Pursuing natural health & thinking beyond the superficial. Deconstructing Culture.

Posts tagged ‘Victorian’

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Victorian Tips of the Day 6 & 7 – Cooking

TIP 6 – Mushroom Ketchup!

Break some large mushrooms, throw over them a good quantity of salt, and let them stand two nights. Strain and press out the liquor, and put into a stewpan with black pepper bruised, sliced ginger, shalots, and horse-radish. Boil it an hour, strain it, and bottle it up quite close when it is cold. If well boiled, tied down properly, and set in a dry place, it will keep two or three years; otherwise it will soon spoil.

mushroom ketchup recipe Victorian

TIP 7 – For a Cold!

A remedy for the ‘common cold’ eh, there’s so many some more proficient than others and quite a few healthy ones that boost your immune system in general. I haven’t tried this one but it doesn’t sound bad, pretty tasty actually!

Take a tea-cupful of linseed, a quarter of a pound of stick liquorice sliced, and a quarter of a pound of sun raisins, put them in two quarts of soft water, and let it simmer over slow fire, til nearly reduced to one quart; then strain off, and add to it, while it is hot, a quarter of pound of brown sugar-candy pounded.

James W. Laughton, The General Receipt-Book, c. 1845

Note – Linseed it known as flaxseed in the US.

Victorian Tip of the Day 5: Removing a Ring Stuck on a Finger

It’s been a while since I quoted one of these tips from days gone by, so here ya go 🙂 :

Rings loosened from the finger

If a gold ring sticks tight on the finger, and cannot easily be removed, touch it with mercury, and it will become so brittle that a single blow will break it.

The Housekeeper’s Receipt Book, 1813

Sounds extreme and a waste of Gold but there are probably circumstances where it’d be or feel necessary.

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Wobbly Barstool – Not a Drinking Hazard or Drunken Game

Hardcover: 408 pages (409 via e-book)
Published: April 16th 2012 by EVERBOLD Press
ISBN13 9780985157128 (e-book ISBN 0985157127)
Edition language: English, 43 chapters

Victorian Tribute Book Novel

Old fashioned ‘classic’ hardcover with woven texture, bookmark and no sleeve. Simple and bold, gives it a kind of gravitas.

I was sent this book as part of the Goodreads.com First Reads program and wrote a thank you note and review at the time for the author, this review is an edited version of that. I’d be hard pressed to think of a current befitting genre but I’d say the story is foremost about family and friendship, how those bonds develop and what they mean to people both straightforward and convoluted and secondary themes are education and vegetarianism/health but those are side stories in bringing characters together, though I wouldn’t call them plot devices because they don’t feel contrived.

Wobbly Barstool is firstly, a beautifully presented book reminiscent of a time gone by paying homage to Victorian novels from cute portraits illustrated at the front to its short chapters and simple yet elegant colour scheme. The dignified appearance of the book hides a web of turmoil, of highs and lows written on the pages. The story is complex and emotive yet skips along light heartedly and almost giddily in the first half with previews of lurking dangers.

Advantages: Nod to Victorian fiction. For those who like convoluted romance & drama.

Disadvantages: Convoluted romance & drama.

PLOT AND COMMENTARY

There once was a happy, hard working, farm style, rustic family all under the ‘Barstool’ name – idyllic and sweetness and light, mostly. They were respected in the community and had a fine set of offspring though one called ‘Wobbly’ was a bit slow but genuine and sincere, making quick work of winning people over. Even endearing himself to the rumoured wild boy named Tobias running with the dogs on the outskirts – the dogs took a bit longer to warm to Wobbly but since they adhered to pack mentality and their honourary human leader was keen on the non-honourary friend they decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Tobias has a very sad back story hence how he ended up with the dogs living off the land and is wary but willing to trust Wobbly and even more wary of Wobbly’s family who take him in as their ‘own’ and he learns to feel part of a human family. Of course his dogs are not neglected and due to his life he is an ardent supporter of animal rights and their likewise abilities to think and feel, it turns out he’s also very intelligent and handsome which doesn’t do him any harm in being accepted and listened to at the time, lucky he wasn’t a girl.

Cue a beautiful girl called Prunella on the scene visiting nearby on one of those Victorian long holidays touring other people’s homes, when one is well to do. She catches Wobbly’s eye and heart though thankfully not Tobias’. Wobbly’s cousin Marigold becomes her friend and they remain in constant communication even when the beautiful one returns home.

