Lady Montefiore's Cookbook 1846
ISBN 978 1907369 27 8
This charming and very Victorian Manual for the Jewish kitchen was discovered in the Jewish Division of the New York Public Library by Ruth L. Gales and Lila T. Gold and published in facsimile form in 1983. The 1846 original is discreetly credited to " A Lady" and it is thanks to the research of Mss Gales and Gold and the detective work of the late Chaim Raphael, civil servant, Oxford don and, under the name of Jocelyn Davey, mystery writer, that "A Lady" was proved to be none other than the former mistress of East Cliff Lodge in Ramsgate: Judith, Lady Montefiore. This present facsimile copy is being published as part of a series concerned with local Ramsgate history, in which Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore played an important part. The synagogue they built is a treasured part of the town's heritage as is the Mausoleum, their last resting place. This manual gives some of the flavour of that lost world of East Cliff Lodge in Ramsgate over a hundred and sixty years ago, a world not entirely lost to us as I discovered when I moved here in 1988; some of the Jewish families of that time are still with us like the da Costas and the Barnetts: a member of that family, Joel Barnett, was a Mayor of Ramsgate as was Lazarus Hart, who gave the town the almshouses in Thanet Road.
A need was felt to cover, in this series, the happy Jewish participation in Ramsgate's history and of the country at large: it is hoped that through the reproduction of this cookbook and the explanatory foreword that it achieves that aim and, in the words of Lady Montefiore's Preface, "may meet with (your) lenient, kind and favourable consideration."
Judith and Moses Montefiore first visited Ramsgate on their honeymoon in 1812.
They were both English bred: Moses' grandfather emigrated from Livorno to London around 1740; his father imported Italian goods including Carrera marble and Leghorn straw bonnets. Judith's father, Levi Barent Cohen, was a rich Amsterdam merchant who settled in London in 1770. They were both born into comfortable middle-class merchant families. and 'enjoyed a form of social ease with the "upper classes"….which was extremely rare for Jews elsewhere'. However, most of these English Jews still retained their Jewish faith, although few as ardently as Moses Montefiore or Judith Cohen.
Moses had grown up moving in the most elite Jewish circles where there was a mixture of Jew and gentile. As a very young man he is reputed to have dined with Lord Nelson at the banker Abraham Goldsmid's house, Morden Lodge. Nelson and Lady Hamilton were neighbours at nearby Merton Place and frequent visitors. It was most probably at one of these dinners that Montefiore insisted on reciting the whole, rather long `Grace after Meals' in Hebrew. The other guests must have wondered if it would ever end.
Judith was equally pious as well as being at ease in grand gentile society. In later life she told, without embarrassment, of the arrival one day of Admiral Sir Sydney Smith while the Cohen family were chanting the Book of Lamentations on the Fast of the 9th. of the month of Ab, which commemorates the destruction of the Temple; Judith simply explained the Fast to her Christian guests to their apparent satisfaction.
As English Jews, they were subject to few discriminatory laws other than those that applied to other religious minorities such as Quakers and Methodists, and to Catholics. There were (and are) no laws that specifically deny Jews any rights: it was the form of oath, which included the words "on the true faith of a Christian ", to be sworn on taking any public office or graduating from university which denied Jews full participation in the life of the nation. Even so, when Montefiore served as an officer in the Militia (he was commissioned Captain in the 3rd. Surrey Local Militia in 1810) during the Napoleonic wars, Jewish volunteers were already allowed to take the Oath of Allegiance `according to the forms of their religion'. It was one of Montefiore's great achievements to have helped remove this disability from all areas of national life. He did this in cooperation with others thus affected such as the Catholic Duke of Norfolk who, in 1829, presented him at Court to William IV. For many years the Duke and Montefiore continued to cooperate on matters affecting the Relief from Religious Disabilities: they both joined in the work for the founding of the first non-denominational college: University College, London.
By the time of their honeymoon visit to Ramsgate Montefiore had become a highly successful broker on the London Stock Exchange, working with his brother-in-law, Nathan Mayer Rothschild. Ramsgate captivated the couple and in 1822 East Cliff Lodge was rented for a year from 15th.April. In 1830 the house came up for sale and after some set backs they succeeded in buying it in the following year. Montefiore, now a very rich man, decided to retire from the Exchange to concentrate on managing his many commercial affairs and, most importantly, to devote more time to the philanthropic works which so interested them both.
