Don’t Forget to|Butter Your Beer

     Call me a misunderstood patriot with cruel yet handsome eyes if you wish – so many people have – but I don’t think it’s right to expect buttered beer.
     In a 1664 entry in his celebrated diary, Samuel Pepys criticized the king – of all people – for throwing an enormous banquet without buttered beer.
     I’m going to have to side with King Charles II on this one.
     Sure, maybe the king could have engraved the invitations “B.Y.O.B.B.,” but still …
     That entry, I’m afraid, is not Pepys’ only mention of buttered beer.
     On June 22, 1662, Pepys wrote: “So meeting in my way W. Swan, I took him to a house thereabouts, and gave him a morning draft of buttered ale.”
     A morning draft of buttered ale? Then down to the Navy Office, hey, Sam’l? Yeesh.
     But that’s not all.
     It is my unpleasant duty to report that in February 1665, Pepys wrote: “Thence home and to the office, and so home having a great cold, and so my wife and Mrs. Barbary have very great ones, we are at a loss how we all come by it together, so to bed, drinking butter-ale.”
     That’s right. The renowned architect of the British Navy drank buttered beer all day long and into the night. Even in bed.
     I apologize in advance for what I am about to do. Here is a recipe for buttered beer, taken from Robert May’s 1660 book, “The Accomplisht Cook.”
     Please don’t blame me. I’m just the reporter.
     “Boil beer or ale and scum it, then have six eggs, whites and all, and beat them in a flaggon or quart pot with the shells, some butter, sugar, and nutmeg, put them together, and being well brewed, drink it when you go to bed.”
     Drink it when you go to bed?
     The subtitle of May’s book was: “The art & mystery of cookery. Wherein the whole art is revealed in a more easie and perfect method, than hath been publisht in any language.”
     I hope so.
     So Karl Marx was right when he said that history repeats, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.
     But we cannot blame Robert May whole and entire, as we used to say. He swiped his recipe from an even earlier cookbook, “The Good Huswife’s Handmaide for the Kitchen,” of 1594, by Thomas Dawson.
     Huswives were not allowed to write their own cookbooks back then. Their buttered-beer-drinking husbands had to do it.
     Dawson’s book is a gold mine of information for people who want to be glad they did not live in the 1500s.
     His recipes include “To boyle a Conie with a Pudding in his bellie” and “How to make Farts of Portingale.”
     Dawson’s recipe, “To make Buttered Beere,” I am sorry to say, appears in the section: “All necessaries appertaining to a Banquet.” (King Charles II, take note.)
     It’s pretty much the same recipe as May’s: a lot of beer, half a pound of sugar, nutmeg, eggs and … I’m sorry. I have to lie down.
     Fortunately for all of us, immediately after the Buttered Beere recipe, Dawson gives us a recipe for “A Purgation.”
     He suggests: “In the morning drinke it earlie. Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces: these three be the best signes to take purgations in.”
     Thanks for the astrological tip, Thomas!
     Can’t wait until June rolls around!
     All these recipes, I am sorry to say (why do I keep apologizing?) can be found on the website FoodsofEngland.co.uk.
     I shall end my comments here. Our country’s international relations are bad enough already.

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