Wednesday 22 May 1661

To Westminster, and there missed of my Lord, and so about noon I and W. Howe by water to the Wardrobe, where my Lord and all the officers of the Wardrobe dined, and several other friends of my Lord, at a venison pasty. Before dinner, my Lady Wright and my Lady Jem. sang songs to the harpsicon.

Very pleasant and merry at dinner. And then I went away by water to the office, and there staid till it was late. At night before I went to bed the barber came to trim me and wash me, and so to bed, in order to my being clean to-morrow.

25 Annotations

First Reading

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"the barber came to trim me and wash me,and so to bed" he did all this by candlelight I suppose; they should have weighted until morning and being mid spring he could have done it by daylight.

Bradford  •  Link

"my Lord and all the officers of the Wardrobe dined, and several other friends of my Lord, at a venison pasty."

The phrasing makes it sounds like "The Venison Pasty" was an eating house, and indeed what were the dimensions of said comestible likely to be, if one fed all these officials and bystanders?

dirk  •  Link

venison pasty

If I understand correctly this means "venison pie" in modern English. Cfr. "pastry" (slightly different meaning now) and Dutch "pastei". Must have been a huge pie by all standards - but this was not unusual at the time.

So a comestible item, not a place. The preposition "at" which is being used here is slightly misleading to modern English speakers.

vicente  •  Link

"...At night before I went to bed the barber came to trim me and wash me, and so to bed, in order to my being clean to-morrow...." I like that last minute add on.[was he abed for the cleansing ] Cannot wait to find out the reason for this self awareness. Is it the wife? she says "not to night unless?????" Is it his birthday ?
House calls by Barber, late at night too. Am I reading this correctly, the barber not only trims sideburns,nose hairs, ear-growth hairs, lets out some excess blud, does he also trim chest growth. Or does it just mean the hair[that that is above his ear lobes] gets washed and debugged and trimmed..

Mary  •  Link

Trimming by candlelight.

Liza Picard (Restoration London) has an alarming description of this process:

'The barber took with him a candlestick with an extra candle in a crosspiece attached halfway up. "This (i.e. the main upright) he sticketh in his Apron strings on his left side or breast when he useth to trim by candlelight."'

The washing must surely refer to washing the head and hair.

Australian Susan  •  Link

Pies and pasties and pastries.
I have read this as a pie being something in a dish with a piecrust on top and a pasty is something where the whole is wrapped in pastry which is folded over to make a semi-circular shape. A pastry is a sweet comestible - dough sweetened with sugar or honey with fruit or custard in, shaped by hand and baked on a flat tray. A "pastry-cook" then would translate as a French patissier. Meat chopped up in any way tended to be cooked in pastry often as a means just of containing it. They did not seem to go in for dishes of chopped meat without the pastry wrapping or piecrust.(and no mention of vegetables!) Any other knowledge on this?

Kevin Sheerstone  •  Link

Australian Susan - "and no mention of vegetables"

True enough, but I think Language Hat's posting in Background/Food and Drink/Fruit and Vegetables (23 Feb. 2003) sums up this matter pretty well.

If I kept a diary (I don't), today's entry might include :"Had sole for dinner", but I very much doubt that I would add "with boiled potatoes and peas". I think I would presume that the veggies were "taken as read"

I have always assumed that humans are true omnivores, but the seemingly universal entreaty : "Eat your vegetables" has got me wondering - are we in a transitional phase?

Unfortunately for Sam, the joy of "pie and chips" was unknown to him! (Yes, I've been there).

Australian Susan  •  Link

"and no mention of vegetables"
I was referring to writings on food in general from this period. It's no wonder they all seem to have been constipated and have kidney stones, given the general diet! It would seem if you could afford to eat meat, you did - often in large amounts. The poor were left to eat the parsnips, cabbage, leeks, onions and carrots etc. which were seen very much as a second class diet indicative of poverty. Did vegetarians exist in the 17th century? (not eating meat through choice).

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"Did vegetarians exist in the 17th century?" in India for sure;as for myself I am on a Atkins diet.

Pauline  •  Link

"and no mention of vegetables"
The venison pasty itself may have contained onions, sweet potatoes and parsley. I’m wondering how big this pasty was, or would several be made to serve a large group like this? He always writes as if it is one pasty that serves many (and some leftover for the next day).

From “Pepys at Table” by Driver and Berriedale-Johnson:
“It is quite possible that Pepys ate roots and greens without caring about them enough to mention them. It is equally possible that he thought them bad for him. His digestion, though otherwise robust, was noticeably subject to wind and colic, and this was precisely the effect expected at the time from vegetable, not just from tubers such as Jerusalem artichokes and sweet potatoes.”

Hic Retearius  •  Link

Meat and vegetables

Inefficiency of conversion is always trotted out as the reason for a preponderance of vegetables in the diet and it is compelling but another factor has always niggled away at this poster. Is it possible that a difference in meat eating habits has an origin even beyond cost? Could it be that in northern climes and especially in the larger, longer lived, animals that there was a tendency to less infestation by parasites and so there was less selection pressure on the human population over time toward a vegetable diet? Could that also be part of the origin for the perception of the desirability of muscle tissue over offal where the latter could be expected to contain more parasites dangerous to humans?

