Happy 250th anniversary Elizabeth!
On April 4th 2019 it will be 250 years since Elizabeth first advertised her cookbook which contained her innovative recipe for Bride cake, a speciality she had made popular since arriving in Manchester in 1763. Yes, ladies, we have a huge debt to Elizabeth for saving us from the custom of having a pie broken over the bride's head while dressed in our fabulous gowns! Elizabeth popularised the notion of a rich fruit cake, decorated with two types of icing, almond and royal icing. I find it hard to believe Elizabeth is not more celebrates for this innovation alone. It was a small step but a significant one for progress.
In order to commemorate this important anniversary I am excited to report that several key supporters of Elizabeth Raffald have come together to create a fantastic celebration. First came the cake designer, Suzanne Thorp, of the Frostery, Oldham. She is a regular participant in a Channel 4 TV program, Extreme Cake Makers, and she felt it was an opportunity to create a cake to honour Elizabeth and her achievements. (Elizabeth didn't just do cookery, she doesn't d so much more. See here for the full story.) Suzanne contacted me, as founder of the Elizabeth Raffald society and researcher, and asked if we could do something special. I then contacted Sarah Flannery, organiser of a program of events and workshops in 2018 culminating in a play about two famous Cheshire women from different centuries. The play was performed on a train between Chester and Manchester, and I took part as Elizabeth Raffald, handing out another of her recipes, Eccles cakes, to bemused Manchester commuters. I had great fun but would never have expected to have difficulty giving away free cakes to doubtful Mancunians! For 2019 Sarah has another ambitious program of events and workshops featuring solely Elizabeth Raffald, starting with our event to unveil Suzanne's cake design. To put the icing on the cake, so to speak, the event will be hosted at Arley Hall, where Elizabeth learnt her skills. Steve Hamilton, estate manager, was enthusiastic about our project and promised whatever help he could give us. The upshot of all this collaboration should be a brilliant event on April 18th where I can reprise my role as Elizabeth, in full 18th century dress,(an actual reconstruction of the dress she wears in her picture), and receive the cake from Suzanne. It will be a complete surprise to me, the design is all Suzanne's creation, and Channel 4 will be there to film the event with a group of invited dignitaries and interested parties. I can't wait! It is so exciting for me to reach more people with Elizabeth's fame and hopefully impressing them with details of this fabulous 18th century domestic goddess. (Although I suspect the lady herself would have had no truck with the fancy title! She was very much a woman who rolled up her sleeves and got to work.)
More details, and pictures, after the 18th April.
This is turning into an annual event! I am still slogging away at the book of fiction on Elizabeth Raffald, it's taking a lot longer than I anticipated. Reading all the articles in the newspaper of the time is too fascinating. I'm up to late 1775 so slowly, slowly the first draft is taking shape. The newspapers of the time are full of the American rebellion from the British perspective and it is interesting to see the differing perspective. I'm just up to the part where George Washington has accepted the position of Generalissimo of the Provincials. He sounds a very measured and calm person.
He promises 'every Exertion will be extended to the re-establishment of Peace and Harmony between the Mother country and the Colonies', and that ‘when we assumed the Soldier we did not lay aside the Citizen’, adding his determination to achieve ‘American Liberty on the most firm and solid foundations, and enable them to return to their private stations in the Bosom of a free, peaceful and happy country’.
What a busy
month June has been! I've had lots going on with my WI and the last weekend saw
me giving a talk about Elizabeth Raffald at my local library as part of The
Heatons Arts Trail. It was great to have the chance to spread her fame around
Stockport, an important location in her story. Not only is it where her body
still lies, or where her husband's family came from, it's also the home of her
direct descendant and of a lady whose husband gathered a treasure trove of
knowledge about her. And of course I live here too.
telling that when I turned up at the library they apologised for not having a
display about Elizabeth but I quickly explained that they would struggle to
find anything in print about her which was the reason behind my crusade to
revive her fame. Any books I had found were held in special collections in
Manchester, site of her success. Hopefully Stockport will embrace her story now
and my book at least should soon be in the library system, soon to be followed
by a couple more volumes about her. My intention was to simply write a
historical fiction of her life, bringing her character more fully to life but
now I realise there is scope to add a factual book, giving the setting of her
endeavours, emphasising just what an uphill struggle it must have been for her.
screen to show the PowerPoint I struggled to give a full sense of her story but
I gave an overall impression of her and my attendees took a copy of my book to
read, the best way to absorb the amazing list of her achievements. At first
hearing they sound unbelievable, and they certainly aren't easy to remember, there are so many of
them and I'm uncovering more all the time. The latest concerns a concoction
called a Solomon's Temple, an amazing construction in a blancmange type stuff
called flummery, something she could turn to many amazing presentations. I
wonder if those recipes would translate to the modern version of her cookbook
that I'm hoping to produce. Time to get to work.
In : Elizabeth Raffald