I do not think I would like to be suddenly transported to Regency England. I have an over-active Modern American sweet tooth, and I dare say the kind of sweets I like would be harder to obtain. For the most part, anything sweet had to be made. There were no corner grocers to run to, no 7-11 tempting one with three rows of candies and cakes, and no bakeries in the villages.
I found the blog for A Woman of Notes, (http://womanofnotes.blogspot.com/2008/09/pride-prejudice-regency-desserts.html) which contained wonderful dessert ideas and information about how to make them. Still not the ready to eat items I am used to, but would be a possible substitute if I ended up rich and had a cook.
Another valuable resource is the Cook It! History Cook Book site (http://cookit.e2bn.org/historycookbook/962-regency-trifle.html) which includes good guesses about what prehistoric man had for lunch. And I found lots of information about the timing of meals and how that changed from the 1600s to now at the blog The Regency Redingote (http://regencyredingote.wordpress.com/2009/06/12/mealtimes-of-the-regency-day/)
Gunter’s, of course, in London, could provide an ice flavored with bergamot or lavender, maple or chocolate (http://www.regrom.com/2008/09/27/regency-hot-spots-gunters/). And the Historical Hussies’ blog includes information about chocolate that contradicts long-held beliefs. Chocolate was around in special chocolate houses, but again, in London, and proably not cheap. (http://historicalhussies.blogspot.com/2009/07/regency-chocolate.html)
Regency Reflections has a couple of recipes for chocolate drops, with modern translations. (http://christianregency.com/blog/category/food/desserts/)
But what about butterscotch, caramel, and cinnamon red hots? While butterscotch candy surely existed earlier, I am not finding anything written about it until 1817 in America. (http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodcandy.html#butterscotch) This same site has lots of good information on candy and food and when it first showed up. For instance, caramel is related to toffee, and showed up in the 18th century. Was it sold in stores or made at home? Alas, at home until 1880. And even more sadly, the cinnamon red hots I love were created in the 1930s.
Marzipan has been documented in England since the 15th century, and was most likely readily available but it’s just not the sweet thing my tooth craves. Licorice goes back into prehistory when it was used as a remedy for something or other. Again, not my favorite.
Well, what about puddings? Nice, sweet desserts, with whipped cream toppings! Ah. Many of you already know that “pudding” today in America is a horse of a different color than what was served in the past. Uncle Wiki tells us, “The word pudding is believed to come from the French boudin, originally from the Latin botellus, meaning “small sausage”, referring to encased meats used in Medieval European puddings.” Sausage? For dessert? Sounds like an erotic novel to me.
Pies? Food Timeline says it’s complicated, and that the first use of the word according to the OED occurred in 1303. They started out as large things, but gradually became portable. Even Arab cultures had proto-pies. (Does that make you want to find a way to create a pie using proteus? Only me?) I honestly expected to find that meat pies were the main use of pastries in England for years and years, but turns out sweet, fruity pies marched right along with the meat. “The distinction between savoury and sweet pies did not become really obvious in the cookery books until around 1720. The cooks closest to French culinary practice removed the sugar entirely…E. Smith gave pies with chicken and with lamb in both savoury and sweet versions, but allowed the confustion of flavours to persist in her vegetable and mince pies–in other words, those where the sweet-savoury association lingered the longest.”
—The British Housewife: Cookery Books, Cooking and Society in Eighteenth-Century Britain, Gilly Lehmann [Prospect Books:Devon] 2003 (p. 194-5)
Cakes also date back to ancient times, but were more bread-like, and sweetened with honey. The round cake with icing had to wait for improvements in ovens, ingredients to be readily available, and for baking powder to be invented. Then we need to separate the French idea of cake (gateau) from the English idea (think fruit cake), the former needing to be consumed as soon after baking as possible, the latter improving with age. Again, in London, at pastry shops, and some of the larger cities like Bath and Bristol, this could have been readily available but not in little villages unless a bakery was nearby. Side Note: An interesting recipe for Fire of London cakes dating from the times of the Stuarts. The fire was rumored to be started by little cakes that burned. (http://cookit.e2bn.org/historycookbook/964-fire-of-london-cakes.html)
In Regency England, syllabub was on its way out, and ice cream on its way in. (http://www.historicfood.com/Syllabub%20Recipes.htm)And solteties were no longer presented to the high table, paraded around the hall, and left on display or eaten. So thank the stars I will not have to worry about satisfying my sweet tooth in past centuries. Now if you will excuse me, I have some sugar-free chocolate pecan patties that need my attention.