Saturday, September 25, 2010

A September 1790s Picnic

Come with us as we  wander the estate.
September cries out for picnics. This morning the air was washed clean for the first time in almost six weeks, the sky was the deep blue of early fall, and around us the foliage, so tired and dead just yesterday, had shaken itself off and perked up a bit. Not but that we could see real fall coming: most of the black walnut trees are bare except for their decorative green orbs, and underfoot we had to watch for their staining husks and the detritus of other trees who had given up some of their leafiness a little early, in the face of drought.

(As always, click the images to see larger versions.)

In honor of September and 1795, the year Jane Austen's first novel, Pride and Prejudice, was published, our little Jane Austen Sewing Society met at Henry Clay's Ashland Estate to picnic, and stroll under the trees and in the formal garden afterwards.

A formal portrait, with baskets.
There were just four of us today, and we missed everyone else, but what a time, what a time! Imagine sitting down to a table, properly clothed and decked, to Polly's cheese pie, and salad from Caroline's garden, with little glasses of rosewater flummery just waiting for the conclusion of that first course. A second, almond flummery, made in small pats like jewels, says Jenni, and dressed with gold leaf, to go along in case rosewater was not to taste. To finish up, a true antique cheese cake. These three dishes Jenni had worked up from eighteenth and early nineteenth century cookbooks, and she has told you you all about them in her blog, Living with Jane, for they were excellent, soft and smooth with cream, the flavoring just present enough to make you want more. I had forgotten the muscat in the flurry of packing all the baskets, but we had two excellent teas, and fresh-squeezed lemonade, both by Caroline.

Here are some shots of the event. You can see more -- and far better ones -- at Living with Jane. Jenni studied photography in college, and you can tell.

As usual, the morning was somewhat hurried. The tots were good ducks, as they mostly are, but Christopher had an accident as I was ironing my dress, and cleanup took awhile. Potty training takes time for a little boy when he has things to do and people to see.

1790s dress, from Collection Maciet.

So I was behindhand when Caroline and Polly arrived to dress, and still fussing with hair. We dressed with more dispatch than for the JASNA festival in July, being a little more confident and experienced, but despite the new modesty panels that line my dress and take the strain off, the pins to close the dress would keep coming undone, silly things. So, as last time I have gaposis. I will beat those pins yet.

Then too, the new fichu, made of the embroidered skirt from a vintage child's dress that was so scorched and stained that it qualified as a cutter to me -- and as trash to unkind others, had a dear friend not rescued it some years back -- wouldn't sit well without a brooch. I had set it in one of the ways it could be worn during the 1790s, as shown in the Gallery of Fashion fashion plate example on this page.

And I let the front wrap loosely outside the dress, which was allowable then, but it did look like a collar, and I won't be doing that again. Why did I not mirror-check before we left? We were late, of course, in leaving for the estate and I didn't care for the idea of Jenni wandering around looking for friends who weren't there.
Happy with the thought of a pleasant
lunch. Those are Jenni's antique
cheese tarts behind her, and a flummery.

To finish the rush, while I had packed the baskets the evening before, the fruit was still a-fridge, along with the wine, and it remained there...while we left without it.

Lunch itself as was described, was very, very good, and all of us agreed that the bar is very high for tea rooms these days, to match what we have learned to do. Cheeky little statement, but you get women together who enjoy cooking and who have access to local fresh ingredients, and nice things tend to happen. Why then no pictures? Not for modesty, sure...we shared camera duty, and my camera was asleep at the moment, because I was too busy with a fork.

The cups of tea brought Caroline to the subject of poetry and over the last of it, well caffeinated, we listened to some Wordsworth, a piece about going nutting in the fall. As you might expect of an early Romantic poet, the piece was a peaen to Nature, a celebration of the wild harvest, and a reaction against the practical gathering of nuts and what it wreaks. A conflicted poem, to say the least, but good.

At lunch. Image courtesy Jenni of Living with Jane blog.
Off to stroll afterwards, like any smart picnicker who doesn't want to leave for home over-full and sleepy.

Down a garden path slowly.
Through the formal garden, where the bare walnut outside
warns of cool weather to come,
and Christmas. Do you see the mistletoe?

The mandatory rose photo because
the blooms match the dress
Wouldn't you know, by this time the fichu had a life of its own. At least it was covering the gaposis.

Leaving the garden for a wilder walk... the woods, watching for walnut hulls and other dangers.

The last of the stroll, back among the shadows.
Image courtesy Jenni of Living with Jane blog.
And so to home and naptime for the tots, although I was too full of tea and happiness to sleep, so here I am.


Lara said...

Beautiful! I enjoyed this.

Kleidung um 1800 said...

I do love this stream of photos. Looking at them is almost like an armchair travel back in time...and it's also wonderful to see all the green trees and rays of sunshine in the dark November days.

ZipZip said...

Thank you! Some of the pictures are very special to the group of us, too. It was a pleasant afternoon: the light was so mellow.

Very best,

Natalie in KY