Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Three Empresses of Emperor Qianlong

Emperor Qianlong's harem has been cast into the spotlight recently––with a hit tv show airing at the moment and another to come. Coincidentally, the same three women, namely the three empresses of Qianlong, are heavily featured in the two dramas, albeit in entirely different lights.

It occurred to me that a side-by-side comparison between Emperor's Qianlong three Empresses and King Henry VIII's first three wives could be interesting. Of course, given the largely discrepant cultures and historical factors, such a comparison is only superficial at best. Bear in mind that this post by no means suggests that the women were by any means similar in temperament, or shared the exact same motivations and life trajectories.

For a full biography of Henry VIII's first two queens, read Celine's post here.

In the following sections, I will simply refer to the empresses by their family names/more familiar titles for easier identification. (Like honestly who's gonna remember a title like Empress Xiaoxian Chengzheng Dunmu Renhui Weigong Kangshun Futian Changsheng Chun. No, I didn't make this title up.)



Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Historical Cooking with Mrs Crocombe

If you were an English lord or lady living in the late 19th-century in need of a cook, you'd probably want to hire Mrs Crocombe.

Image result for mrs crocombe

However, we 21-st century avocado toast-chomping and frappucino-sipping viewers can still get a peek into her cookbook via this Youtube series.


These videos are published under the English Heritage Youtube channel, a foundation that safeguards England's heritage structures, including Stonehedge and Audley End House where the Victorian Way series is filmed.

(I feel the need to insert a short personal ramble here. Having been at Cambridge for over three years I have passed Audley End numerous times on train rides to and from London. It has never occurred to me to visit the Audley End House, having heard of it only after I left England for good! Regrets abound.)

See?! I regret my youthful ignorance. 


You know that dopamine rush you get when your favourite Youtube channel releases a new video? YES. That is the feeling I get when Mrs Crocombe appears in my feed.

On a fine day, you might just catch Mrs Crocombe writing in her room.


Or picking fruits in the garden.



Her face lights up at the sight of a visitor.

I am, too.


From something as simple as a cup of tea to an intricate cake, Mrs Crocombe is the one you go to for  Victorian know-hows. Here are a few of my favourites:

1. Cucumber ice-cream

Who would have thought cucumber and ice-cream could go together? I didn't.

From hauling a bucketful of ice from the ice-house to manually stirring the ice-cream, it sounds like a lot of work to us modern viewers, especially on a hot summers' day.

But the end result is definitely worth it!



2. Mrs Crocombe's "Taste of England" food parcel 

This episode is basically a collaboration between the English Heritage youtube channel and the Townsends' channel. Mrs Crocombe puts together a delightful package of cake and loose tea leaves for the Townsends on the other side of the ocean.


Here's the catch: The Townsends supposedly lives a century before Mrs Crocombe. But with Youtube's time-travel courier service anything is possible.

Can you please send me a cake too? *puppy eyes*

Double the fun with the Townsends' companion video which is a 18th-century equivalent of an unboxing video.


Don't you wish you were the one receiving the parcel from Mrs Crocombe?

3. How to make breakfast

This particular dish, kedgeree, is a mixed rice dish consisting of flaked fish, vegetables and spices, fried in butter and served with eggs. It resonates with me because we have a similar dish in Malaysia too, which we call 'nasi goreng'. (nasi=rice, goreng=fried)



Unlike the Malaysian version, Mrs Crocombe uses butter to fry the rice and adds cream to it. I might try this version out next time I make fried rice!



(Did I mention how soothing it is to listen to the butter sizzling in the pan? Very ASMR)

With garnishing, this simple meal becomes fit for a lord's table.





4. Apple hedgehog


The end result is an adorable white thing with a cherry for its nose, raisins for its eyes and hazelnut flakes for its spines.


What's not to love about this dish?

Everything else to love about this video series:
-The background music
-The actress playing Mrs Crocombe
-The shiny copper pots and pans hanging in the background
My dream kitchen

-Everything else down to Mrs Crocombe's accent, the simple plots that go with the videos, and her simple look of surprise and 'oh, hello there!' as the camera pans onto her.

The channel also runs a series of videos on the real Mrs Crocombe. She rose in the ranks to become the head cook in a time when male cooks were more widely sought after and received better paid than their female counterparts. [0:40-1:00 in the third video]

To quote historian Dr Anne Gray in the third video,

"To me it is impossible to think about studying the history of women without looking in-depth at servant life. Avis Crocombe and the other cooks like her who reached the pinnacle of their profession in a time when it was unthinkable to get any further, are incredibly important figures to consider and to look at. They're people that fought the gender battle in their own way. They didn't put on sashes and go out on the streets or throw themselves under horses, but in their own way they nevertheless fought for women to be recognised as professionals doing a professional job in an incredibly male-dominated profession."








