Thursday, January 05, 2012

Oh How I Hate Those Eggs and Ham

NOT a Regency Breakfast
I read a lot--and I read primarily gay historical romance for review for my review blog "Speak Its Name" and I admit I do like a good Regency. Gay romance goes well with Regency. The clothes and the manners and the insta-conflict for "you could be hanged for this" work well when it's done well, and mostly there are more good Regencies in the genre than otherwise.

But what annoys me hugely is that authors do their research for the Napoleonic War, the clothes, the manners, the slang, the carriages blah-de-blah-de-blah and then....

Their characters sit down and have a meal. And 9 times out of 10 I'm gnashing my teeth because it's just all wrong.

Authors seem forget that like clothes and music and fashion and the docking of horses' tails--food changes with the ages. What people ate in medieval times (mostly meat) wasn't what they were eating in Victorian times and not what we were eating today.

I've read several Regencies recently where the protagonists sit down for breakfast and they have "ham and eggs." This is so wrong for so many reasons. I wonder if it is because that's what Americans used to eat for breakfast, or they think it's an ancestor of "eggs and bacon" which is what us English would like to eat every day but reach for the bowel-scraping muesli instead, or what--I don't know.

They tended to have a lot on offer--at least in the richer households. Jane Austen's mother noted the quantity of food on offer : "Chocolate, Coffee and Tea, Plumb Cake, Pound Cake, Hot Rolls, Cold Rolls, Bread and Butter and dry toast for me." Clearly they had no problems with carbohydrates! There would also be--perhaps a more masculine foodstuff--MEAT in abundance: eggs, cold fowl and partridge, ham, tongue and anchovy.

The Supersizers (an excellent series of food related historical programmes) list breakfast as follows in their "Go Regency" segment: Toasted bread (done over the fire,) seed cake, turtulong, marmalade jame, hot chocolate, tea.

It also irritates me hugely when tea is guzzled down by the bucketload and there's no mention of the little locked box (the tea caddy) to keep the thieving servants away from the precious commodity!

So come on, historical authors. If you can research the nitty gritty of a military campaign, if you know exactly how many buttons a lieutenant had on his jacket, if you know what a reticule is for, then for goodness sake - get the food right!**

**none of the Carina authors are guilty of course!  :D


Susanna Fraser said...

What I want to know is where you're finding all these authors who get the details right on the Napoleonic Wars! I guess we all have our biases, but I've been thrown out of more books than I can count by errors on that score--things like referring to a hero as having served under Wellington on the Peninsula in a story set so early in the period that the commander in question was still Arthur Wellesley serving in India or talking like the entire British army was armed with rifles instead of a few specialist units, etc. Not to mention books that assume that people thought about war, military service, and patriotism exactly the same way 200 years ago that we do now.

Of course, I'm sure I have my own blind spots, where I haven't even noticed my own 21st-century and/or American assumptions coming through...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reality check! My pet peeve is character dialogue. I see a lot of people, even some of my very favorite authors, have their characters use words that didn't exist until many years, if not centuries later.

Erastes said...

Well, Susanna, I probably don't SEE the military errors, I don't have the depth of knowledge regarding the war, so I probably take a lot on trust... But I've researched a lot about the everyday life things, like food, so it kind of springs up.

Anon: Yes - particularly modern speech patterns, using OK and words like that!

Krista D. Ball said...

Oh yes. Ham and eggs for Regency breakfast. Oh, how this annoys me.

Have leftover cold pork with breakfast if you wish, but also offer the other things such as cakes, preserves, coffee, etc.

And for the love of all that's holy, people did drink coffee in this period.

It's actually very easy to find out what people eat for breakfast by reading some of the cookbooks and the fiction of the period. "Good for supper, but even better cold the next morning" is a common thing I've come across in recipe books of the period.