Who wouldn't love to have a dinner with Mr. Darcy? Well, you better familiarize yourself with whats being served, because a Regency table is quite different from your 21st Century menu that you will be eating tonight.
Meals were exponentially more ornamental than even the finest Michelin starred restaurant. Meat pies, biscuits and even desserts took on an almost theatrical presentation to the table. One of the greatest and most versatile performers was the flummery.
Flummery is a white jelly, which was formed into a limitless variety of elegant molds and shapes. It is creamy in taste, but not as heavy as puddings or custards we know today. A common form that you would see at a Regency table was the King Solomon's Temple dessert, the ceramic mold shown at the right. The footman in the first picture can be shown serving a King Solomon's flummery dessert - and you can see how the jiggle-factor makes navigating it to the table a difficult task!
THEY ALL WIGGLE: Whats the difference between Gelatin, Aspic & Flummery?
In some ways, they are all part of the same "dessert family," which my kids would define as "desserts that wiggle." However, Flummery is slightly different from its gelatin-based jiggling cousins.
The most common commercial gelatin-based product for Americans is of course Jello. Gelatin is, for lack of a more graphic description of how it is obtained, is basically an clear, odorless, tasteless protein substance made from animal products that have been boiled eternally. However, this makes the end result almost like the tofu of desserts as it can then assume any taste, color or texture you add to it. Jello has successfully permutated this capability by making it one of the most popular sweetened desserts commercially available.
The next step up is Aspic, which is essentially "gelatin with stuff." People would design meats, poultry, and vegetables into a mold and then bring it all together by using a beef gelatin to fill in the empty spaces and make the final product whole. Aspic reached the pinnacle of its rather tepid popularity in the 1950's-60's, as witnessed by my mothers early Better Homes & Gardens cookbooks of that age where the recipes for aspic were abundant.
Flummery, is jiggly like its gelatin based cousins, but it is plant based. Welch cooks would boil oatmeal until it created a soupy broth and then add eggs, flour, milk, honey and sugars to solidify the dessert. It has a creamy taste which lends itself well to sweet fruits. And pureed fruits could be substituted for water to increase the color variety.
Regretfully, all of these wiggly, jiggly creations have fallen into the same category of 'bland, tasteless and only for the geriatric and toothless.’ In fact, in contemporary term, the word ‘flummery’ has come to mean “meaningless, empty compliments or nonsense.” But this a tragedy! I don’t care how talented you are with whipped topping, you cant make a chocolate mousse look this visually appealing - or this light!
Just Take My Ingredients and Give Me The Recipe Already!
OK, Ive sold you! You wanna try to make a Flummery but you don’t see the recipe in your favorite cookbook AND a 9'x9' pan just wont look as appealing. No worries! Recipes for flummery variations abound on the internet. And you can easily put it in pudding cups, wine flutes and in a pinch, you could use a simple bundt pan for a full dessert.
SAVEUR: Contemporary Blackberry Flummery
GENIUS KITCHEN: Contemporary Strawberry Flummery
SAVORING THE PAST: Recipe for Yellow Flummery and a hysterical article on the challenges of trying to be historically accurate in recreating old recipes and in trying not be be freaked out about what they used to make these meals.
TASTE AUSTRALIA: A contemporary recipe for lemon, orange & passionfruit flummery