Tuesday 13 November 1660

Early going to my Lord’s I met with Mr. Moore, who was going to my house, and indeed I found him to be a most careful, painful,1 and able man in business, and took him by water to the Wardrobe, and shewed him all the house; and indeed there is a great deal of room in it, but very ugly till my Lord hath bestowed great cost upon it.

So to the Exchequer, and there took Spicer and his fellow clerks to the Dog tavern, and did give them a peck of oysters, and so home to dinner, where I found my wife making of pies and tarts to try her oven with, which she has never yet done, but not knowing the nature of it, did heat it too hot, and so a little overbake her things, but knows how to do better another time.

At home all the afternoon. At night made up my accounts of my sea expenses in order to my clearing off my imprest bill of 30l. which I had in my hands at the beginning of my voyage; which I intend to shew to my Lord to-morrow. To bed.

18 Annotations

First Reading

john lauer  •  Link

There were no oven thermometers yet;
in fact no thermometers, for another 50+ years. [infoplease.com]

vincent  •  Link

Q. was the Oven in house or in the back yard?

Mary  •  Link

the oven

See notes to entry for 19th July, when there was discussion of Elizabeth's new range. An oven would have formed part of the range, which was most probably located in the kitchen.

Even today, with in-built thermostats and regulators, it takes a little while to get used to a new oven. Imagine how much more difficult when it was the state of the fire itself that had to be geared to the goods that were to be cooked. All other considerations apart, different fuels burn at different temperatures, as do different grades of coal.

Mary  •  Link

a peck of oysters

A peck is a unit of dry measure by volume, generally equivalent to 2 Imperial gallons or 9.1 litres. 4 pecks= 1 bushel

Carolina  •  Link

The way Sam talks about his wife, he seems to treat her more like a daughter than a wife. The more I read the more I think of him as an indulgent father to her.

Kevin Peter  •  Link

How did people back then judge the temperature of ovens back then? Was it simply measuring how much fuel to add to the fire?

Mary  •  Link

Judging oven temperature.

The state of the fire itself, and the extent to which it had been stoked or damped down, would have given one rough measure. A simple test (for example, using a piece of bread to show how quickly it toasted in the oven) would have given a little further guidance, but folk must have relied largely on experience.

Second Reading

Edith Lank  •  Link

When I was first married, we had a gas oven with no thermostat, and some cook books in those days talked about opening the oven door and judging by how many seconds you could hold your hand in there. Lamentably subjective of course.

Louise Hudson  •  Link

My grandmother had a coal stove. She said she could judge the approximate temperature by opening the oven door and feeling the heat on her face. She baked many loaves of bread and meals for a large family so she must have known what she was doing. I think one can learn to judge approximate temperatures the way my grandmother did with enough experience--and enough burnt meals.

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

OED has:

A. Of money: Lent, or paid in advance, advanced, esp. to soldiers, sailors, and public officials. Obs.
. . 1658 E. Phillips New World Eng. Words, Imprest Money, is money paid to Souldiers before hand.
1690 London Gaz. No. 2580/4, Some Seamen..having received Imprest Money or Wages..have Absconded.

. . B. n.1 . . c. Auditor of the Imprest (see quot. 1670). bill of imprest, an order authorizing a person to draw money in advance: cf. imprest-bill n. at Compounds.
1665 S. Pepys Diary 13 Dec. (1972) VI. 327, I did get a bill of imprest to Captain Cocke, to pay myselfe in part.
. . 1666 S. Pepys Diary 17 Oct. (1972) VII. 328 The clearing all my imprest bills . . ‘

‘Painful . . 4. b. Of a person: painstaking, assiduous, diligent. Now rare.
. . 1612 J. Smith Map of Virginia 22 The women be verie painefull and the men often idle.
. . 1741 T. C. Pagett Misc. Prose & Verse 359 The painful Student, spends his sleepless Nights, And fancies he's Immortal, if he writes . . ‘

‘Peck Etymology: Probably < Anglo-Norman pek, pec, pekke, pekk unit of capacity for dry goods (c1240), of uncertain origin . .
. . 2. a. A unit of capacity for dry goods equal to a quarter of a bushel, now equivalent (in Britain) to two imperial gallons (approx. 9.09 litres) or (in the U.S.) to eight quarts (approx. 8.81 litres) . .
c1405 (▸c1390) Chaucer Reeve's Tale (Hengwrt) (2003) l. 90 The Millere sholde noght stelen hem half a pekke Of corn by sleighte.
. . 1708 E. Arwaker Truth in Fiction iii. xx. 220 A Friend..Ask'd his old Neighbour how the Market went; What Rate a Peck of Wheat, or Rye, did bear?
1725 R. Bradley Chomel's Dictionaire Œconomique at Gallon, In Liquids two Pottles..make one Gallon..But in dry Measure, two Gallons, which is six Pottles, make one Peck . . ‘

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"At night made up my accounts of my sea expenses in order to my clearing off my imprest bill of 30l. which I had in my hands at the beginning of my voyage; which I intend to shew to my Lord to-morrow."

L&M: Pepys obtained the imprest from Sandwich who had been given £500 by the Navy Treasury: http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1… and
http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1… Sandwich's accounts (29 July-14 November) were signed on the 14th.

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Autumnal pies -- one of Pepys favorite subject. But it didn't necessarily look like the pie we're used to:

In the court of pre-Revolutionary France, hunting was October’s most important recreational activity. Complex dishes of game and poultry, the origins of which were in the culture of the chase, were served at autumnal feasts.