So the four main characters introduced – yes the tumultuous, twisted love lives of youth plays the driven vehicle for the plot in this Victorian-esque ode as per the successful norm – we move on to the back stage where evil dwells and deception rules, daggers at the ready. What is the connection between Tobias and Prunella? How is it that as soon as they met they felt an affinity, a ‘knowing’ that worried Wobbly and his sister since they both have a romantic interest in the pair? Tobias is seemingly an orphan and Prunella from an adoring, wealthy family. It turns out Prunella has a secret past she doesn’t know of and her so-called parents are quite the underhanded opportunists, getting money and family at whatever the cost. But of course that’s not enough and if this had been firmly in the crime genre it might have been an aspiring Agatha Christie novel with unsightly revelations and plot twists at the end in regards to the mystery(ies) but predictable re: the character relationships and who ends up with who.

Marigold embarks on her quest to win Tobias by playing the wide eyed, admiration and support society of the likes he was unprepared for and due to his harsh life is greatly appreciative of. Meanwhile Wobbly plays the hero to win fair maiden (Prunella) as the Venetian masks slip from her parent’s faces and her disturbing past catches up with her. Oh the gender stereotypes abound – I’d much rather play Robin Hood than Maid Marian, scratch that, swinging from tree to tree robbing the rich to give to the poor whilst looking like Maid Marian is more my cup o’ tea (I’d have dressed as Robin had I gone to one of those Sherwood Forest festivals, but of course I don’t like the lewd take on the origins of the story pairing those two characters which has mainly been obscured, forgotten and whitewashed by modern versions of the tale). Anyway, there are some pretty distractions by way of fairs and nuptials before getting back to business and finding out Wobbly’s parents have a huge secret too and Tobias may be more in the family than anyone, except them, would have initially thought.

Synchronicity, orchestration or both? Ah the lies of the webs weaved to deceive, when good intentions go awry, and those without good intentions at all takeover.

WRITING STYLE AND THOUGHTS

The story began with tragedy quickly turning to warmth, then to tragedy and then to warmth again in quick succession and with different sets of characters but nothing about it was brash or confusing – it actually felt like a gentle read, complete with sincerity. I appreciated that the qualities of kindness and trust were emphasized from the start and were the threads that wove that characters together. The rest of the book continued in much the same pace with many and varied characters introduced rapidly, their stories told alternately through the chapters but the tone of the story markedly changed to something far more serious and revealing.

The main characters were endearing and many were very well spoken with a poetic and whimsical eloquence. The supporting and background characters were clearly defined and generally stuck to their typecast throughout. All benefited from quirky names which added a touch of humour and intrigue. I was impressed that some of the main characters were vegetarian, a unique element rarely noted in classic (Victorian) literature or tributes. I’ve read descriptions of meals and habits but in regards to personal convictions and lifestyles rarely anything other than class and gender struggles. Anytime plant based meals or teetotallers were mentioned in other books I’ve read it was due to poverty and not preference, and usually they were met with derision from surrounding characters.

This book expanded and expounded on the ethical and clandestine subjects touched upon in the genre, from highlighting the almost courtesan view of upper class females of marriageable age to an anti-animal experimentation stance adeptly inserted into the plot. Universal ethics apply to all. Subjects touched upon that are more modern in literature were surrogacy, environmentalism and carcinogenic radiation, the first two dealt with from a personal perspective of the characters involved and the latter in an interesting landscape perspective.

From the start it seemed that the story was a mystery, initially disguised as an armchair mystery, not too thrilling and something nice to read nestled with a warm beverage of choice but later showed itself to be intense. It was quite philosophical but cleverly juggled with the underlying family secret and changing circumstances. The themes of family, friendship and love were strong throughout as well as the notion of give and take; I didn’t quite agree with the author’s presented view of an ideal life, the various forms of love demonstrated or what I saw as unethical behaviour in the name of morality or giving on the part of the characters written as the moral ones, which isn’t so problematic when reading fiction but because it’s a predominant theme/setting in the book it might be off putting to some readers. On the whole I was impressed with the level of high spirits, fortitude, geniality and openness of the main characters, it is rare to find such a large group of personalities capable of interacting with others without reservation, superficial first impressions and able to be happy for each other. Yet all the while there was a mysterious figure pulling the strings and orchestrating the lives of the main cast; does perceived happiness and contentment come at such a cost? The romance on the whole was fast (years pass in a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ way) and neat for most of the characters but suffered the usual entanglements and difficulties of class difference, expressing feelings and physical distance. Overall the romance was very youthful exempting that of the Barstool parents.

The language used was just as elaborate as in classic literature but without the pretension and stuffy tones that I’ve often found. Rather, in this case it was nifty and fun and I read and re-read sentences to ensure that I didn’t miss a word. The only thing I’d mention is the large number of commas which were helpful in breaking up the wordy dialogue of certain characters but otherwise broke the rhythm. I thought that they would have been more helpful had I been reading a play/script because they were inserted as oral ‘breathers’ as if the sentences were part of a speech or first person narrative to readers rather than changing the direction or extending a sentence in written work or as part of a list.