In Ramsgate a small Jewish community already existed. It was not the earliest Jewish settlement in Kent: there had been well recorded communities in Canterbury, Sandwich, Faversham and Rochester ever since 1066, when Jews from Rouen in Normandy had followed William the Conqueror into England. The community in Canterbury was a quite important one: it appears to have maintained good relations with its Christian neighbours and seems to have been on extremely good terms with the monks. In a controversy between the monks and Archbishop Baldwin the Jews appear to have taken the side of the monks and reportedly prayed for them. All of this ended sadly in 1290 with the expulsion of the Jews under Edward I. The house of Jacob the Jew stood where the County Hotel now stands and the alley behind the hotel still bears the name Jewry Lane
In 1830 Canterbury once again had a Jewish community, one sufficiently established to have had its own cemetery since 1760 and a synagogue built in 1762. In Dover there was another; congregation, founded in 1770. The growth of the community in this part of the county can be seen in the Register of Marriages and Circumcisions from 1768-1818 kept by a Rabbi Ash of Dover. Rabbi Ash appears to have performed marriages at Dover, Canterbury and Chatham under the auspices of the Chief Rabbi in London from 1768. He performed frequent circumcisions from that date in Kent, including Dover, Folkestone, Canterbury and Margate. The first appearance of Ramsgate in his register dates from 1789.
Ramsgate's first recorded Jewish family, that of Isaac Lyon, a silversmith, appears in 1786, first living in the High Street and later at 13 Harbour Street. This family was followed quickly by Levi Abraham of Portsmouth, a tailor, who had married Elizabeth Moses from a Dover family. He had his shop first at 63 and then 70 High street, His brother-in law in Dover, Elias Edward, had changed his name to Goldsmid, thus confusing his name with that of the old established banking family. This may, at last, explain the former name of Ramsgate's Harbour Parade: Goldsmid Terrace. Had it been part of his property as a property developer? There has been no evidence of the more established Goldsmids, friends of Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton, having any connection to the town.
Having purchased East Cliff Lodge, Montefiore then expressed his intention, in his diary, of 'after two or three years to reside entirely at Ramsgate.' and that he ' would build a small but handsome synagogue and engage a good and clever man as reader' The Montefiores had visited the Holy Land in 1827 and the synagogue, dedicated in 1833, was partly a thanksgiving offering for divine protection on that journey and also for their great and good fortune.
The pious Montefiores observed the Mosaic dietary laws and kept a strictly kosher kitchen. This required that their meat be ritually slaughtered and that they observe the biblical injunctions in Exodus XXIII:19 and Deuteronomy XIV:21 " you shall not seethe a kid in its mother's milk" which means never mixing milk with meat in cooking. Eating milk and meat in the same meal was also prohibited as was serving pork, shell-fish, hares, rabbits and swans. Supplies of kosher smoked beef and 'chorisa' (sic: Spanish style beef chorizo) as a spicy substitute for ham and bacon; of olive oil to replace dripping or lard for cooking meatless meals, of almond-cream as a substitute for dairy cream in puddings and sweet dessert dishes were important for the "modern" menus that this cookbook proposes.
The Montefiores, with Jewish neighbours in Ramsgate, Dover, Deal and Canterbury were thus assured of the availability of kosher meat and supplies from established butchers and grocers as well as the possibility of communal prayers. There may even have been a family connection to bring the Montefiores to the Kent coast: Rabbi Ash records having performed a circumcision on a son of the Gompertz family at Hythe on 30th January 1808. Moses Montefiore's sister Abigail was married to Benjamin Gompertz
Judith Montefiore was not only as pious as her husband but was closely involved in all of her husband's activities. She was as intellectually inquisitive as he was: indeed, 'her prudence and intelligence influenced all her husband's undertakings….' and it was she who administered much of their philanthropic work. She spoke French and German and later Italian, which Moses, or her 'dear Mon' as she called him, also spoke. She studied Turkish and Arabic and was able to assist her husband as an interpreter on their many travels..
Although they both read Hebrew, they were not fluent in that language, which was still the language of prayer and not of general daily conversation. Sir Moses always regretted his lack of a university education; his consequent search for knowledge was shared with Lady Montefiore. I have found only one of her journals, describing their journey to Egypt and Palestine in 1838; the second journal she is said to have kept may have given more details of her daily life. That of her niece, Lady de Rothschild, nee Montefiore, records a daily routine in 1840 which may give an idea of how Judith Montefiore might have organised her day. Typically it would have her dealing with the Household, newspapers and correspondence until 12; then Human Understanding (philosophy?) or drawing to 1.00; Geography or History to 3.00; Ancient Literature or Italian or German until 4.00. Household affairs seem to have taken up a major part of the morning, and Judith Montefiore must have been an assiduous housekeeper as this Manual indicates. She had been running a large household in Park Lane in London for some time.
