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Monday, April 28, 2014

Luxurious indigestion

Lady Anne Barnard sailed as a privileged passenger to Cape Town in 1797, and kept a journal on voyage, which she copied in edited form for the family later on.  It is published as part of The Cape Journals of Lady Anne Barnard 1797-1798, edited by A.M. Lewin Robinson, with Margaret Lenta and Dorothy Driver, and published in 1994 by the van Riebeeck Society.

Her style is bizarre, as riddled with ellipses . . . as a Barbara Cartland novel, but she is certainly entertaining, in a sharp-penned sort of way.  But then I was struck to a reference to MARY MEIN, who sailed to Cape Town on the same ship.  Married to navy purser William Proctor Smith, she gave birth the following year to WILLIAM MEIN SMITH, an important early surveyor of Wellington.

Anyway, this is to whet your appetite . . . perhaps. The ship was delayed at departure when their escort, the inaptly named Trusty, ran onto a rock at the Needles, and the small fleet had to put into Plymouth so the resultant hole could be fixed.

And lo, Mary Mein's parents lived in town, and Lady Anne and her husband were invited to dine . . . to an extremely unusual and lavish meal.  As Lady Anne relates it, they went to . . .

"... a dining party given by Mr and Mrs Mein, he, the Agent for Prisoners, and Father in law to Doctor Patterson, a good humoured Scotchman who was making an enormous fortune without any reflection being thrown on him, by his contract for supplying the French prisoners with necessaries which he did so judiciously and at the same time to liberally that good sense was making him rich and good Character kept pace with it.

"Of one thing I was certain, that Mrs. Mein gave us amongst other excellent things, a very uncommonly good but odd dish . . . A Cornish pye, in which she had imprisoned two fowls, a piece of ham, some sweet breads . . . apples . . . two ducks . . . a large quantity of stuffings, truffles, mushrooms and pickles, the whole having poured into it before it left the oven two quarts of rich clotted cream . . .  It sounds ill . . . but it was good."

It took them two days to get over the after-effects if the "pye"!

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