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Cheers to Peace below stairs

Downton Abbey fans were thrilled with the news in S2 Episode 6 that the Great War was over, particularly after the previous sombre episode where Matthew and William come home wounded from the war, and William succumbs to his injuries.  Bummer.  At long last we will be able to return to new fashions, extravagent dinners, turkey shoots, garden parties, and other gaity that goes on in the life of the privileged, and those so happy to be in service to them.  Life does go on, but alas, not in the way that anyone had hoped.  This is a telling scene from the opening of Episode 7 which sets the tone of life in post war Europe.

To recap, in the words of the pessimists: “Welcome to the new world”, and all is not rosey. “When war is over, the first emotion is relief.  The second disappointment.” “How sad. How True.” This is countered by the wise words of Mrs. Patmore: “The Lord tempers the wind to the shorn lamb”, which actually doesn’t come from the Bible, but nonetheless was a phrase originated in 18th century that means that God mercifully ensures that misfortune does not overwhelm the weak or helpless. Hope floats.

The trials of troubled Thomas 

Thomas suffers a setback in business

While we would never wish harm to anyone, I admit to taking some delight in watching Thomas squirm as he tries to find his way in this new world.  This is a fellow who should have been in a demolitions unit in the war, as he is quite skilled at burning bridges; then again he isn’t the brightest spark in the box. 

He made enemies of Mr. Carson and Lord Grantham when he was caught thieving.  He escapes dismissal by volunteering  for the medical corps, hoping to land a cushy medical assignment.  Unfortunately he winds up at the front.  Thanks to the remarkable marksmanship of an obliging German soldier, he returns home, and with the help of O’Brien, manages to find himself in charge of Downton Abbey’s convalescing operations.  Snubbing his nose at his former employers and servants at every turn, he did get a great idea from our heroine, Mrs. Patmore, who spent alot of time fetting about food shortages.  He is duped by a black market dealer (horrors) for supplies to set up his own black market business, and is left without money, a place to stay, or a job.  Now scrambling to find a place for himself back at Downton.  Mrs. Patmore observes “it is wonderful what fear will do for the human spirit.”  Don’t worry, he eventually lands on his feet, getting back into the good graces of Lord Grantham in the Christmas episode.  But in the meantime, yes, it is time for Thomas to have a nice big helping of humble pie.

Eating Humble Pie

To “eat humble pie” is an idiom which originated in the UK, meaning to “act submissively and apologetically, especially in admitting an error.”  Its origins relate to the umble pie.  In the 15th century the name for the entrails of a deer were called umbles, and eventually migrated to the term humble.  Umbles were used as an ingredient in pies.  The adjective “humble”, meaning ‘of lowly rank’ or ‘having a low estimate of oneself’, was derived separately from umbles. The similarity of the sound of the words, and the fact that umble pie was often eaten by those of humble situation (the best cuts of meats went to the wealthy) could easily have been the reason for the phrase to ‘eat humble pie’ to have its current meaning.

Hmm, deer entrails.  Yes, a nice big piece of humble pie would certainly be a fitting dish for Thomas. Having said that Haggis–which is made of sheep entrails (so much for the shorn lamb–is prized the Scots and me, so who’s to say if it would be edible.  Check out an original recipe and decide for yourself.

(H)umble Pie Recipe, 1591

from A Book of Cookrye, 1591
To bake the Umbles of a Deere.
Mince them very small with Suet, and season them with Pepper, a little Ginger, a little Sinamon and Corance, and out into your paste, and when your pye is baked, put to it two spoonfuls of Claret wine, and shake it well togither.

Vegetable Pie with Potato Crust

veggie pies were served in times of meat shortage

I dare say that any part of a deer would have been prized during the rationing.  The woods likely would have been picked/poached clean.  Quite often cooks had to create dishes from the vegetables they would have had on hand. 

This is a lovely adaptation of one of those original war-time recipes of a savoury meatless pie using what ingredients which would have been on hand.   I have never attempted to grow an artichoke (It is enough just to core them), but they are quite hearty and like cool English climes.  Even Mrs. Beeton had them on her favorite veggie list.  This recipe provided by lovely Camille DeAngelis, a talented art historian and author. 


  • Filling
    • 2 onions
    • 2 carrots
    • 3sticks of celery
    • one turnip
    • one 6-oz. jar of artichoke hearts
    • 2 cups low sodium vegetable stock 
    • 1 cup lentils (soaked overnight)
    • salt and pepper
    • herbs and spices (rosemary, cumin) to taste
  • Pastry
    • one medium potato, mashed
    • 1 1/3 cups flour
    • 1/4 cup shortening (to make vegan, Camille used brand like Earth Balance)
    • 1 tsp. baking powder
    • dash of salt


  1. Preheat oven to 375º F/ 190º C/Gas Mark 5
  2. Scub and then finely chop all vegetables.  Leave the skins on for extra nutrients
  3. Sauté with herbs in olive oil until soft.
  4. Take off heat and add vegetable stock and pre-soaked lentils.
  5. To make the pastry mix the shortening into the dry ingredients
  6. Add the mashed potato, mixing together with a little cold water. It should make a nice easy-to-roll dough.
  7. Spoon the filling into a casserole dish (will yield too much filling for a pie plate)
  8. Roll out the pastry and cover, sealing the edges of the pie with a fork.
  9. Bake for 45 minutes, dabbing the crust with a bit of butter if you like.

*Check the handy conversion chart at the top of the page the measurements for your part of the world.