Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Table Talk.

First things first....7 more images from the last cookery weekend are now up at Flickr. They include Jorge doing his best (let's face it, as yet only) Mussolini impression

the shovels will work on time

Barry engrossing a family with something as simple as broken pots

It's a bowl!

....and some more arty faff

whoooo Robin

I've still got a few more to put up I think (no promises) as the majority are reserved for an end of year report, but I'll see what I can turn up for the next posting.

Now on to answer Doc's questions about tables. All the furniture that the team uses is made by Robert out of air dried English oak, some other woods are used for other items but by and large oak predominates. In the case of the tables that prompted the question (see the comments on this post) the tops are separate from the trestle can be a pain sometimes when the public lean on the tops moving them about, but it does allow then the conversation about the use of furniture in the Palace and it's sometimes 'temporary' nature. Today we are used to furniture being left set in a room but for the Tudors, especially at Hampton Court that wasn't always the case.... the Great Hall for example was used for other functions than dining at different times and as such the tables that are assumed to have been in there (and that's another story not for now) would need to have been dismantled and removed....something that would seem odd in our houses today, but just think of a large catering event like a wedding with the room being dressed then cleared away.....but I digress!

We do have some tables where the top is fixed to the legs in various different ways, most of which are used as part of the static display to be both safe and historically correct....if I remember I'll take some pictures next time I'm in the kitchen for you to see.

The thickness of the tops is down to the timber available at the time of construction, but it's usually around 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch I believe (the younger readers will have to convert that to metric themselves I'm afraid) the past we had some thicker tops that we used but to be honest none of us are getting any younger and having to lug them out of the store then back again was quite literally a pain in the neck.....and back! The thickness differences in the tops that you noted make no real difference to the tables.....they both stay put in use and (touch proverbial wood) haven't proved to be any sort of problem yet.

The height off the floor I can't exactly remember, but an easier way to think is how far are they away from your hands. If you stand upright next to the tables your knuckles of a clenched fist for kneading are about 1 to 2 inches above the surface. This means that when you lean into the work, the surface is at a comfortable working height (and purely by coincidence the perfect height for all our codpieces to rest on the table tops if we aren't careful?!?!) unlike a modern kitchen counter which is no longer at a height suitable for 'real' cookery like pastry making and so on.....when you talk to people about it you can suddenly see that 'light bulb above the head' moment when they realise why they find cookery a chore or hard work.......I personally would recommend working on a kitchen table rather than the fitted counters, they are usually at a better height for most people, try it out next time you're in the kitchen and you'll see what I'm on about.

Hope that answers the questions Doc and is of some interest to the rest of you.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Some Pictures For You.....

....from the last weekend. Not a vast number, just 7 at the moment (as always I'm spreading the wealth so to speak and will post some more in a day or so!)

They include photographic evidence that the other guys can cook too!!

Jorge and Dave cook

That was Sunday morning and the guys are cooking dinner/breakfast. As it happens Robin was quite unwell that morning so we let him have a lie in for an hour or so (slacker!) but it so happened that Dave was going to make breakfast that day anyway.....I'm not too sure if it was a success or not, the egg was great, some of the rest.......hmm well I couldn't possibly comment.

As always, the picture include the guys doing what it is they do, chatting to the public and so on

Robin concentrates Jorge makes a clean sweep

But then there are pictures that when you look at them you have to just ask......what the hell was going on there???

Dear God!!

Please don't write in asking why Jorge is wearing a fourteenth century helmet along with his sixteenth century clothes whilst brandishing a modern kitchen knife...........because to be honest I haven't got a clue!?!

Monday, 9 February 2009

Snow Joke

As I sit here listening to the rain lashing against the window it's hard to imagine how much snow we had this time last week......schools closed, businesses shut & cars abandoned as Britain woke to the biggest snowfall for over a decade.

