Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Regency Receipts for Beauty

Cosmetics and skin creams are nothing new, even Cleopatra had her collection of jars and bottles designed to hold back the years and make her as attractive as possible. I have to confess that I’ve always been fascinated by cosmetics and skin creams. Maybe it’s that hope that finding just the right cream will make you so beautiful that The One will be unable to resist.

However, there are some women, like my poor heroine in my newest historical, The Bricklayer’s Helper (Aug 2010), who would rather die than submit to any beauty regime, no matter how benign or beneficial. During my research for that book, I ran across a number of “receipts” for cosmetics, used by ladies of the Regency period. Although they might frown on a woman who used kohl around her eyes, blush on her cheeks, or even a dusting of rice powder on her nose, they were not at all averse to cooking up concoctions aimed at making their skin softer and removing sun damage in the form of freckles and tanned skin.

So I thought, wouldn’t it be fun to share recipes that our Regency heroines might have whipped up? And because I’m every bit as fanatic a rose grower as Margaret in Smuggled Rose, I hope to include in future blogs a few potions and concoctions for those who love gardening and natural, organic products. With luck, others might find this as fascinating as I do.

However, I warn you from the start that I may include recipes that catch my fancy simply because they are so…bizarre. If history has shown us anything, it’s that there is no end to the creativity of human beings. And sometimes, that creativity leads us down very peculiar paths.

So, to start, here are two recipes from the Regency period. The first is a simple recipe for Lavender Water that even ladies today might find useful, albeit in smaller quantities. The second is an interesting recipe for perfume, Eau d’Ange, that I’ve seen referenced in several Regencies. Finding this recipe filled me with glee and made me feel much closer to the ladies of the past.

Lavender Water

Take four handfuls of dried lavender flowers and sprinkle them with 1 quart of brandy, 1 quart of white wine, and rose water. Leave the mixture 6 days in a large bottle, well-corked. Let the liquor be distilled and poured off.

Eau d’Ange

In a mortar, pound fifteen cloves and one pound of cinnamon. Put the whole into a quart of water with four grains of aniseed. Let it stand over a charcoal fire 24 hours, then strain off the liquor and put it up for use.

This perfume is most excellent and will do well for the hands, face and hair, to which it communicates a very agreeable scent.
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I’m tempted to try these, albeit in slightly smaller quantities. Eau d’Ange, in particular, appeals to me as I’ve always been fond of “spicy” scents. I inherited my grandmother’s spice cabinet—literally a small, six-drawer cabinet made out of maple. For years, when you pulled out a drawer, you could still smell the cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves she stored in the small compartments. I’ve even sprinkled a few of those spices in the drawers in hopes of reawakening the delicious fragrances I remember.

Maybe that’s why I still love those spicy scents and that Eau d’Ange caught my fancy immediately.

Hope you found these interesting and will look forward to more “Regency Receipts”. Perhaps even a few natural cosmetics, tonics and remedies. You never know where my research and fancy will take me.

Leave me a note and let me know your thoughts!


Beth Caudill said...

I am one who most of the time never uses cosmetics. I most definitely don't use perfume. I get migraine headaches from smells. Walking through department stores is a nightmare.

I never learned to be a girl and enjoy putting stuff on my face. It feels weird and I always went to rush home and clean my face. So I can relate to your heroine. :)

Lauri said...

Oh, I'm certainly tempted to try the Eau d'Ange! Thanks for the recipe!

Congrats on the book!

Celia Yeary said...

Interesting that they used the word "receipts" for "recipes." My granny used that word, and so did Mother until she learned the correct word.Much of my early life, I heard women talk about exchanging "receipts."
I don't suppose I'll make any of these, but they are very appealing. I wonder which early human woman first created something to put on her face to make her more attractive. Thanks for this entertaining post. Celia