Archive | September 2017

Victorians Enjoying Indian Food

One of the most entertaining Victorian cookbooks I’ve read so far is called “Culinary Jottings: A Treatise in Thirty Chapters on Reformed Cookery for Anglo-Indian Exiles, Based Upon Modern English, and Continental Principles, with Thirty Menus for Little Dinners Worked Out in Detail, and an Essay on Our Kitchens in India.

This fun book was first published in 1878 and written by Col. Arthur Robert Kenney-Herbert under the pen-name Wyvern. You can find the book online here:

The Colonel arrived in India in 1859, when the ‘old ways’ of the British East India Company still held sway. In the days of the Company, the Anglo-Indians, or British-born people who had made India their home, adopted many Indian customs including eating mostly Indian food. He fondly remembered a “kind-hearted old veteran” who would “give ‘tiffin’ parties at which he prided himself on sending round eight or nine varieties of curries, with divers platters of freshly-made chutneys, grilled ham, preserved roes of fishes, &c.”

He goes on to add, “[t]he discussion of the “course”—a little banquet in itself—used to occupy at least half an hour, for it was the correct thing to taste each curry, and to call for those that specially gratified you a second time.”

But it seems that this mingling of customs ended when India became part of the British Empire. By 1878 when the Colonel wrote his book, Britons and Indians existed in strictly separate spheres, with the British people striving to live in every way as if they were still in England. Britons in India might well enjoy curries for breakfast or luncheon at home, but formal dinners had to feature English- or French-style dishes.

As a result, the Colonel lamented, cooks had lost their understanding of how to make a good curry using fresh spices and pastes and ended up relying upon packaged spice mixes that made the finished dish a lackluster affair. He strongly advocates the use of fresh and local ingredients for all dishes, instead of imported foods out of tins. His explanations are fun to read, despite some cringe-worthy comments about the typical Indian cook, whom he calls Ramasamy.

However, leaving that part aside, the Colonel does give some excellent recipes for curry and for Mulligatunny, which he says comes from the words molegoo (pepper) and tunnee (water).

Unlike other recipes that I’ve seen for Mulligatawny, his recipe involves a paste of chilis, garlic, mustard seed, peppercorns and fenugreek, together with leaves of karay-pauk (curry-leaves), added to water and brought to a boil. Onions are sauteed onions and added to the broth, which is then served over rice.

If you enjoy cookbooks from history, then (with the proviso mentioned above) this is definitely a book for you!


Book Review: The Art of the English Murder

What is it that makes a murder mystery so satisfying to read about? In her book The Art of the English Murder, Lucy Worsley tracks the history of English literature devoted to murder, mayhem and true crime.

I’ve already commented on the book, but now I want to do a complete review (And, since W.S. Gilbert often finds his way into my thoughts, there is a reference to one of his works below).

Beginning with Thomas de Quincey’s “Confessions of an Opium Eater” and “On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts,” this entertaining book traces the development of popular taste in sensational murders from the 18th-century broadsheets printed with murderer’s confessions which were sold at public hangings, to the bloodless, upper-class “puzzle mysteries” of the Golden Age in the 1920s and 1930s.

Here are a few of the questions that are answered in the pages of this book:

  1. When did England gain its first paid professional police force? (In 1749, magistrate Henry Fielding created the Bow Street Runners, which began as six trained parish constables; in 1829, the patchwork of local constables in London was replaced by the Metropolitan Police Force, and in 1842 the Detective Branch was established to actually solve crimes, not just apprehend criminals.)
  2. Before then, who was responsible for tracking down the guilty and seeing justice done? (Before the advent of a professional paid police force, people of means had to hire a “thief-taker” to find stolen goods or finger a criminal.)
  3. What was the official name of Madame Tussaud’s Chamber of Horrors? (The “Other Chamber” – although in 1860 it was renamed the “Chamber of Comparative Physiognomy,” in deference to the then-popular pseudo-science of phrenology)
  4. Before reading became a widespread pastime, how did people learn about celebrated crimes and criminals? (Through “street patterers,” plays and puppet shows. Street patterers were sellers of newspapers, confessional broadsheets and booklets describing a sensational crime. Some of them would team up with a second patterer and act out the most sensational moments of a crime to attract the attention of the crowds. Melodramatic plays also re-enacted well-known murders. The Victoria and Albert Museum has marionettes of murder victim Maria Marten and her killer, William Corder, which were used in a travelling puppet show.)
  5. Who created the first fictional detectives? (Charles Dickens is credited with the first detective, Inspector Bucket, who is a character in Bleak House (1852). Willkie Collins added a police detective, Sergeant Cuff, to The Moonstone (1868).
  6. Who created the first female detective? (One of the first amateur female sleuths is maidservant Susan Hopley, who appears in The Adventures of Susan Hopley, or Circumstantial Evidence, by Catherine Crowe, in 1841. Andrew Forrester wrote The Female Detective around 1864, featuring his character Mrs Gladden, a paid private investigator who sometimes goes undercover in disguise to gather her clues. Like W.S. Hayward’s female detective Mrs. Paschal, introduced in The Mysterious Countess at about the same time, she was a strong-willed woman dedicated to crime-solving, with a brain both “vigorous and subtle.”)