Australian Susan  •  Link

"desirability of muscle tissue over offal"
In England, this goes back many centuries: when the Normans staged their coup d'etat and became the ruling class, they introduced many French words into the English language. One example is words for meat. All the desirable muscle tissue bits of domestic livestock eaten by humans have names of Norman French origin (e.g. steak) wheras all the inner bits are Anglo Saxon - kidney, liver, lights, tripe etc. Hic Retearius' hypothesis that it was some sort of instinctive veering away (if you could afford it)from the 'inside bits' because of the dangers of parasites is most intriguing.This is analagous to people (until the advent of refridgeration - an Australian invention by the way) not eating pork in the summer. My grandmother would never do this. Jewish food rules mostly have a basis in fact: if you are a marignal people living in a desert landscape, you can't afford to all get sick. Pigs will eat anything (persistent rumour has it that this was how some dead British soldiers were disposed of in the 70s in N.Ireland)and their meat was often infected if they were left free to scavenge. Even Mrs Beeton (late 19th century) urged housewives to always know where your butcher got his meat from.

vicente  •  Link

Meanwhile John Evelyn who was attending The Society, was observing poisoning of animals.
Extract from De Beer 22 May 1661 "Was the Scotch-Covenant burnt by the common hangman in divers places of Lond: o! prodigious change! This after {noone} at our Society were severall discourses concerning poisons. Sir Jo Finch told us of an exquisite poyson of the D: of Florences that kill'd with a drop: That drawing a threit & Needle dipt in it thro a hens thigh it perish'd immediatly, but if an hot needle were thrust after it, it cured the wound. This was tried also on a dog, successfully: That any thing thus killed, the limb afected being suddainly cut off the rest eate most delicatly and tender, without any detriment to the Eater: Hereupon Dr. Charleton affirm'd that having killed a Linnet with Nux Vomica suddainly: a Sea-Gull eating that bird died also immediately & some other animal that prey'd on that Gull the Venume in force agrer the Concoction : I return'd home..."

dirk  •  Link

"and no mention of vegetables"
Re - Pauline

I doubt very much whether sweet potatoes would have been part of any pie or pasty. Potatoes in all varieties were not part of the human diet yet - they were still seen as an overseas (American) oddity possibly unhealthy, definitely unbiblical.

Pauline  •  Link

"...were not part of the human diet yet .."
Re - Dirk
Humans were eating them in South America and they were brought to Europe in the mid 1550s. Sweet potatoes lead the way in the British Isles, as they adapted more readily to the climate. Recipes in the recipe books of the 1600s.

Second Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"Jewish food rules mostly have a basis in fact: if you are a marginal people living in a desert landscape, you can't afford to all get sick. " That kosher laws were not, as many believed -- at least since Maimonides, 12C rabbi and physician -- , primitive health regulations has been argued by anthropologists at least as early and eminent as Émile Durkheim's The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (1912) and later most notably by Mary Douglas in Purity and Danger (1966).…

GrannieAnnie  •  Link

"If I understand correctly this means "venison pie" in modern English... Must have been a huge pie by all standards - but this was not unusual at the time."

Which brings to mind the world-famous all time biggest:
"4 and 20 blackbirds baked in a pie, when the pie was opened the birds began to sing, wasn't that a dainty dish to set before the King?"

I wonder for which king and which era this political pie was written.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Many interpretations have been placed on this rhyme. It is known that a 16th-century amusement was to place live birds in a pie, as a form of entremet. An Italian cookbook from 1549 (translated into English in 1598) contained such a recipe: "to make pies so that birds may be alive in them and flie out when it is cut up" and this was referred to in a cook book of 1725 by John Nott. The wedding of Marie de' Medici and Henry IV of France in 1600 contains some interesting parallels. "The first surprise, though, came shortly before the starter—when the guests sat down, unfolded their napkins and saw songbirds fly out...."

In The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, Iona and Peter Opie write that the rhyme has been tied to a variety of historical events or folklorish symbols such as the queen symbolizing the moon, the king the sun, and the blackbirds the number of hours in a day; or, as the authors indicate, the blackbirds have been seen as an allusion to monks during the period of Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII, with Catherine of Aragon representing the queen, and Anne Boleyn is maid. The rye and the birds have been seen to represent a tribute sent to Henry VII, and on another level, the term "pocketful of rye" may in fact refer to an older term of measurement. The number 24 has been tied to the Reformation and the printing of the English Bible with 24 letters. From a folklorish tradition, the blackbird taking the maid's nose has been seen as a demon stealing her soul.…

Bill  •  Link

PASTY, the Crust of a Pye raised without a Dish.
---An Universal Etymological English Dictionary. N. Bailey, 1675.

This appears to be also the modern definition, at least among the descendants of the Cornish miners of northern Michigan!…

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

OED has:

‘pasty, n. < . . Old French pasté . .
a. Originally: †a pie of seasoned meat, esp. venison, enclosed in a pastry crust and baked without a dish (obs.) . .
1296 in E. Stokes & L. Drucker Warwickshire Feet of Fines (1939) II. 30 (MED), Simon le Pasteymaker.
. . 1660 S. Pepys Diary 6 Jan. (1970) I. 9 The venison pasty was palpable beef, which was not handsome . . ‘

Mary Ellen  •  Link

4 and 20 blackbirds, baked in a pie

Third Reading

LKvM  •  Link

Re Australian Susan's "(until the advent of refridgeration [sic] - an Australian invention by the way)":

Dr. John Gorrie (1803-1855) of Apalachicola, Florida, USA, was the inventor of modern mechanical refrigeration. He did this because he wanted to keep his patients cool.

Log in to post an annotation.

If you don't have an account, then register here.