Posts tagged #Maggie Smith

Downton Abbey Cocktails

This Sunday on January 6th, the third season of BBC's big hit series, Downton Abbey, will launch to the delight of million of viewers worldwide.

And while the dueling grand dames, played by Maggie Smith as the Downton Dowager and Shirley MacLaine as the progressive American mother-in-law, will be dueling for the best one liner putdowns, it is actually the three Downton daughters who anchor the plot's movement through good and bad times.

The series' resulting popularity has generated an interest in all things English, including food and drink, which has prompted an interesting Internet question: What cocktail best suit each of the Earl's elegant daughters?

Lady Mary, played by Michelle Dockery, has in past airings been the series' main heroine. As the eldest child of Lord and Lady Crawley BUT sadly only a girl, she cannot inherit the estate. Viewers have watched her make two romantic mistakes only to end up in the arms of Matthew, who WILL inherit the name and lands of Downton Abbey - maybe. 

After a long wait for a proposal in the softly falling snow of December, Abbey devotees are hoping for a wedding (finally)and NO MORE problems for the fair and long suffering Mary. The perfect Lady Mary cocktail would seem to be a classic (and well earned) Champagne Cocktail.

The next Downton daughter is the very proper Lady Edith, played by Laura Carmichael, who is waiting and hoping, and hoping, and hoping for her prince charming to appear, even if he is older than she and handicapped from an arm injury obtained on the horrific battlefields of World War I.

Her frustration often brings out a mean streak in her that may well mellow as the story line develops and she finds either meaning or love in life beyond just title and rank. Currently many bar masters are serving the Lillet Cocktail as the drink that matches Lady Edith's reserved English personality the best.

Finally there is Lady Sybil, played by Jessica Brown Findlay, the rebellious daughter of Downton, who reads feminist tracks, argues for women's sufferage, dares to wear the latest Paris pants fashion and, shock of shock, falls in love with the family's free thinking Irish chauffeur, Tom Branson, AND marries him. Oh no, below the salt! But what nerve!

In a strength of will worthy of any early era feminist, she stands up to her family and moves to Ireland with her new husband, leaving the wealth and grandeur of Downton for conviction and true love. It seems only a hardy Irish coffee would be perfect for this beloved but definitely brave black sheep of the family.

So choose your favorite lady of the Abbey to cheer on to fame and happiness and THEN raise your glass to BBC for another great series that's sure to set many new culinary trends as well as delight viewers everywhere . Many thanks and England forever!

Your Culinary World copyright Ana Kinkaid/Peter Schlagel 2013

Downton Abbey Reflects Our Own Changing Times

Culinary fans of historic tales have been fascinated by BBC’s new series entitled Downton Abbey.  Set in 1912 just two years before the European start of World War I, King George V in on the throne and the tides of social change are lapping at the shores of England. With the clouds of war gathering on the Continent, more then just a new century has begun. And everyone will be effected whether they like it or not.

The fictitious Crawley Family owns (at least for awhile) the ancestral Downton Abbey nestled in the beautiful rolling green English countryside. But try as they might to avoid them, the waves of change are steadily breaking on the steps of their once peaceful country home.  New and strange inventions such as electric lights, motorcars and ringing telephones are all making their jarring presence felt in the grand house.

But the changes that move Julian Fellowes’ outstanding script forward aren’t just about wires and wheels.  Society itself is changing much to the displeasure of the elder Dowager Countess of Grantham, brilliantly played by Maggie Smith.      

No one seems to know their place. A lowly housemaid wants to be a modern secretary while one of the pampered Crawley daughters longs to be a feminist, attend suffrage rallies and wear Poiret’s new harem pants to dinner.  Shocking, simply shocking! How will one get a husband (and provider) with such unladylike behavior!

From the county flower show to a love affair with a foreigner, nothing is as it was when good Queen Victoria sat firmly on a more moral throne.  As a result, the thoughtful Lord Grantham struggles with the fading value of traditions while Mathew Crawley, a distant younger cousin set to inherit the entire estate, struggles with an undiscovered sense of self and purpose. 

In short, Downton Abbey is the story of a society on the edge of all that’s modern.  But this isn’t the first series presented by BBC that explores this still contemporary issue of racing rapid change.

In 1977 the equally amazing story of Rose Lewis was presented by BBC in The Duchess of Duke Street series.  This story is about a real life individual who rode the same rising waves of change that are now being portrayed in the popular Downton Abbey programs.

Known to her contemporaries as the “Queen of Cooks” she trained under the great "King of Chefs" Auguste Escoffier and went on to own and direct the legendary Cavendish Hotel in London.  Independent and with a sense of humor that broke through Edwardian class barriers, she cooked for Kings and Emperors, all the while keeping their secrets and winning their respect. 

She loved and deeply understood people.  She believed that life should always be a feast no matter the circumstance.  When a heavy bomb fell on the Cavendish Hotel during World War II, an aged Rose emerged from the ruins to the amazement of everyone, dusted the broken glass from her hair, and shook her fist at the departed Nazi bombers.  Then she served champagne to all those crowded into the now rubble filled street! Now that's style! 

If you are enjoying Downton Abbey, be sure to check out The Duchess of Duke Street programs.  You’ll adore Rose’s fighting spirit, fine cooking and courage as she and the cast of real characters around her learned how to be modern in a faster world while still maintaining their love of life. 

Your Culinary World copyright Ana Kinkaid/Peter Schlagel 2011