Nowadays it seems that the cozy mystery is less popular than the thriller. Like its predecessor the “sensation novel,” the thriller aims to arouse strong emotion in the reader—quicken the heartbeat, bate the breath, and make the reader turn the pages.

The sensation novel was so popular that W.S. Gilbert even wrote a play parodying the style, in which the novel’s characters come to life and criticize the beleaguered playwright’s plot. You can learn more about this little gem here at the Gilbert and Sullivan archive

For those of us devoted to mysteries and to history, Worsley’s book is a fun exploration of changing attitudes and trends in mystery literature. It’s definitely worth a read.


Read All About It: Victorian Crime News

Image from a broadsheet

Just wanted to share some interesting bits from what I’m reading now: The Art of the English Murder by Lucy Worsley. It’s a very entertaining account of nineteenth-century attitudes towards crime and violence, and the enduring fascination that lawlessness holds for human beings.

She traces the relationship between crime and entertainment, from word of mouth gossip to broadsheets  (printed accounts of a murderer’s crimes and confessions). Literacy was spreading among the people of Britain, but this didn’t prevent those who couldn’t read from enjoying a vicarious thrill. Often their friends would read the broadsheets aloud, and some street sellers of crime news had interesting ways of enticing their customers. Worsley writes:

“Henry Mayhew, one of the co-founders of Punch, was also the compiler of a tremendous work of oral history gathered from the people on the streets of London in the 1840s. One of his interviewees was a street ‘patterer.’ Posted on a street corner, he kept up a lively constant ‘patter’ of verbal information, and worked with a partner to perform dramatic mini-reconstructions of crimes: ‘He always performs the villain, and I take the noble characters. He always dies, because he can do a splendid back-fall, and he looks so wicked when he’s got the moustaches on.’

“These two were ‘standing-patterers,’ who took up a fixed spot on a street corner. They were complemented by ‘running patterers,’ who moved constantly through the crowds, shouting out details of what was in their broadsides, emphasizing words such as ‘horrible,’ ‘barbarous,’ and ‘murder’. They made a vital contribution to the very distinctive aural landscape of the Victorian city.”

She goes on to add that these two kinds of performers were joined by singing or chanting patterers, who made songs out of their news reports.

Although I knew about newsies shouting, “Read all about it!”, I never knew that some street  newspaper sellers went so far as to act out the details of the crime. They must have been horribly fun to watch.

I also see strong parallels between these long-ago street hawkers and today’s wall-to-wall news on TV and the Internet. I guess it’s always been the case that “If it bleeds, it leads.”

What do you think? Let me know in the comments.



Image: By Probably a supplement of the Edinburgh Courant – Victorian broadsheet, Public Domain,


Cover Reveal: A Romantic Tale of Christmas in Venice

Hello, all! My dear friend Caroline Warfield has a treat in store for you — her delightful novella of unexpected love blossoming during a winter in Venice.  Take a look at the beautiful cover of Caroline Warfield’s 2017 Christmas Novella and don’t miss this opportunity to pre-order the book.

Love is the best medicine and the sweetest things in life are worth the wait, especially at Christmastime in Venice for a stranded English Lady and a dedicated doctor.


About the Book

Lady Charlotte Tyree clings to one dream—to see the splendor of Rome before settling for life as the spinster sister of an earl. But now her feckless brother forces her to wait again, stranded in Venice when he falls ill, halfway to the place of her dreams. She finds the city damp, moldy, and riddled with disease.

As a physician, Salvatore Caresini well knows the danger of putrid fever. He lost his young wife to it, leaving him alone to care for their rambunctious children. He isn’t about to let the lovely English lady risk her life nursing her brother.

But Christmas is coming, that season of miracles, and with it, perhaps, lessons for two lonely people: that love heals the deepest wounds and sometimes the deepest dreams aren’t what we expect.

Pre-order it as an Amazon e-book here.
Pre-order it from Smashwords here.


About the Author

Caroline Warfield – Author


Traveler, poet, librarian, technology manager—award winning and Amazon best-selling author Caroline Warfield has been many things (even a nun), but above all she is a romantic. Having retired to the urban wilds of eastern Pennsylvania, she reckons she is on at least her third act, happily working in an office surrounded by windows where she lets her characters lead her to adventures while she nudges them to explore the riskiest territory of all, the human heart. She is enamored of history, owls, and gardens (but not the actual act of gardening). She is also a regular contributor to History Imagined, a blog at the intersection of history and fiction, and (on a much lighter note) The Teatime Tattler, a blog in the shape of a fictional nineteenth century gossip rag.

Her current series, Children of Empire, set in the late Georgian/early Victorian period, focuses on three cousins, driven apart by lies and deceit, who must find their way back from the distant reaches of the empire.

Click here to find out more.


Best wishes to all!