There was great attention to detail in the book; here are a few examples:

  1. Within the story Tobias’ lectures are published and the name of the publishing company is the same as the publisher of the physical book I’m reviewing – a cute and practical promotional example of the naming nuances in the story.
  2. The observations of London were as relevant to the time period as they are now.
  3. Also worth noting is the number of coincidences in the story, which is an interesting meta-narrative of the aforementioned mysterious figure pulling strings (“that’s Mr Beggintrade. He manages our affairs” page 188), the seemingly natural though oft farfetched coincidences (that fit in with the storytelling style) are really the product of the author and demonstrate synchronicity mixed with intentional effort (an underlying theme in the story). An interesting irony and mirror.
  4. ‘That Which Must Be Kept In Mind’ is fondly familiar to ‘She Who Must Be Obeyed’ (Rumpole of the Bailey) and ‘He Who Must Not Be Named’ (Harry Potter).
  5. The use of living potted plants at a wedding location.
  6. Noting University of London for being forward thinking – one of its major colleges UCL was one of the first UK universities to admit women and people of different ethnicities. Though sadly in line with other employers in modern times it wasn’t forward thinking when it came to its pocket, paying women less wages.
  7. A lecture on electricity which is worth noting for its ‘alternative’, intriguing presentation.

CONCLUSION

I think that the story had all of the elements of a Victorian dramatic novel and then some. I found much of it heart warming and sweet but at the same time I couldn’t really enjoy it because I thought it better suited to readers who enjoy the big/extended family setting where many characters are related and through the various circumstances other than a random meeting of strangers turning into love; such as tradition, lack of choice, desperation, ‘keeping it in the family’ etc and follow the usual meet, woo (no matter how arduous), marry, bear children formula. I also couldn’t support the main couples having reservations about one and cynicism about the other as I found the romance forced though I did believe there to be genuine respect, affection and gratitude. But that’s the problem; companionship and non-romantic familial bonds based on those qualities are one thing and/or a romantic relationship that has passed its bloom and reached maturity but romantic love, let alone young love shouldn’t be based/born out of gratitude aka obligation, duty or hero worship in my opinion even if the participants don’t see it that way (though tend to later on unless some disaster happens which serves to reinvigorate their gratitude and dependency, or ‘happy’/joyful circumstance that blindsights them for a while allowing them to continue on). I wouldn’t want someone to be romantically attracted to me because I helped them, it happens I know but I think the responsibility is on that person not to encourage the crush rather than going with and benefiting from it – it’s awkward trying to avoid or be near a devotee whilst remaining sensitive to their feelings but in my opinion it’s better that they love you ‘just because’  they’re attracted to you innately combined with respect and show any gratitude in a non-“I give you my body/mind/soul because you’re so cool” way. However I reiterate that the story was skilfully written and managed, a veritable soap opera (though not as painstakingly slow) befitting romance and sabotage and brought to mind the universal adage – ‘treat others as you would like to be treated’.

I could tell that the author and her family handling this book really held it in high esteem (much like the family in the story); I was very impressed with the presentation of the book from the considered paraphernalia given, none of it pushy, to the careful packaging (in matching colour scheme). Everything about it implied marketable quality.

Sidenote – the story is based in England but every time the Barstool family was described I couldn’t help visualizing them in Mid-Western USA with Golden crops and sunshine rather than our Green fields and Greyish skies. I later realized that the author lived in Houston, perhaps that came through.

Victorian Tip of the Day 4: Homemade Yeast for Baking

Making, Increasing and Keeping Yeast

It may be made by putting a teacupful of split peas into a basin and pouring a pint of boiling water over them.  A cloth is then put over the basin, and it is set near the fire to keep warm. In about twelve hours it will begin to ferment, and a kind of scum will rise, which may be used as yeast. This is called Turkish yeast; but a better method is practised by Americans, which is as follows:- Take as much hops as may be held between the thumb and finger, put them with a few slices of apple into a quart of water, and boil the whole for about fifteen minutes or twenty minutes. Then strain the liquid, and when it is lukewarm stir in a little flour with three or four table-spoonfuls of treacle so as to make a thin paste; then set the whole in a warm place, and in a few hours the fermentation will be sufficiently strong to allow enough flour and water to be added to make a proper sponge for bread.

If you have a small quantity of yeast it may be increased in the following manner:- Take one pound of fine flour, and mix it in to the thickness of gruel with boiling water, add half a pound of brown sugar, mixing the whole well together. Then put three tablespoonfuls of yeast into a large vessel, and pour the mixture upon it. It will ferment violently, and the scum which rises to the top will be good yeast, which may be used immediately, or may be preserved for some time in an earthenware vessel covered closely from the air, and kept in a warm dry place.