Some people made it in to work though and Robin, Robert and Marc H bravely struggled through the snow and slush in case the education sessions they were running weren't it happened Hampton Court like so many other businesses remained closed for the day, so as well as drinking much tea all they had to do was take some pictures before going home. I've just posted 13 of Roberts up on the Flickr site, if Robin furnishes me with his I may well do the same with those.

blizzard conditions

The snow seems to have added a certain something to these familiar settings....I just can't put my finger on what it is though!

Master Carpenters court

East Front gardens

There's 10 more images like these over at Flickr......don't forget you can always click on the 'all sizes' icon above the images to see them a little larger.

Off to finish sorting out pictures from this weekend now....more later.



Just back from the weekends shenanigans, blimey was it cold.......frequent trips in to the office to hug mugs of tea were needed all round, mainly to get some feeling back into hands.

Loads of pictures to sort through and post as well as some videos that I think you might like.....all that and more in the next exciting episode, but now......bed time.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Dates For Your Diary

So when will we be cooking this year and what will we be doing?

Well this weekend sees the last of the 'odd' experimental work that we've been doing, the last opportunity to get out the scales and thermometers in front of the public for the rest of the year. The aim is to finish off stuff that we started on the December weekend (I said I'd tell you about it later, so I will.....later!) and to record as much data as we can whilst roasting meat in front of the fire as well as in a modern oven to compare the two methods. There'll also be a lot of 'behind the scenes' work involving freezing experiments to see how well certain dishes freeze and what stage is best to cook them to for this we're not going into the ready meal business although it's a thought, it's all to do with a future project that requires more food than we can probably cook in one day.

After that it's all Henry, Henry, Henry....where the whole Palace will bask in the revamped look that it is currently receiving all ready for the celebrations to mark the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII's accession to the throne......including the newly re-paved Base Court; progress is coming on, this is what it looked like at Christmas.....

Base Court Paving Base Court Paving

Base Court Paving

All of this will involve the kitchens cooking pretty much along the lines of a Christmas event day for quite a lot of the year and with the whole aim being immersion in a Tudor Palace for the members of the no modern kit then.

Dates that you'll be able to see us in action are:

March 7th-8th
April 10th-13th Easter Holiday
April 18th & 19th
May 2nd-4th Bank Holiday
May 23rd-25th Bank Holiday
June 20th-21st
July 25th-26th
August 22nd-24th Bank Holiday
September 26th-27th
October 24th-25th
November 28th-29th
December 26th-January 3rd Christmas Cookery (a bumper 8 days you lucky people!)

The observant will notice that this changes from our regular first weekend of the month slot for the non holiday events to a last weekend of the month slot.....this is to ensure a more even balance of events throughout the calendar and to give you all a better opportunity to come and see us in action.

June the 20th & 21st is one of the big events as it's the weekend that the Royal Palaces will be celebrating the anniversary of the coronation of Henry VIII. There will be a flotilla of boats travelling from the Tower of London to Hampton Court on the Saturday, bringing the 'Royal Party' to the Palace, where they will dine in the Privy Gardens.....which is where we come in (and the freezer too if all the plans and testing work out!)
There will be games on the river on the Sunday as well and many, many other things to see over that weekend....I'd pop that one in the diary if I was you.

There will be plenty of other things happening throughout the year too, just check the Historic Royal Palaces website for details as the year progresses.

Writers Block!!

Yes ti's I the Prince of Procrastination.....finally getting my finger out and posting something in this new year!

So why no report about the Christmas cookery? Quite simply, there was absolutely nothing to say....people came, we cooked, they watched and asked questions, we answered and ate repeat 6 times and Bob's your uncle, that was the Christmas cookery!
Oh, it was cold.....really cold, in fact I don't think that the temperature in the Kitchens made it past 1 degree Centigrade all week, so the guys did sterling work considering the circumstances....just not very noteworthy work is all.

After Christmas some personal health issues got in the way, but that seems to be improving now (don't ask, it's really not worth it...although photographs could prove amusing!) then a degree of ambiguity about the forthcoming year raised it's ugly head, but we are all sorted now...dates and budgets are fixed so 2009 is now all systems go.