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Oink, Oink

This week, I researched food. Yes, I have been hungry the entire time!  My stomach is growling as I write this post.

In the sequel Through the Mist: Reunion, we spend a lot of time at Malcolm Campbell’s house, Tinberry Hall. He means to impress his guests in everything he does. It follows that he would have a very fine table when he invites people to dine with him.

I found two good books that have helped with my research. Dinner with Mr. Darcy, by Pen Vogler, sprinkles information about dining customs in between recipes of dishes served around the 1800s. It is a very entertaining read. I doubt I will try any of the recipes, though. They don’t seem very appetizing to me. Tastes have changed, which is yet another reason for research.

Tea with Jane Austen, by Kim Wilson, provided more information about customs than the other book. It offered a few recipes. I liked the information about Jane Austen herself. Of the two books, this one helped me to better understand the nuances of the dinner and after-dinner tea. We might not feel the slight if someone invited us over only for after-dinner tea. In Austen’s time, it meant that you were not important enough to join the dinner party. Scandalous!

As I have said many times, my books are meant for entertainment. Who says you cannot learn a little something at the same time?

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Yummy to My Tummy?

While the focus of the Through the Mist stories is the characters, I want the background to be authentic too. After all, how disconcerting would it be if Tilly whipped out her mobile phone and did an Internet search for “time travel” – when she is in 1801?

I have spent a good deal of time researching food. Tastes and dining habits were much different in the 1800s than they are now. Most of us do not have a team of servants who prepare and serve meals to us. We usually don’t raise all of our food, deal with the lack of refrigeration, or a myriad of other challenges.

I have read a lot of conflicting information about the food practices of the time. Some books suggest that what we consider breakfast and lunch were light repasts. The big meal would have been dinner. Tea and coffee would be served afterward. Some households might have had a very late supper following that as well. (Of course, this would have been the meal structure in a well-to-do household like Castle Fion and Tinberry Hall.)

In the end, I decided that it was best to create my own meal style for the two locations. I will use the research as a guide but not to be too fussy about it. I doubt that there was a strict, universal ritual from household to household anyway. That certainly is the case today. I like to eat dinner early; others may prefer to eat late.

For the sequel, I plan to use the meal as a way to show the difference between Castle Fion and Tinberry Hall. Benjamin Campbell’s down-to-earth manner strongly influences Castle Fion, creating a relaxed atmosphere. On the other hand, his father Malcolm rules Tinberry Hall with an iron fist. He expects adherence to a rigid schedule and firmly believes in maintaining the old traditions. Dinner at Tinberry Hall is very formal. One cannot imagine being at ease when dining with Malcolm Campbell.

Let’s hope meals in your own home are not fraught with the same tension. Bon appétit!

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