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Downton Abbey Cooks:
Take over Mrs. Patmore's kitchen

Downton Abbey Cooks blog: changes at the dawn of the 1920s


© Downton Abbey Cooks - Downton Abbey Cooks blog: changes at the dawn of the 1920s
© Downton Abbey Cooks

Foster has also recently been approached by several major publishing houses, including Penguin US, about possibly writing a book. She turned them down, but was inspired to write one anyway.

Foster hopes to self-publish the cookbook as an e-book before the PBS launch of Season 3 in January. It would “allow people to be their own ‘Downton Abbey’ cook and entertain but in that style,” she said.

Because early twentieth century dwellers tended to have slightly different health concerns (read: BUTTER), Foster has tried to adapt some of the recipes (see Quinoa Cakes: A Healthy Olympic Tea Option). “People can modernize it,” she explained, “and take some of the better foods.”

So how did British food get such a bad rep? In an article published in NPR’s food blog, The Salt, Maria Godoy attempted to answer that very question. Her conclusion: World War I. As she explained it, “Plenty of working-class Brits were domestic servants back then — in middle-class as well as upper-class homes. When World War I came, a lot of these skilled servants — and their masters — marched off to the trenches. Many never returned. Without the skilled labor required to make them, complex time-consuming dishes dropped off the menu.”

Foster herself has been examining the question. In one of her most recent posts, “Downton Downtime: Food Fashions to Expect in Season 3,” she explains that hemlines and hairstyles aren’t the only things to change with the dawn of the 1920s.

© Downton Abbey Cooks
© Downton Abbey Cooks
Edwardian England was not known for its healthy lifestyle. The industrial revolution had pushed many people towards the cities, where vegetables were harder and more expensive to obtain, and therefore not a part of the mainstream diet.

In the 1920s, vegetables, until then mainly used as garnish to make a dish look colorful, make their way onto the middle class table. Nutrition was on the rise.

“They [vegetables] tended to be cooked beyond recognition,” Foster wrote in her post. “In hindsight it should be no surprise to us that in 1917 almost 40% of men were found to be unfit for military service – mainly due to malnourishment. This led the government to invest time and money into dietary research and, over time, awareness of healthy eating has spread. Vegetables were finally given a real chance to shine. I don’t think we will see Lady Mary chewing raw carrots in Season 3, but it was a start in the right direction.”

From creamed carrots cooked for “no less than 90 minutes” to Jamie Oliver, in only eight decades.

“Downton Abbey” returns to the silver screen on September 16 in the UK and on January 6 on PBS. For more instructions on how to make the perfect party sandwich, manage your castle staff, and plan a scandal-filled afternoon tea, click here.

Follow Pamela Foster on Twitter: @downtoncooks


Anne Cohen
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