From our September Member Newsletter
By David Moffat & Dan Marshall
What did the Turners eat? While we may never know for sure due to the scarcity of domestic records for the family, we can glean some insights from 18th-century cookbooks and the probate inventory of John Turner II.
Eliza Smith, in The Compleat Housewife or, Accomplished Gentlewoman’s Companion, first published in London, suggests a bill of fare for each month. This is what she recommends for September in the third edition from 1729:
Boiled Pullets with Oysters, Bacon, etc.
Bisque of Fish
Chine of Mutton
Dish of Pickles
Olives of Veal with Ragoo
Dish of boiled Pigeons with Bacon
Dish of Ducks and Teal
Dish of fried Soles
Jole of Sturgeon
Dish of Fruit
While we will probably not be serving ‘Dish of boiled Pigeons with Bacon’ at the Taste of The Gables this year, guests of the Turners in the 18th century may have expected similar fine foods.
John Turner II’s inventory in 1743 lists a variety of wares related to luxury foodstuffs of the time. These wares show the high level of entertaining in the home but also the huge amount of labor needed to prepare and present meals like these. The indentured servants and enslaved people that lived and labored here would have been doing the bulk of the heavy work to support this lifestyle. Several rooms contain items related to sugar, coffee, tea, and wine, which were all expensive imported luxuries at the time. Additionally, punch bowls, breakfast bowls, and a milk pot are found in the Best Room. Oil cruets are also found in the Hall and Hall Chamber. The kitchen contains soup plates and cheese plates among the other cooking wares. The Great Chamber displays beer glasses, salts, some earthenware fruit dishes, a vinegar jug, and a syllabub pot. Syllabub was a dessert of wine and whipped cream that was popular in the 1700s.
John Turner II’s warehouses also included foodstuffs for trade, showing the importance of food to the economy. Within were 116 pounds of Virginia pork, 96 gallons of rum, a tierce (35 gallons) of sugar, 8½ bushels of English salt, and a good quantity of fish. The fish included some pollock, “quality” and “middling” fish (most likely cod), and a barrel of old pickled fish.
While this inventory us a glimpse into culinary life in the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion in the 18th century, we don’t know exactly what they ate. However, we can certainly guess that many a guest enjoyed a syllabub with the Turners over the years.
While you might not have a syllabub pot at home, you can try your hand at some 18th century cooking. The following is from the fifth edition of The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse, published in 1755. Sack was fortified white wine from Spain, similar to sherry.
To make Whipt Syllabubs
TAKE a Quart of thick Cream, and Half a Pint of Sack, the Juice of two Seville Oranges or Lemons, grate in the Peel of two Lemons, Half a Pound of double-refined Sugar, pour it into a broad earthen Pan, and whisk it well; but first sweeten some Red Wine or Sack, and fill your Glasses as full as you chose; then as the Froth rises take it off with a Spoon, and lay it carefully into your Glasses till they are as full as they will hold. Don’t make these long before you use them.Tags: food, food history, salem food tours, the house of the seven gables, turner
This post was written by Julie Arrison-Bishop