Monday, October 17, 2011

It's a boy! or a girl! Celebrating baby in 1826

Monday, October 17, 2011
Loretta reports,

In 1826, a lady describes a Westbury custom that follows the birth of a child.
Sugared Toast.
In "these" parts of the country, it is the custom, when a lady shall have been " as well as can be expected," for thirteen or fourteen days, for the husband to enjoy what is called "the gentleman's party," viz: all his friends, bachelor and Benedict, are invited to eat "sugared toast," which, (as the cookery-books always say,) " is thus prepared"— Rounds of bread are "baked," (videlicit toasted,) each stratum spread thick with moist sugar, and piled up in a portly punch bowl, ready for action: "strong beer," (anglice, home-brewed ale,) is in the mean time heated, and poured boiling hot over the mound of bread; which is taken immediately to the expectant guests . . . How they contrive to emancipate the toast from the scalding liquid, I never could, by any effort of ingenuity and research, decide to my own satisfaction. A goodly slice you know, sir, it would be entirely impracticable to achieve; for in half a minute from the time of the admission of the "hot beer," the toast must be "all of a swam," (as we elegantly say here,) and, resembling the contents of the witch's cauldron, "thick and slab." Whether a soup ladle and soup plates are in requisition on the occasion, I am equally unable to ascertain; but on final dismissal of this gentlemanly food, (for I by no means would insinuate that the congregation is limited to one act of devotion,) they magnanimously remunerate the "nurse," by each putting money into the empty bowl, which is then conveyed to the priestess of their ignoble orgies! Of all the " mean and impotent conclusions" of a feast, defend me from that, which pays its "pic nic" pittance to an old crone, who is hired to attend the behests of the "lady," but who by some strange mutation becomes the directress of the " gentleman's" revels, and the recipient of the payment from his guests, for "sugar’d toast!"
Note:  I’ve edited mercilessly, since this is another example of the early 19th C preference for the longest and most convoluted way of saying something.  The long version is here in Hone’s Every-Day Book for October 17.

Illustrations:  Above left:  P.F. Sokolov, Mother and Baby 1826, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Below right:  Thomas Rowlandson, Naval Officers, courtesy Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.


Carrie Callaghan said...

Fabulous! We're expecting soon - perhaps this shall be how my husband celebrates. Though we could do without the passing of the collection plate. (I was about to say it was tacky, but then realized that maybe drinking beer-sodden sugared toast was less than classy to begin with ...)

Regencyresearcher said...

A warm drink consisting of wine or ale mixed with sugar, eggs, bread, and various spices, sometimes given to ill persons. It is also often used to wet the head of the baby after a birth. Of course, that is just a saying because the toast-- ( drinking to some one) --liquid --goes down the throat of the drinker and not on the baby.
That sugared toast sounds like variation of the old drink.

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