Thursday, 17 August 2017
Wednesday, 16 August 2017
Tuesday, 15 August 2017
Sunday, 13 August 2017
Saturday, 12 August 2017
From ‘fancy breads’ and smoked haddock to whisky and mulled wine, Queen Victoria displayed a healthy enjoyment of food and drink throughout her life. Food historian Professor Rebecca Earle explores the five-foot monarch’s hearty appetites…
Queen Victoria was certainly an enthusiastic eater. “Her little majesty”, as one observer called the five-foot monarch, had a hearty appetite, and displayed a healthy enjoyment of food from her earliest years. According to historian Cecil Woodham Smith, this worried Victoria’s relatives, who urged her to take more exercise and slow down. They fretted that the teenaged princess “eats a little too much, and almost always a little too fast”.
As a child, Victoria was subjected to a rigorous regime of controlled eating – dinner might consist of bread and milk. As a result, the young Victoria vowed to eat mutton every day when she grew up – and she certainly showed no intention of depriving herself once she reached adulthood.
An engraving of the young princess Victoria, who “displayed a healthy enjoyment of food from her earliest years”, says Rebecca Earle. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Mealtimes with the queen
Once queen, Victoria’s breakfast usually included porridge, fish, eggs on toast, ‘fancy breads’, and in later years, finnan haddies, a form of smoked haddock. Of course, she did not necessarily eat everything on offer, but felt it was important to have a choice.
Dinners might entail soup, fish, cold boiled chicken or roast beef, dessert and fruits, perhaps some of the pineapples grown specially for the royal household. She was also a fan of seasonal eating: “She never permits her own table or that of her household to be served with anything that is out of season,” it was noted in The Private Life of the Queen by a Member of the Royal Household, an anonymous account published in 1901. “Her Majesty confesses to a great weakness for potatoes, which are cooked for her in every conceivable way,” the same observer reported.
The queen particularly enjoyed sweet foods – her wedding to Albert in 1840 offered a taste of things to come. The mammoth bride cake (a slice of which was recently sold at auction for £1,500) weighed nearly 300lb and measured three yards across. Meanwhile, satirical ballads at the time suggested that the German Albert was equally attracted to “England’s fat queen and England’s fatter purse”.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's wedding cake, which weighed nearly 300lb and was three yards across. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Mulled wine, ice creams, cakes, and pastries of all sorts were an enduring pleasure. According to the anonymous account from 1901, she had a great appetite for: “chocolate sponges, plain sponges, wafers of two or three different shapes, langues de chat, biscuits and drop cakes of all kinds, tablets, petit fours, princess and rice cakes, pralines, almond sweets, and a large variety of mixed sweets.” “Her Majesty”, it added, “is very fond of all kinds of pies, and a cranberry tart with cream is one of her favourite dishes”.
In contrast, Victoria’s children were fed on the plain roasts and broths that she viewed as appropriate for the nursery. She also selected the meals of her grandchildren, using a violet pencil to annotate the day’s proposed menu.
Alongside tea, which “has ever ranked high in the royal favour”, the queen was also a lover of whisky, particularly in later years, when her tastes were influenced by John Brown, her Scottish ghillie and close confidante. A small distillery near Balmoral produced a version specially for her, which she took with soda water. Her taste for the spirit however predated her relationship with Brown. For instance, on a visit to Scotland in 1842 the queen enjoyed a glass of Atholl brose (a mixture of whisky and honey) served out of a glass said to have belonged to Niel Gow, the legendary Scottish fiddler.
Queen Victoria taking tea with her relatives. Tea “has ever ranked high in the royal favour”, says Rebecca Earle. (Getty Images)
The ‘dangers’ of a hearty appetite
Over the years, all this food and drink took its toll. “She is more like a barrel than anything else”, observed one doctor in the 1840s, who predicted that if the queen carried on eating she would become enormously corpulent. She soon abandoned her corset and was described as “very large, ruddy and fat”. By the 1880s, when she was in her sixties, Victoria’s body mass index was over 32, which would qualify her as obese by today’s standards. When advised to reduce her intake, she simply ate patented diet foods on top of her existing programme.
Victoria’s enthusiastic eating did not conform to the dietary advice typically dispensed to women at the time. Good table manners demanded sedate and measured eating and discouraged visible surrender to gustatory delight. The female digestive system was moreover said to require soft, dainty and bland foods. William Alcott’s A Young Woman’s Book of Health (1855) recommended avoiding “high-seasoned and exciting foods… as if they were rank poison”.
