stew? I admit to being a lazy cook, if I can get away with a simple quick meal I will. Thank goodness for Jamie Oliver’s 15-minute meal ideas. He is such a character to watch and as expats living here in western Canada, we love to hear his English slang and love his grub. Having to explain what a slang word or saying actually means takes the fun out of it somewhat.
Many people know about the Cockney rhyming slang but there is a whole realm of slang in England. Each region not only has its own accent but slang as well. For instance in the north of England they say any road instead of anyway. Commonly used words are Baccy for tobacco and bees knees meaning fabulous while brill is short for brilliant. A lotta bottle means you have no fear and to have a butchers means take a look. Some words are unclear as to their originals like faff, which means to dither or grem for spitting something out. Grub by the way is food, if you hadn’t figured it out yet.
When we had only been living in Canada for about six months we bought an acreage and I had to figure out what frequency we needed water to be delivered to our acreage. After a few weeks it became clear and I left a message on the water carriers answer phone. Several days passed without a return call and I was getting anxious. Then one evening I came home to a very apologetic answer machine message saying sorry they have taken so long to get back to us but they didn’t know what a fortnight was! Well for us it was very funny and we kept the message on the phone for weeks just for the laugh. A fortnight is actually a 2-week period!
To authenticate our characters the use of local colloquialisms from the region the story is set in enhances them. Although it is best not to overuse them, a reader doesn’t want to spend time trying to figure out what a word means, it halts the flow of the story. If a sentence is structured well the slang word’s meaning will be made apparent by its use. Another way to ensure your reader does not stall is to make up a glossary for reference. A word here and there gives depth to our character and makes them more personable. Attention to detail makes all the difference – bringing your novel alive.
So back to the goulash – here is a classic recipe from Hungary. (www.budapest-tourist-guide.com) Even in Hungary every other housewife or chef has their own way of cooking it by adding or omitting some of the ingredients, or changing something in the preparation process, however they would all call their gulyás the most authentic.
What’s Authentic Hungarian Goulash?Authentic gulyás is a beef dish cooked with onions, Hungarian paprika powder, tomatoes and some green pepper.Potato and noodles (csipetke in Hungarian) are also added according to some recipes.Hungarian goulash is neither a soup nor a stew, it’s somewhere in between. Though in Hungary it’s considered rather to be a soup than a stew, so look for it among Soups on restaurant menus.If cooked in the proper way goulash has a nice and evenly thick consistency, almost like a sauce. In Hungary gulyás is eaten as a main dish; noodle or pastry dishes, especially the ones made with cottage cheese (túrós csúsza, túrógombóc, strudel) go down well after the heavy soup.
A Classical Hungarian Goulash Recipe
Ingredients (for 4 persons)
600 g beef shin or shoulder, or any tender part of the beef cut into 2×2 cm cubes
2 tablespoons oil or lard
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic
1-2 carrots, diced
1 parsnip, diced
1-2 celery leaves
2 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or 1 tbs. tomato paste
For csipetke (Pinched noodles added to goulash or bean soup in Hungary. Csipetke comes from the word csípni, meaning pinch in English, referring to the way of making this noodle):
1 small egg,
a pinch of salt,
cc. 1 teaspoon water
Goulash is hearty enough without csipetke, especially if you eat it with bread, so you can leave csipetke out.
Heat up the oil or lard in a pot and braise the chopped onions in it until they get a nice golden brown colour.
Sprinkle the braised onions with paprika powder while stirring them to prevent the paprika from burning.
Add the beef cubes and and sauté them till they turn white and get a bit of brownish colour as well.
The meat will probably let out its own juice, let the beef-cubes simmer in it while adding the grated or crushed and chopped garlic (grated garlic has stronger flavour), the groundcaraway seed, some salt and ground black pepper, the bay leaf, pour water enough to cover the content of the pan and let it simmer on low heat for a while.
When the meat is half-cooked (approx. in 1,5 hour, but it can take longer depending on the type and quality of the beef) add the diced carrots, parsnip and the potatoes, the celery leaf and some more salt if necessary (vegetables tend to call for more salt). You’ll probably have to add some more (2-3 cups) water too.
When the vegetables and the meat are almost done add the tomato cubes and the sliced green peppers. Let it cook on low heat for another few minutes. You can remove the lid of the pan if you want the soup to thicken.
Bring the soup to the boil and add the csipetke dough, it needs about 5 minutes to get cooked.How to make the csipetke: beat up a small egg, add a pinch of salt and as much flour as you need to knead a stiff dough (you can add some water if necessary).Flatten the dough between your palms (to about 1 cm thick) and pinch small, bean-sized pieces from it and add them to the boiling soup. They need about 5 minutes to get cooked.
Now you are craving goulash, I’m off to buy the ingredients.