The Victorian Way is a series of videos by the English Heritage channel on YouTube, titled "How to make X — The Victorian Way". The show presents various delicious recipes of classical British cuisine from the mid-to-late Victorian period. Later it also introduces other aspects of life in the traditional English countryside mansion, like gardening, making butter or taking care of laundry.
The main character of the videos is Mrs Crocombe, a cook employed at Audley End House. She presents her art of cooking and shares her favourite recipes with viewers. Usually she shows what she cooks for Lord and Lady Braybrooke and their guests, but sometimes she shares recipes for meals that are cooked for the staff.
There are also maids and scullery maids who help Mrs Crocombe with less demanding tasks in the kitchen, of those two were introduced onscreen: Mary Ann and Sylvia. Another character is Edgar Ashman, the third gardener at Audley End, who shows viewers the Audley End's gardens and is in charge of harvesting apples. The head gardener, Mr Vert, also makes an appearance. Miss Fanny Cowley is a dairy maid who shows viewers how to make herb butter. Mrs Warwick, the housekeeper, is introduced as she gives a tour of the laundry to a potential employee.
Avis Crocombe is played by historical interpreter Kathy Hipperson. The series is filmed on location at Audley End House and Gardens in Essex. The web series got its Spin-Off Cookbook How to Cook the Victorian Way.
Tropes - The Victorian Way:
- Big Fancy House: Mrs Crocombe works at the estate of Lord and Lady Braybrooke called Audley End House. It's massive, exquisite and positively gorgeous with vast gardens (with both ornamental plants and useful plants for the kitchen). Mrs Crocombe is proud that she has such a good and prestigious job.
- Christmas Episode: Given how big a deal food is to Christmas in the UK, and the degree to which present-day traditions either started or were codified in the Victorian era, there are quite a few recipes:
- "How to Make a Christmas Cake The Victorian Way": This episode's recipe is for traditional plum cake. It is based on a recipe by Charles Francatelli who was Queen Victoria's chief cook.
- "How to Make Mince Pies - The Victorian Way": In this episode, Mrs Crocombe cooks traditional mincemeat and she has made enough to last the whole Christmas season. Some of it is used to make mince pies.
- "How to Make Christmas Pudding - The Victorian Way": The cook prepares a traditional plum pudding. This recipe comes from Modern Cookery by Eliza Acton who has been the first person to call it 'Christmas Pudding'.
- "How to Make Christmas Gin Punch - The Victorian Way": We are told that Mr Lincoln, the butler, is very busy with Christmas preparations, so it is Mrs Crocombe who makes some Christmas gin punch for the servants.
- "How to Make Gingerbread The Victorian Way": Mrs Crocombe makes traditional gingerbread. These edible decorations are going to be hanged on the Christmas tree at Audley End House.
- "How to Cook Turkey - The Victorian Way": Recipe for a traditional galentine of turkey for Christmas dinner. (As Mrs Crocombe explains, the galentine is a side dish to the main event, roast beef.)
- "How To Make Nesselrode Cream The Victorian Way": Nesselrode Cream is a Victorian Christmas favourite, called an ideal winter dessert. It's made of chestnuts, double cream, dried cherries, vanilla and other ingredients.
- A Day In The Lime Light: "How to Harvest Apples - The Victorian Way" introduces Edgar Ashman, the third gardener at Audley End. He's in charge of harvesting apples, then brings two baskets to Mrs Crocombe. He's willing to learn and gladly shares his knowledge with viewers.
- Deadpan Snarker: Mrs Crocombe can throw shade like a queen of snark. She has heard that SOME PEOPLE use their turbot kettles for steaming puddings. And she certainly doesn't approve when she's told there are 10 for dinner, but there are in fact 14.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance:
- Some of the food choices can be unexpected given how people's tastes have drifted over the centuries, or between Europe and the United States. For instance, in "How to Cook Turbot," lobster meat is used to make a sauce to serve over the fish. Nowadays, lobster itself would be the main course, but until the 20th century, eating lobster by itself was reserved only for the poor and prisoners.