For more videos on historical food and dining habits (mostly British), I'd recommend The Supersizers series. Each episode is for an hour or so and is an enjoyable and light-hearted take on the eating habits of a specific historical period, going as far back as Ancient Rome to as recent as the seventies. Some of the videos are on Youtube.

Image result for the supersizers

I'd also recommend Future Learn's "A History of Royal Food and Feasting". Did not manage to complete the course myself, but it was fun to see other dedicated and talented learners share their recreations of historical dishes.

For information on the actual working conditions of domestic servants, watch the Life Below Stairs series. The tone of the videos is pretty depressing, but I picked up a couple of interesting facts along the way.

For a more comprehensive account on Victorian domestic life in general, Judith Flanders' "The Making of Home", "Inside the Victorian Home" and "The Victorian House" are good reads.


Saturday, February 10, 2018

Four Greatest Beauties of China: Diao Chan

It has been so long since I last wrote on this blog. In this span of four years (or more), so much has changed in my personal life. I have attended and graduated from university, found a job, and found a lot of topics that interest me other than history. Yup, history is still fascinating. But I have gained a new outlook on things. Citations, for one. I noticed how my previous posts contained no citations at all. Citations are everything in university. My supervisors would flip if I were to hand in a dissertation full of allegations and with absolutely no citations at all.

But I digress. Enough about me and my personal life. Time to end the 'Four Beauties' series with Diao Chan, the only one who is purely fictional.

(On that note, a reader asked in a comment if Xi Shi is fictional. I will look into that. Anyway, a lot of Chinese history is so mixed up with myths and folklore it sometimes is hard to distinguish fact from fiction. I promise to be more careful on that point in the future, and include references and disclaimers when necessary)

Also, before I begin, a shoutout to fellow blogger and friend Hanfugirl who is the impetus behind this post. She runs a lovely blog centred around 'Hanfu', i.e. Han Chinese traditional dress, and I cannot recommend it enough! Check it out.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Women in Wars of The Roses Part I: Books and Overview

Finally, I’m going back to writing about History! It has been a while since I last blogged about it.

I don’t really know how accurate my sources are but I’m purely going to write this post based on these references below and on memory. In case you don’t know, I’ve read all of these books right before I sleep and every time I’m free in Cambridge, even if it’s just for 15 minutes because reading is my sole entertainment. So writing this is just recounting my thoughts on what I’ve been reading for leisure when in UK:

Based on these references, written mostly based on memory:-

1. White Queen Series (drama) by Phillipa Gregory

2. Documentary of the 4 White Queen women figureheads also by Phillipa Gregory

3. Books by Phillipa Gregory featuring

a. Queen Elizabeth Woodville, by The White Queen

b. Jacquetta Woodville, by The Lady of The Rivers

c. Anne Neville, by The Kingmaker’s Daughter

d. Queen Elizabeth of York, by The White Princess

e. Lady Margaret Beaufort, by The Red Queen

4. YouTube videos, Wikipedia, and random sessions of getting lost in the internet

Sunday, October 13, 2013

On Hiatus

The writers have just started university. Updates here will be more sporadic. Thank you!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Europe Timeline

Disclaimer: Brief history and overview of the European Time Period, written in chronological order and in layman language. Whatever that is written below is to the best of the author's knowledge and interpretation; hence this post may be updated from time to time, with corrections and whatnot. Magnification of events-- mostly in Britain-- in a certain age is through the author's limited perspective, thus she only highlights what she deems eventful-- to her at least-- at that time. Insights into certain time periods may be written on separate posts, since dynasties and eras are magnificently intricate  and the author has no heart to discount them all. The author also acknowledges that the magnification of events are highly biased, but since the post is still under construction, magnification and addition of events will be improved over time. She may also reduce redundant information to prevent this post from becoming a bit too voluble; voluble information will be replaced with external links


Sunday, April 14, 2013

King Henry VIII and His Six Wives Part I

This wouldn't be considered a history blog if there isn't a post about King Henry VIII! Hence, I shall make a short write up about Henry VIII and each of Henry's wives. I will write a more detailed one about them later in separate posts.

The Tudor Dynasty has been one of my favourites in History. Actually the 16th century is probably one of the best historical era everywhere in the world (e.g Joseon Dynasty in Korea). There is a saying that in Henry VIII and Elizabeth I (Henry VIII's daughter), the Tudor Dynasty produced the two most famous monarchs in English History. The ironic twist is this: Henry VIII was infamously known as the tyrant yet his daughter made her ruling era (the Elizabethan Era) known as England's Golden Age. Another fun fact is Henry's eldest daughter, Queen Mary I (also known as Bloody Mary), is the most hated Queen in British History! All in all, 16th century England has been one of the most dramatic periods in History

To read more about Queen Elizabeth I click here

Here is a summarised version of Henry VIII's six wives in a form of a song:



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