One reason for this was that too hearty an enjoyment of food suggested a dangerously enthusiastic attitude towards other bodily pleasures. After all, as the doctor and social reformer Mary Ward-Allen warned, an unnatural appetite for spicy, exciting food was the inevitable result of the equally unnatural practice of masturbation. A bird-like appetite, accompanied by a disregard for food, demonstrated a woman’s moral state, at the same time as enabling her to maintain a slim and dainty physique.
Queen Victoria herself, on the other hand, also enjoyed a tumble between the sheets. Things got off to a good start with her marriage to Prince Albert on 10 February 1840. “We did not sleep much”, she noted in her diary a few days later, describing their first nights together. According to historian Paula Bartley, the royal couple possessed a fine collection of erotic art, and Victoria responded with dismay when advised by her doctor to forgo sexual activity so as to prevent further pregnancies. She regarded her nine pregnancies as a tiresome impediment to married life.
Queen Victoria at her jubilee service in 1887. (Getty Images)
It has been suggested that the cultural roots of anorexia nervosa lie in the Victorian era’s denigration of eating as inherently unfeminine and dangerously sexual. Medical accounts from the 1890s began to describe cases of teenagers who stopped eating “on account of her mother talking to her about being so fat”, or because of a “fear of being seen as a bit heavy”. By not eating, young women distanced themselves from the taint of sexuality, and demonstrated their proper, genteel, and moral status. Deprived of other avenues for self-expression, young women could at least decline to eat; refusing food provided these women with a voice. As the historian Joan Jacobs Brumberg has argued, “young women searching for an idiom in which to say things about themselves focused on food and the body”.
If appetite was a voice, then Victoria was speaking loudly when she relished roast beef and whisky. Her uniquely powerful position allowed her to ignore some of the social constraints imposed on other young women, and make her own choices about her diet and her body.
Today, over 60 per cent of the UK population is classified as overweight, and sexual pleasure is considered something to celebrate. These may not be the ‘Victorian values’ that the Conservative Party urged us to adopt in 2006, but Victoria herself might endorse both aspects of contemporary British society, at least when applied to her own life. Certainly, sex and eating were activities dear to ‘her little majesty’.
Professor Rebecca Earle is a food historian and professor of history at the University of Warwick and the author of The Body of the Conquistador: Food, Race and the Colonial Experience in Spanish America (CUP 2012)
Etiquetas: The British Royal Family
Friday, 11 August 2017
Thursday, 10 August 2017
How do you get back into writing again? How do you beat writer’s block? Writing about yourself can be a great place to start.
Some of these writing prompts might lead to great blog posts, and other ideas might be more suited for your personal journal. You may not be able to relate to all of them, but I tried to make them pretty general! These creative writing exercises can also help you develop the characters in your short story, novel, or screenplay — just imagine your character answering them instead of you.
- Describe one of your earliest childhood memories.
- Write about what you see as one of your best qualities.
- Do you have the same religious beliefs that you had as a child? If so, why? If not, how and why did they change?
- Write about the benefits of being an only child—or the advantages of having siblings.
- Write about how a person can tell if they’re really in love. If you don’t know, write about how you don’t know.
- Are you shy about your body, such as when you change clothes in a locker room? Or are you comfortable with it? Why?
- Describe your favorite spot in your home, and why you like it.
- Write about one of the most admirable classmates or coworkers you’ve ever had.
- Write about one of the worst classmates or coworkers you’ve ever had.
- Tell your story about the time you succeeded at something because you just. Didn’t. Give. Up.
- Write about how you’re a typical resident of your city or town… or about how you’re different from most people there.
- Write about how you fit the stereotype of people from your country… or about how you don’t fit it at all.
- Describe your favorite toy or game when you were five years old.
- Write about one of your most useful talents.
- What superstitions do you believe in or follow? Do you do certain things to avoid bad luck, or make wishes in certain ways?
- Write about a death in your family.
- Write about a birth in your family.
- Tell your story about how you made a friend in the past five years or so. How did you meet them? What do you like about them?
- Tell your story about your first best friend as a child. How did you meet them? How did you play together?
- Describe a physical feature of yours that you really like.
- Is your home usually neat, or usually messy? Why is that? Do you think it matters? Why or why not?
- Describe a part of your job or everyday work that you love.
- Describe a part of your job or everyday work that you loathe.
- Tell your story about how you won something, like a contest, a game, or a raffle.
- Do you think your hometown is a good place to live? Why or why not?
- Do you fit your astrological sign? Why or why not?
- Write about when you think it’s morally acceptable to lie. If your answer is “never,” write about why you think that.
- Write about a trait you inherited or picked up from a parent.
- Write about a way in which you are very different from a parent.