We know that the Montefiores mixed in Gentile circles and entertained Gentile friends: they were not unique in this. These leading Anglo-Jewish families, together with a burgeoning middle class, enjoyed a social acceptance and mobility unknown anywhere else. The advertisements and personal columns of the Jewish Chronicle of the 1850s begin to acquire a distinctly Victorian middleclass flavour: saddle and harness makers announce their services; elocution classes for young ladies and shorthand writing are offered. From Ramsgate the Rev. I.H. Myers, the minister of the synagogue, offers a vacancy for 1 boy at 60 guineas in the prep school he runs for the sons of the aspiring middle classes, where 'great attention is paid to gentlemanly deportment, gymnastics and other exercises and practices..' The boys formed a choir to accompany synagogue services. The school also, surprisingly, accepted non-Jewish pupils. The Jewish Chronicle also carried advertisements for that very Victorian position of governess, especially one of the 'Jewish faith and good family', looking for a position in a kosher household.
It would seem that by 1845 there was wide enough acceptance and entertaining of Jewish guests and a general interest in Jewish cookery in non-Jewish households for Eliza Acton to include in her cookbook MODERN COOKERY FOR PRIVATE FAMILIES a chapter: FOREIGN AND JEWISH COOKERY in which she explains the peculiar usages of kosher cooking, although she does write: '..we are credibly informed that the restrictions of which we have spoken are not at the present day rigidly observed by the main body of Jews in this country, though they are so by those denominated strict.' Acton then goes on to include the famous Anglo-Jewish recipe for fried fish, served cold, as well as an Almond Pudding which she has 'tasted more than once, and have received the exact directions from the Jewish Lady at whose house they were made. They are extremely delicate and excellent'. She ends with a detailed list of 'the articles of food strictly prohibited by Mosaic law.'
This need for help in how to entertain one's Jewish friends must have become general enough to be addressed in a cookbook aimed at a wide middleclass readership. Who was the 'Jewish Lady' at whose house Eliza Acton had tasted the Almond Pudding? The language of the two women is identical and the style of cooking is very similar. Could that lady have been Judith Montefiore and could they have exchanged recipes and resolved to publish their findings at the same time? The first announcement of Judith Montefiore's Manual is on the 19th. June 1846 Eliza Acton's book was published in 1845 just a year previously; is this a coincidence?
Both cookbooks are aimed at middleclass households with one or more servants, often including a cook. Looking at the Jewish Chronicle in those middle years of the century, a growing number of advertisements appear for a 'Female cook of the Jewish Persuasion' or 'of the Jewish faith'; some adverts say one or more servants are kept, others ask the applicant to be prepared to 'make herself generally useful.' For Lady Montefiore, the motive to write this book may have come not only from a desire to instruct the new middleclass in good taste and manners but also as a text book for those at the bottom of the ladder.
The Jews' Hospital and Orphanage (now NORWOOD, caring for disadvantaged Jewish children & families based at Stanmore) was founded in 1795 by the Goldsmid brothers with the ideals of keeping poor Jewish children off the streets and at the same time of improving their morals and social habits. These orphans were brought up not only in the Jewish religion but also to value those very Victorian values of thrift and industry. The boys by the age of 13 were apprenticed to artisans and the girls were placed in Jewish homes as servants although by 1845 they were also being trained as nurses, governesses and teachers. Lady Montefiore was closely involved in these Institutions, ' having had some girls educated for several years at the Jews' Hospital '; her interest in these poor girls becomes manifest in the memorial that was set up in her memory after her death in 1862. The Jewish Chronicle's report of the Chief Rabbi's sermon announces the setting up of a fund to establish dowries to help suitably trained poor Jewish girls to get married ' The preference to be given to one who has been a Jewish cook.'
I can find no records of the menus served at Park Lane or at East Cliff Lodge or if any of these poor orphan girls, trained as cooks, were hired to serve the Montefiore household. Few of the ' receipts ' in this manual are what are known as 'Jewish' food today. Some of them come from that old pre-Inquisition Iberian culture, some from Dutch and German traditions but one must look hard to find those Eastern European dishes that came in the 1880s with the influx of refugees fleeing the Russian pogroms: dishes such as gefilte fish, pickled herring, borscht, chopped liver, latkes and bagels.
