Fancy's Fools

Benjamin Whitrow (Mr Bennet of Pride and Prejudice, 1995, fame) once said, "The Bennets do a lot of eating in the film, so Ron [Sutcliffe] the standby props man, asked me what I liked to eat. I told him gooseberry fool was my favorite pudding and he kindly provided it for me. It was so delicious that during the first two takes of the scene [episode six, "...Mr and Mrs Wickham shall never be admitted to Longbourn..."] I gorged myself. At the other end of the table Alison Steadman cannily toyed with a couple of grapes. It took two days to shoot this and I shall never be able to eat gooseberry fool again!" A Fool, according to Noah Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language is: A liquid made of gooseberries scalded and pounded, with cream. This would usually be served as part of the dessert course, along with fresh fruit and wine. Since dinner could include up to 25 different dishes, dessert was usually a simple, light affair. After dessert, the ladies would retire to the parlour for conversation while the gentlemen partook of cigars, Port, and politics until they could join the ladies for tea or coffee and cake.Though the definition specifies gooseberries, in actuality, any fruit can be used. A few of these recipes can be found on the internet: Gooseberry Fool, Rhubarb Fool , and many other types of fool. Here for your enjoyment is a recipe for Orange Fool, written by Maria Eliza Ketelby Rundell for A New System of Domestic Cookery, 1807.
Orange Fool Mix the juice of three Seville oranges, three eggs well beaten, a pint of cream, a little nutmeg and cinnamon, and sweeten to your taste. Stir over a gentle fire, and when it begins to thicken, put [in] about the size of a small walnut of butter; keep it over the fire a few minutes longer, then pour it into a flat dish, and serve it to eat cold.
For about six servings, this translates to: Juice of 3 large oranges* 2 tablespoons of rind 3 eggs, well beaten 2 cups cream1/8 teaspoon nutmeg 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon 2/3 cup white sugar 1 tablespoon butter
  1. Warm cream in sauce pan or double boiler over burner. Be careful not to scald the cream.
  2. Keeping cream warm, mix the remaining ingredients and stir slowly into cream. Keeping heat constant, stir until the mixture thickens, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Chill in individual glass bowls or wine glasses. Serve cold.
*This has a very light flavor if you do not use Seville oranges. Try using 2/3 cup of orange juice concentrate for a stronger flavor.
Adapted from The Old Sturbridge Village Cookbook published by The Globe Pequot Press. Enjoyed this article? Visit our giftshop and escape into the world of Jane Austen for more Regency recipes.

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