In many people’s minds, the Georgian and the Regency periods have become associated with an abundance of food and the beginning of a revolution in our relationship with food.
The increased availability of foodstuffs of varied kinds and from different countries (a privilege of the wealthiest, of course), also led to a transformation in the male relationship with cooking, which became both an art and a pastime. A sign of this was the rise, at the turn of the nineteenth century, of the ‘celebrity’ chef (usually French or Italian – the two most influential cuisines at the time), who were requested at the most important European courts to create elaborate and complicated dishes.
It is against this background that the collection of the Georgian menu books held in the Royal Archives can be viewed.
Among the most interesting meals served is the banquet for the coronation of George IV, to which an entire volume is dedicated. It includes drawings showing the guests’ seating plan, as well as a list of the food served and its specific arrangement on the table.
Cooking became an art that royal families all over Europe displayed at their tables. The best chefs were employed in the royal kitchens, however in the menu books we just get a glimpse of this for, unfortunately, their names are not recorded with the same consistency as their dishes. Some menus are attributed to particular chefs including Amant (sometimes spelt Amand) Wilmet [Cook], Peter Crepin [Master Cook of Kitchen] and even the famous Marie Antoine Carême, probably the first internationally acclaimed chef.
Other interesting annotatations in several of these volumes include ‘Pitcher meat’, given to servants on days of celebration in the royal family, mince pies and plum broth, given for Christmas and New Year’s Day, general accounts of meat and fish consumed, game received by the royal kitchen and its provenance.