Thursday, March 14, 2013

Celebrate Pi Day, 18th Century-Style

Did you know that today is Pi Day? That's right, it's 3/14 for those of us who write our dates month/day/year (which I realize not all of you do), and in honor of this fact let us eat pie!

This pie recipe is shared from Colonial Williamsburg, just down the road from me, and can be found along with many other tantalizing treats on their website.

"Contrary to popular belief, apple pie isn’t American, it’s British. There were no apple trees or pies in America before the British settled. The spice most often called for was cloves, as it is in this recipe."

18th Century

Put a crust in the bottom of a dish, put on it a layer of ripe apples pared and sliced thin, then a layer of powdered sugar; do this alternately till the dish is full; put in a few tea-spoonsful of rose-water and some cloves; put on a crust and bake it.
Randolph, Mary, “The Virginia Housewife” p. 152

21st Century

  • Pastry (homemade or store bought)
  • 8 Granny Smith applies
  • ¼ – 1 cup granulated sugar or castor sugar
  • 1 tsp. rose flower water (optional)
  • 2 tsp. whole cloves
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°.
  2. Remove one piece of dough from refrigerator and let stand until soft.
  3. Lightly flour your work surface and roll out dough into a 12-inch circle. Then, wrap the dough around the rolling pin to transfer into a 9-inch pie pan. Unwrap the dough from the rolling pin into the pie pan, making sure the dough is form-fitted to the pan. Allow the dough to overhang the lip of the pan. Return pie pan with dough to the refrigerator until it is needed.
  4. Peel, core and quarter the apples. Cut the quarters into slices that are ¼ inch thick.
  5. Retrieve the pie pan from the refrigerator. Fill the pie by alternating layers of apples, sugar, rose water and whole cloves until pie is filled.
  6. Roll the second piece of pastry dough into a 12-inch circle. Then, wet the bottom lip of the dough and place the top piece over the filling. Trim the dough so it is flush with the edge of the pie pan. Flute the edge or press with a fork to seal. With a knife, cut 4 slits on the top of the pie.
  7. Place a rimmed baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven. Place the pie in the middle of the sheet. Bake at 450° for 10 minutes, then at 350° for 35-45 minutes.
  8. Allow pie to rest 5-10 minutes before slicing.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Recommended Link- Prison Pets in the French Revolution

I cannot resist sharing this fascinating article with you. We know of so many pets of the aristocracy, but I had long thought that their fates were lost after their owners' fall. Apparently they were frequently the focus of Revolutionary displeasure, and also of incredible kindness. You can read more here.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

February 20th, 1783

Perhaps it is not only the Americans who lack the ettiquette needed to navigate the halls of Versailles. I have found myself embarassed by small mistakes several times of late, though Madame Elizabeth is kind enough to take no notice of them. I had heard that she was a pious and gentle lady, but had not thought to find her so informal.

Common though it is to keep to a regimented schedule at Court, she keeps one even in private, preferring to dedicate certain hours to riding or walking, study, prayers, and even to music. I regret that I have not practiced with my harp in some time as I have been called upon to play twice now, and encouraged to play Madame's harp anytime I may wish.

This does not serve to illustrate the informality of her character, but though the hours and activities may be somewhat strictly observed, there is some frivolity to be had, and on occasion, especially when joined by the Queen, there has been such sport as would make our elders blush. Such chasing, such laughter, such light-hearted merriment, that it is more like a company of friends; which is what my mistress seems to wish.

Versailles is, as ever, crowded with onlookers and intriguers and gossips, and my cramped quarters are not to be envied. It makes me miss l'Hotel de Sully and Saint Saturnin very much, especially now that I feel spring is not so far. I can hardly complain that my charge is heavy, though, and as Mme de Vergenne's delivery of her son was not an easy one, I may well be asked to stay a while longer. I can hardly refuse if asked, but I do long to return to Auvergne, and have sent word that Sully is to be given up. I will not continue to lease it if I am to remain at Versailles and never live there, or if I return to Auvergne.

Olympe, Comtesse

Friday, March 8, 2013


Trivia returns with this festive question:- What was the "fowl" name given to the pinkish hue of eighteenth-century champagne?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

February 1st, 1783

I barely have time to miss Thierry lately, as I have been convinced to accept a position at Court as a lady to Madame Elizabeth, the King's sister. Fortunately, I am only serving until the Comtesse de Vergennes is delivered of her child, and sufficiently recovered.

Versailles is busier than usual as well, since Peace between England and the Americans has been negotiated. Peace between France and England is still to be determined and may take some time yet. The American representatives are quite interesting in both appearance and deportment, and it must be said that they are not well-prepared for the expectations of France and frequently a cause for embarassment.

I find myself constantly fatigued, and not merely from my charge at Court, but from the demands of intrigue surrounding my now very well-known fight with the Marquis de F-, as well as the seemingly unending trials of Thierry's banishment. I feel that of late both Monsieur Poisson and Menars have been avoiding my requests for information, which is a frustration deeply felt. After championing Menars engagement to Clementine de Rodez, I am still waiting for him to deliver his end of the bargain and find the doctor who treated R- before his sudden death.

Every year I long for spring and Auvergne, but never so much as I do this year. Spring, Auvergne, and Thierry are the thoughts which sustain me. And perhaps the dual purposes of truth and vengeance.