- Many viewers have pointed out in the comments that the servant foods meant for the help and the impoverished (such as the soup for the poor, consisting of bacon, hearty vegetables, and split peas) look far more appetizing to modern palates than the "fancy" dishes served to the lord and lady of the house (such as pigeon pie...including the feet).
- The soup for the poor is itself an example. The recipe's main ingredient is bacon; in Victorian England, the pig belly where bacon comes from was considered undesirable (and thus cheap) because it was so fatty. But bacon's popularity in modern times has made it relatively expensive.
- Discussed in the crossover with the Townsends (a webseries about historical life in the United States). Mr. Townsend sends Mrs. Crocombe the ingredients for Indian pudding, and he acknowledges in his letter that most Europeans consider maize food for animals, but it's a staple in American cuisine.
- Disapproving Look: Something of a trademark for Mrs Crocombe. When she talks about something she disapproves of (like, say, packet custard and tinned fruit), she looks through her glasses and looks very stern.
- Food Porn: The videos are beautifully shot with lots of details on ingredients and the final product.
- Haughty Help: Mrs Crocombe displays shades of the mild "offended sensibilities" type. While generally pleasant and helpful, and mindful that some cooks might not have access to the wealth of ingredients and help she has as head cook at a Peer's stately home, she frequently gives disapproving looks when discussing both social vulgarities (like calling roly-poly pudding "dead man's leg") and lazy shortcuts in cookery (like using custard powder and tinned fruit to make a trifle).
- Mentor: Mr Vert, head gardener at Audley End, is teaching young Edgar Ashman all about gardening. He often tests him and makes sure Edgar knows what must be done. He encourages him to make notes about weather and other important things and compare different approaches to gardening. Edgar is very eager to learn and hopes to make it as head gardener one day.
- Old Maid: Mrs Crocombe's title "Mrs" is honorary. Like other servants, she's not married. However, video "The real Mrs Crocombe" revealed that the inspiration for this character (there really was a cook of this name in that house) later left the service and got married when she was in her early to mid forties.
- The Perfectionist: Mrs Crocombe does not tolerate the food to be anything else but delicious and garnished to perfection. It must taste and look amazing. She's less fussy about appearance of the meals she prepares for the staff, but still does a very thorough job on flavour and makes sure portions are generous.
- Shaped Like Itself: Mrs Crocombe talks about pudding: "Some people call this shirt sleeve pudding because they make it in old shirt sleeves."
- Spot of Tea: In "How to Make a Cup of Tea - The Victorian Way", Mrs Crocombe says that everyone at Audley End enjoys a good cup of tea and even Lady Braybrooke makes her own tea. She then presents the most proper way of brewing a pot of tea, served in a cup with milk and sugar. This way it is prepared for her and other servants, so it was served in less expensive china and from cheaper Indian tea leaves.
- The Suffragette: Mrs Warwick, the housekeeper, is a suffragette. She mentions to Mrs Crocombe that she has written to their local Member of Parliament and she hopes that he will represent their views in the next debate on women's suffrage. She says Lady Braybrooke is an example to follow because she takes interest in the local affairs, so it's safe to assume that Lady Braybrooke supports women's suffrage, too.
- Supreme Chef: Mrs Crocombe is an excellent cook and very proud of her culinary art. Edgar Ashman praises her cooking and says that everybody thinks she's wonderfully talented.
- Sweet Tooth: Mrs Crocombe mentions that both Lord and Lady Braybrooke love sweet things. When she makes custard pudding, she says that both Lord and Lady Braybrooke are very fond of custard and she believes that Lord Braybrooke could eat it with anything.
- Wealthy Philanthropist: Mrs Warwick says that Lady Braybrooke has done a lot for the necessitous children of Walden and has done many other charitable activities. In episode "How to Make Soup for the Poor", Lady Braybrooke has asked Mrs Crocombe to make a simple soup for distributing to the poor of the parish because it's winter and very cold.