To keep home-brewed yeast it should be put into a large pan and have three times the quantity of water poured upon it, being well stirred up and then left to settle. The next day the water is to be poured off, and fresh put on, and in this manner it is said that yeast may keep for six weeks. All yeast is best purified before it is used; that is, the yeast should be put into a vessel, and, cold spring water being poured upon it, they should be stirred together and then left to settle. The water is afterwards poured off, and the yeast taken our carefully, leaving the brown sediment at the bottom.

Mrs London, The Lady’s Country Companion, 1845

The Turkish yeast is less labour intensive but the hops one is closer to what we’re used to and the tip for thickening it is very helpful. As for keeping it, finding clean/non-treated spring water can be a mission but purified water should do. It might sound like a lot of work but when it comes down to it, it’s fermentation – like making sauerkraut, kimchi or brewing.

Victorian Tip of the Day 3: Chilblains

Soak them in warm bran with water; then rub them well with mustard-seed flour. This must be done before they break.

The Housewife’s Receipt Book, 1837

That reminds me, wish I had some mustard oil for the now semi-swollen toes I have… Though I think I have some apple cider vinegar left…

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Retrospective Outfit Of the Day Semi Victorian

Hello world 🙂

These pics were taken over the Friday 13th weekend last month, I went to stay over at a friends so the last ones were taken by her. I went for a Victorian style/look but only one piece is actually Victorian/vintage reproduction (the coat). The subtle pinstripe ‘skirt’ is actually an A-Line button up, pinafore dress of my mum’s from the 80’s, over a Black lace top for layering of a type that can be bought almost anywhere. The White corset style top is from Chicstar (I wore the Black one here) and the ‘belt’ is just an old ribbon (I find ribbons cheaper, less space and more functional than belts). The coat was from Preloved.co.uk a great site that’s been around for a long time where you can buy/sell and swap items. I really love full length coats so this was a great find, the fabric is like a faux suede, the collar sits on top of the capelet, it laces up at the back and billows nicely 🙂

Victorian Pinafore Dress Corset Lace Up Top Ribbon Capelet Cape Coat Vintage Reproduction

Victorian Pinafore Dress Corset Lace Up Top Ribbon Capelet Cape Coat Vintage Reproduction

Victorian Pinafore Dress Corset Lace Up Top Ribbon Capelet Cape Coat Vintage Reproduction

Victorian Pinafore Dress Corset Lace Up Top Ribbon Capelet Cape Coat Vintage Reproduction

Victorian Pinafore Dress Corset Lace Up Top Ribbon Capelet Cape Coat Vintage Reproduction

Victorian Pinafore Dress Corset Lace Up Top Ribbon Capelet Cape Coat Vintage Reproduction

Victorian Pinafore Dress Corset Lace Up Top Ribbon Capelet Cape Coat Vintage Reproduction

and then sleepy before bed *(-_-)*

Fri13th-8

Here’s the shop photo for the corset style top (I say ‘style’ because it’s one of those tops meant to look like one but isn’t one, it’s not constricting).

Gothic Lolita Ruffle Corset Top

Gothic Lolita Ruffle Corset Top – comes in White and Black.
Standard Size $29.95
Plus Size $33.95

Victorian Tip of the Day 2: Homemade Perfume

Eau de Cologne

Into 2 quarts of wine at 36, put 2 drachms essence of bergamot, the same essence of cedrat (a superior kind of bergamot), 2 drachms essence of citron, 1 oz essence of rosemary, and a 1/4 drachm of the essence of neroly (an oil produced from the flowers of the Seville orange tree): let it stand twenty-four hours, then straining through brown paper, and bottle it.

Anne Cobbett, The English Housekeeper, 1842

In his room at the end of the day the valet might prepare a mustard bath for his master’s feet or rub him down with eau de Cologne to prevent his taking a chill.

Victorian Household Tips, 2006

1 drachm = 1/8 of an oz or 3.6g.

I can imagine the scent of this and it’s dreamy; I’m a fan of bergamot and neroly (neroli), and my all time favourite which might go well here – patchouli. I think it would be a unisex fragrance and of course I’m a fan of perfumed oils (e.g. uses of Rose oil) over modern perfumes with hundreds of ingredients of who knows what, have an astringent/household cleaner  tone to them and of course can’t be used in a quantity or more than a couple of spritzes for the sake of those around you. Plus they need to be topped up and can’t be used all over the body for not only smell but for nutritional/health value or as a barrier to the cold.

On a sidenote – ew, the ‘master’ can’t even rub himself down with oil, tch. For shame (and no I’m not including people who are physically unable to do so).