Saturday 23 December 1665

At my office all the morning and home to dinner, my head full of business, and there my wife finds me unexpectedly. But I not being at leisure to stay or talk with her, she went down by coach to Woolwich, thinking to fetch Mrs. Barbary to carry her to London to keep her Christmas with her, and I to the office. This day one come to me with four great turkies, as a present from Mr. Deane, at Harwich, three of which my wife carried in the evening home with her to London in her coach (Mrs. Barbary not being to be got so suddenly, but will come to her the next week), and I at my office late, and then to my lodgings to bed.

17 Annotations

First Reading

Patricia  •  Link

I'm wondering if these turkeys were plucked and cleaned, or still in their feathers. Also, who can tell me if people back then made use of the cold weather to keep fresh meat longer? It would take quite awhile for Sam's household to consume 4 great turkeys.

Ruben  •  Link

Before refrigeration birds and fish were kept alive till the last moment possible.

A. Hamilton  •  Link

At my office all the morning and home to dinner, my head full of business, and there my wife finds me unexpectedly...

Bess has been listening to a voice in the air that sings:

If thou shouldst wed a businessman, be wary, oh, be wary.
He'll tell you he's detained in town on business necessary,
His bus'ness is the bus'ness with his pretty secretary,

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Sam, do not tell us you're thinking of leaving Bess alone on Christmas.

"You're a mean one, Mr. Pepys. Your heart is full of coal. You're as slippery as a eel..."

JonM  •  Link

As the link from the diary entry says, Turkeys used to be walked from Norfolk (& to a lesser exent Suffolk) to London in time for Christmas. Harwich is in Suffolk. They often started out in October to get there on time. They were fed on the stubble and spilt grain after the crops were harvested.

Daytime outside temperatures in December aren't typically much different from inside a refrigerator anyway, particularly as the little ice age in Europe was in full swing in the late seventeenth century.

Eric Rowe  •  Link

JonM I'm afraid Harwich is in Essex. These were the goose-girls, fattening their geese on the way down from Norfolk. Turkey were more of a problem as they had to be fed and has sore feet problems.
So when the rhyme was going around in Henry VIII's time:
Goosey, goosey gander where shall I wander...
everyone knew who was being talked about.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"This beats walking, eh Burt? And the lady's not too hard on the eyes, despite the human neck. Now this is the life, I guess we're going to grace some wealthy fellow's estate lawn...Sweet. Gobble-gobble...Uh, Pardon me, ma'am." nod to Bess sitting opposite

"You're living in a dream world, Cecil. This is all subterfuge, we're being led unprotesting to slaughter."

"But..." Cecil nods to indicate coach's plush interior.

"This is nice...When do we eat?" Nevil, the third member of the group.

"Get eaten, you bloody fool!" Burt fumes.

"But, it's almost Christmas. Joy and good fellowship and all...Are you saying that sweet girl'd be cruel enough to wring our necks and cut off our heads at Christmas?" Cecil, anxiously. Gobble-gobble.

"In a heartbeat...But it'll probably be some servant girl who does it."

"Ah..." Cecil relaxes. "We're fine, then. I know the family. Their girl Jane let me go a year or two back. The famed Jane you've heard tell of. You're much too suspicious, Burt."

"No longer in their employ, moron."

"Good ole Jane, our people's heroine? Canned?!"

"Left, I hear. Something about the brother being sent off."

Cecil, anxious look at Bess, deep in carried novel. "They're eating their own now, too?"

"Lord knows. But there's no doubt we're on the menu."

"I like to eat. When do we eat?" Nevil, cutting in.

"Stop perpetuating the stereotype, Nevil. We're dead as those geese cackling away outside if we don't do something."

"But..." Cecil.

"There's only one of her...Thanks to that money-grubbing, skirt-chasing husband of hers." Burt eyes the reading Bess...

Right, that Pepys fellow, Cecil nods.

"...And three of us."


cgs  •  Link

keeping of ducks geese and turkeys: In my ill gotten youth before all the mod cons when electricity was as available as hens teeth, we had home made caves filled with straw and hay, where we kept the plucked fowls, before taken them up to London town. 'Twas best to pluck them in cool of the evening, using a blow lamp [torch] to get those loose down that be hard to pluck with cold fingers. Turkeys had to wait till dinner to be near before their necks be cut, along with boars and sows , does not take long for the meat to get lousy and ready to poison 'umans.

Oh! how the WWII changed the habits of living, the baker, butcher, grocer, iron monger, fish monger, onion seller, tailor, milkman etc..

Oh! 'wot' e'er happened to fresh meat, fresh veggies, fresh fruit, bread, cakes pies , milk never more than 8 hours old.

Of course Christmas pud be made in November and brewed in good old preservatives, rum & silver sixpences, along fully flavoured fruit cake.

Ralph Berry  •  Link

"Oh!'wot' e'er happened to fresh meat, fresh veggies, fresh fruit...."

I think these memories may be a little rose tinted. The meat was very often not fresh which was why strong spices were used to disguise the "offness" With a very cold winter like 1665 I am not sure how many green vegetables would have still been around for Christmas, no peas or beans to take out the freezer and the cabbages would probably have been stunted and frozen. If the ground could have been dug there would have been carrots, sweeds and parsnips stored in the ground in straw. However what was available in season would have been natural, without chemical fertiliser or sprays.

Here in New Zealand with the economic threat and the desire to move to natural food there has been a resurgence of home vegetable gardens and farmers markets yet at the same time we are importing masses of produce from China. However I think our modern palates would find it a little hard to eat alongside Sam but I would like to try one of his fine venison pies.

Seasons greeting to all.

cgs  •  Link

" peas or beans to take out the freezer..."
Part of fun in life be de-podding peas into colander and one could enjoy the seasons. Pull a carrot fresh from the soil, and not eat them their foreign 'carrits' from all corners of the world.

Australian Susan  •  Link

My grandfather was once offered a turkey much in the same manner as Sam gets these turkies. The giver said he would send in to my grandparents from his farm in the country on Christmas Eve. My grandmother expected a killed, plucked and drawn turkey as it was not going to be delivered until the 24th. Alas, when the pony and trap drew up, a very live turkey was delivered to the house and my grandmother had to face her cook with the news and persuade the garden boy to kill it, my grandmother's cook being the sort that did not kill her own fowl, expecting poulterer's assistants to do this. The cook nearly gave notice and my grandmother blamed her husband for not listening to the details about the "gift". This tale used to come out every Christmas when my grandmother was in her 80's.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

John Evelyn's Diary (Dirk's not having posted it)

23. To Wotton to see my Wife, & kept Christmas with my hospitable [elder] Brother [George Evelyn of Wotton Park, FSA (Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London)} :

Second Reading

Louise Hudson  •  Link

Ralph Berry wrote, “I would like to try one of his fine venison pies”.

You can make one or have someone make it for you. Here’s one recipe, though it is probaby much better than anything Pepys ever had.…

There are many other recipes online, too.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Merry Christmas Louise ... I haven't made it to O.C. all year! Hope you are well, and dry.

Louise Hudson  •  Link

Mweey Christmas ro you, too, SDS. We are well and dry and more important, unburnt. We made it through the latest fires unscathed, though some friends lost their houses.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

It has been an "interesting" year for many of us! Nuff said. 2019 must be better.

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