Desserts and baking
Mrs Dudgeon's account book
Mary Dudgeon was housekeeper to lawyer James Erskine at his country house at Alva and townhouse in Arygle Square, Edinburgh. From 1752 to 1755 she recorded her daily expenditure in this account book.
Mrs Dudgeon's account book is a record of one household's expenditure, largely, but not entirely, on food. The extent of her responsibility is shown by the numerous entries for miscellaneous household expenses.
She paid fourpence for 'the kitchen chimney sweeping', bought 'sope [soap] and starch blue for a bed washing' and paid deliverymen such as 'a carter for caring hony from Pearth'.
Most of the accounts for foodstuffs are for raw ingredients. Mrs Dudgeon rarely names her suppliers, but by the 1750s there were numerous retailers in Edinburgh.
They ranged from general grocers to specialist fleshers, poultrymen, fishmongers, fruiterers, ale sellers, bakers, vintners and street traders.
Mrs Dudgeon bought sugar in large quantities, together with oranges and lemons. They may have been used to make desserts.
Purchases of 'milk and yerning [rennet] to make cheesecakes' are specifically mentioned, suggesting this was a popular dessert with the family. These rich mixtures of sweet flavoured eggs, butter and milk were similar to today's lemon cheese or curd.
Jellies for the sick
Lemons were also used with calves feet to make 'Mr Maguire's jelly'. Mr Maguire was Margaret Erskine's invalid father, Hugh.
Nourishing meat jellies as well as sweet 'pudding' jellies were made as dishes to tempt the appetite of the sick and delicate.
Although nowhere is the total number of people living in the house given, the daily accounts build up a detailed picture of the eating habits of a vibrant, bustling, middle-class household.
A page from Mary Dudgeon's account book, 1752-1758. [Library reference: Adv.MS.2.1.9, f.21]
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