- Discuss one of the most important qualities you think people should look for in a romantic partner.
- Discuss a quality that you think is overrated when choosing a romantic partner.
- Write about a kind of exercise or physical activity you enjoy.
- Describe the contents of a desk drawer or junk drawer in your home, and write about the thoughts or memories that the objects in there inspire.
- Write about what you wish people knew about your job, profession, or calling in life.
- Write about a habit or addiction that you’ve been struggling with for years.
- Write about an external situation that you’ve been struggling with for years.
- Discuss something you love about the people in your country.
- Discuss something you wish you could change about the people in your country.
- What was something you misunderstood as a child? It could be the definition of a word, or something about adult life.
- Describe the benefits of being an introvert or an extrovert (whichever one you are.)
- Describe the challenges of being an introvert or an extrovert (whichever one you are.)
- Tell your story about the time you spoke up for something you believed in. How did it feel? Were there any consequences?
- If you don’t have children – do you or did you want them? Why or why not?
- If you have children – what is one thing that surprised you about being a parent?
- Tell your story about when a friend (or a group of them) made your day.
- Tell your story about when a friend (or a group of them) broke your heart.
- Describe an experience at a doctor’s office, dentist’s office, or hospital.
- Describe your dream home in detail.
- Tell your story about how a teacher, coach, or boss supported or inspired you.
- Tell your story about how a teacher, coach, or boss was so awful, they didn’t deserve to have their job.
- Write about something you did in the past year that made you proud.
- Do you live in the city you grew up in? Why or why not?
- Tell your story about a trip or a visit you enjoyed when you were little.
- In what ways do you fit the stereotypes of your gender, and in what ways do you differ from the stereotypes?
- Discuss whether you think people should share their religious beliefs openly, or whether they should keep it private.
- Discuss why you do or don’t consider pets to be family members.
- Describe what you think would be a perfect romantic date.
- Write about a type or style of clothing that you feel uncomfortable wearing, or that you simply dislike.
- Describe your personal style in clothing and whether it’s changed over the years.
- Write about the worst house or apartment you’ve ever lived in.
- Tell your story about a time when, rightly or wrongly, you got in trouble at school or at work.
- Do you always vote in elections? Why or why not?
- Do you think people make snap judgments about you based on your appearance? Are they accurate or not?
- What’s something that people don’t learn about your personality unless they get to know you very well?
- Write about something that terrified you as a child.
- Write about a particular phobia or fear you have now. If you’re not scared of anything, write about that!
- Write about something you believe that isn’t a particularly popular belief.
- What’s something you wanted badly as a child? Did you get it? If so, was it everything you hoped? If not, did it matter?
- When you’re feeling sad or down, what are ways that you make yourself feel better?
- What is something that makes you almost irrationally angry?
- Write about an object you own that has religious, spiritual, or symbolic significance to you.
- If you were a billionaire, what gifts would you give to your immediate family?
- Do you consider yourself hopeful or cynical about romance? Why?
- Write a note apologizing to a part of your body for insulting it in the past.
- Write a note thanking a part of your body for doing such a good job.
- Tell your story about when you had a delightful guest in your home.
- Tell your story about when you had an unwelcome visitor in your home.
- Describe the time you were a guest in an unusual home.
- What was the strangest course or class you ever took?
- Write about a time when you tried your best – and it didn’t pan out. How did you get over it?
- Write about a small thing you accomplished this week.
- Write about the ways that your hometown has changed over the years.
- Write about a way your country is changing for the better.
- Describe someone who bullied you as a child. Why do you think they did it?
- Do you believe that things happen for a reason, or do they just happen randomly? Why do you think this?
- Do you believe that you have a lot of control over your destiny or future? Why or why not?
- Write down a funny story that your family likes to tell again and again.
- What do you consider to be “deal breakers” in a marriage or romantic relationship?
- Tell your story about a time you got injured or you were in an accident.
- Write about some of the things you do at home when you’re completely alone.
- Tell your story about how you learned a new skill.
- Describe the way you get to school or to work every day.
- Propose a frivolous or ridiculous law that you would like to implement, and explain your reasoning.
- Write about something you did (or didn’t do) that you’re proud of from a moral or religious standpoint.
- Tell your story about having a great time at a party.
- Tell your story about a party you wish you had never attended or hosted.
- Write about a tattoo you have and its significance, a tattoo you would like to get… or why you would never, ever get a tattoo.
- Tell a story that has to do with your hair, or the lack of it.
- Write about a feud or rift in your family.
- If you had a whole day free of responsibilities or chores, how would you spend it?
Etiquetas: Writing Prompts