The inclusion in a kosher cookbook of recipes for pheasant, pigeon and venison may seem surprising but it becomes clear that these were farmed on the East Cliff estate to be prepared virtually by their own butchers. On departing from Dover in 1838 on their second trip to Jerusalem, Lady Montefiore stopped off at East Cliff Lodge and grumbles in her journal that she `spoke to Mrs. Star about the pheasants, ……..She does not succeed in the management of them, the numbers having decreased from twenty-one to eight….' Before their departure prayers were said in the synagogue and Lady Montefiore tells us that: `Mr. Levi Abraham, (Tailor and Hatter of Queen Street) was present in order to complete the ten and join in prayer. This was a mark of great kindness at his age (verging on ninety) and with his infirmity.' The Montefiores were beginning to be an important part of the local community.
Indeed, by this time, they were thinking of Ramsgate more and more, as is recorded in their diaries in November 1837: after a very busy day in London, they managed to have a quiet time at home like "one of our happy East Cliff evenings". Dr. Louis Lowe, Montefiore's secretary and renowned Orientalist, tells of how guests were entertained at East Cliff Lodge with stories of foreign travel and examining the many curiosities Lady Montefiore had brought back with her, including an Egyptian Scarab and a clay figure of Osiris with hieroglyphics which Dr. Lowe deciphered for her along with explaining the story of the Rosetta Stone. Alas, no account of what was served that evening or on any subsequent ones is given.
The kitchens and staff must have been quite considerable to have coped with the frequent and generous entertaining. The festivities at the dedication of the synagogue on the 16th.June 1833, when 'about 82 sat down to dinner, the gardens were illuminated and during dessert a band played in the tent', must have kept everyone busy. More was to come: the next evening another party, for neighbours as well as family and friends, was held '……….fireworks were at eleven followed by supper in a tent room and dancing till two o'clock'. The Kentish Gazette of 25th. June covers the event with great approval. "Dear Mon" did have the grace to record in his diary that "To my dear and much valued wife I am indebted for the success of the entertainment."
Which dishes were served from this Manual? The Jewish Chronicle around this time carried announcements from a "Cook and Confectioner of Aldgate" offering a three-course meal including mock turtle soup, salmon and codfish, fowls, pigeon pies, turkey, capons and goslings, recipes for all of which are to be found in this book. How many of the specifically Jewish recipes were offered at these grand dinners? Was cold fried fish on the menu?
What about the Spanish, Dutch and German sounding names: Almondego soup; fish dishes such as Impanada and Escabeche; meat dishes of Olio, mutton a la Hispaniola, Kimmel Meat? Kugel or Commean sounds like the famous Yiddish dish Cholent that she grants is "extremely savoury and nutritious" but tartly suggests " is not a very seemly dish for table.". The puddings and desserts sound even more exotic with Spanish names like Bola d'Amor, Bola Toliedo, Bola d'Hispaniola and Chejados and then the German ones: Grimstich, Lamplich and Waflers. Modern versions of some of these recipes can be found in Claudia Roden's THE BOOK OF JEWISH FOOD.
Recipes for Passover dishes are obvious with the use of matzos: we know that matzos were sent to Christian friends as Sir Moses is thanked on the 22nd. June 1861 for having sent some "very thin biscuits" or matzos to the wife of the Prince of Wales's doctor Some of the cake and pudding recipes are still common in Anglo-Jewish kitchens such as Haman's Fritters or Ears, Almond tea cakes, Sponge cake and Luction (Lockshen pudding)..
We are only given glimpses of the considerable entertaining that went on both in London and in Ramsgate where the food described in this Manual would be served. The Montefiores are flattered by the one and a half hour visit of HRH Princess Sophia Matilda, niece of George III and second cousin to Victoria, who was holidaying in Ramsgate in 1837. Was she served almond tea-cakes? In May the following year they gave a "grand dinner party" for the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of London plus relatives and friends which must have required much care and preparation.
Their diary records having a flow of visitors from abroad staying with them both in London and Ramsgate. The young prince, Mohammed Said Pasha, later Khedive of Egypt, stayed at the Montefiore's in London on his first visit to England in June 1852. We are told that "The Pasha assured us that our dinners were better than any he had eaten elsewhere." a high recommendation and the only reference I can find to the cuisine served at the Montefiore's table. Their entertaining continued until nearly the end of Judith Montefiore's life. In the summer of 1861 they were found
at East Cliff Lodge, with 'a number of friends and relatives together with emissaries from foreign countries, for several months affording them pleasure and occupation.'
Judith Montefiore died in October the following year. She was mourned nationally and internationally, not least, it appears, in Ramsgate when Sir Moses on the occasion of the funeral gave £50.00 to his own congregation in London and £150.00 to the Parishes of Ramsgate.