An English recipe for the pot d’ouile, or olio, from 1723 reads like an account of a mass extinction. It contains a rump of beef, mutton, pork, venison, bacon, geese, turkeys, capons, pheasants, wigeons, partridges, and Snipes (half a dozen), Quails (two dozen) and Larks (four dozen).

Of equal complexity was the terrine or tureiner, which derived its name from the terracotta pot in which it was baked.

These dishes served as emblems of the bounty of the aristocratic host’s parks.

By the late 17th century, French silversmiths were developing special vessels for serving these entrées, although by then the number of ingredients had been trimmed to suit refined Gallic sensibilities. Some of the earliest are from the workshop of court goldsmith Thomas Germain (1673–1748).
These pots d’ouile and terrines are among the most magnificent silver vessels ever made.

A pair of tureens made in the late 1720s (now at the Getty) features lifelike wild boar head-shaped handles cast in silver.
A set from 1745–50 is crowned with covers graced with trompe l’oeil cauliflowers, crayfish and crabs.
The aim: to titillate guests’ appetites with realistic depictions of the ingredients of the stew they were about to consume.

One of the mysteries of culinary history is the sudden appearance of these spectacular tureens in the early 18th century. There is little material evidence before then for receptacles specifically designed for serving soups and stews. It is assumed the tureen’s ancestors were humble terracotta bowls, although none have survived.
By contrast, the earliest tureens are among the most elaborate expressions of the silversmith’s art.
Later examples crafted from porcelain were based on the shapes of these silver predecessors.

These impressive items did not crystallise out of thin air. Extravagantly ornamented and gilded food containers with lids had graced tables for centuries before the silver tureen emerged: receptacles made, rather incongruously, of pastry.
Pies such as these were not cut into slices. Instead, the pastry lid was carefully cut off and the contents spooned out. They were, in effect, edible tureens – the bird on top identifying the nature of the contents, rather like the crayfish, crab and cauliflower on Germain’s silver tureens.
An engraving in a recipe book of c. 1720 by the London pastry cook Edward Kidder depicts a wild boar pie with more than a passing similarity to Germain’s later olio pot. As items that sit outside of familiar categories of design, art historians have long overlooked such edible vessels.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link


Pies covered in ornamental devices were commonplace on high-status tables in the 16th and 17th centuries, and are frequently depicted in Netherlandish, German and Italian paintings.
Kitchen Interior (1644) by David Teniers the Younger features a large pie decorated with gilt strapwork, awaiting delivery to the dining room. The pastry has an Imperial double-headed eagle surmounted by the head, tail and wings of a swan bedecked in a floral headdress, and a bauble in its gilt-covered beak.

In a collaborative painting of 1618, The Sense of Taste by Peter Paul Rubens and Jan Brueghel, 4 similar pies are dressed with taxidermy specimens of a peacock, a pheasant and a partridge. The birds are all dotted with gold leaf – some even wear jewellery – while the pastry cases are covered in gilded patterns.

The most notable collection of designs for these astonishing creations is Conrad Hagger’s Neues Saltzburgisches Koch-Buch (1719).
Hagger was cook to the Archbishop of Saltzburg and his book includes more than 300 detailed engravings, many of tureen-like pastries.

A number are similar to the bird pies painted by Teniers and Brueghel, although Hagger crafts his swans and peacocks entirely from pastry and provides diagrams to show how they can be constructed.
Capricious pies depicting lions, griffins or the pelican in her piety are illustrated alongside hare pasteten (pies) with gadrooned pastry sides and acanthus-adorned lids.

Despite the triumph of the tureen, pastry cooks continued to make decorative tureen-like pies.
In an engraving from 1740 of a feast in Vienna in homage to Empress Maria Theresa, an ornamental pie – its top removed and a ladle protruding from its contents – sits next to fashionable pots d’ouile.

Pies continued to appear on the same table as their grand silver relatives – a taste of the eclectic attitude that so lavishly furnished the 18th century.

Simehow I doubt Elizabeth was putting a swan with feathers on top of her pies -- with or without the jewels!

Excepted from the October 2023 issue of Apollo.

Phil Jones  •  Link

Chris Squire: Imprest. OED has the adjectival form (eg, imprest money) as obsolete but the noun form certainly isn't:
An advance (of money) made to one who is charged with some business by the state, to enable him to proceed with the discharge of the same. †Formerly, also, advance-pay of soldiers or sailors.

The term was still in constant use in HM Customs & Excise when I retired. I had an imprest for decades to cover travel and other expenses. Reimbursement of expenses was claimed monthly but staff weren't expected to fund such expenses out of their own pocket. An imprest of about one and half times the annual claim was awarded and reviewed regularly.

Francois  •  Link

Just to add to San Diego Sarah's comment-Live birds were also sometimes put into a pie, so when it was opened they would fly out to amuse the guests-This is referenced in the "Sing a song of sixpence" nursery rhyme

RLB  •  Link

Back to the very first annotation for today...

In fact, thermometers had been around for nearly 50 years by now. However, they were scientific and/or experimental instruments. I;m sure in a few years Sam will handle a few at the Royal Society, along with Boyle.

It would indeed be a bit more than 50 years until Fahrenheit invented the first truly accurate thermometer, the first practical one (clinical, in that case) took a decade or two more, and a workable oven thermometer centuries more.

It turns out to be easy to measure temperature on an -ish scale, and much harder to do it well.

RLB  •  Link

@San Diego Sarah: there's nothing incongruous to me about a pie served in a dish of pie crust. After all, what else is the good old English pork pie?

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Or a Cornish Pasty, RLB.
This concerns the scale of the pie, and that you don't eat the crust, just the innerds.
Nor do you find a whole dead swan posed on top of your pork pie or pasty these days, fortunately.

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