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Finally, a proper proposal

Downton Abbey fans across America (and Canada) were glued to their sets last night to watch the season finale of their favorite period drama on PBS. Many got into the spirit of the night and celebrated with friends and family, dressing up Downton and serving Downton dinner.

My Friday post on what to serve at a Downton Abbey viewing party was inspired by a radio interview I gave on Thursday. PBS retweeted it which contributed to an avalanche of views yesterday. Thank you to everyone who came by to visit. I hope that everyone found something to suit their tastes. Lord D took pride in preparing dinner for us last night; his recipe for pork roast is still a well guarded secret, but it was heavenly.

Today Americans celebrate Washington’s Birthday or Presidents Day, and in parts of Canada we observe Family Day. Time off to spend with family, to relax and reflect. Shrove Tuesday is tomorrow which marks the beginning of Lent and kicks of Mardi Gras.  I had warned everyone that there would be consequences once you reached the plateau of the final episode. You now know how British fans feel as we all wait for the new season to be written, produced and released. September was the earliest date I have seen for broadcast on itv.  Who knows when it will reach PBS here in America.  You could get into the new Titanic series that Julian Fellowes is launching in April in time for the 100th anniversary of the sinking of Titanic, but again it will only likely hit itv first.

Behind the Drama

At the end of last night’s episode we were treated to a behind the scenes view of how the series is produced. In other words, be patient, the process takes time.

I had shared this segment in an earlier post about Daisy, but here is a recap of “Daisy’s World”, with a tour given by lovely Sophie McShera who plays Daisy and interview with Lesley McNicol who plays Mrs. Patmore.

While some character development in the last episode might have been a bit lacking, I was pleased that Daisy’s character has been allowed to grow up, that she is comforted by the Dowager’s words that she must have loved William very much to have married him. Her father in law has also come by her side to give her guidance, and Mrs. Patmore is supportive in growing in her position. Time for Sophie to exercise her acting chops.

So what do we do now?

My re-run clip should have given you a hint. It is time to relive the drama all over again, and again. PBS will likely be re-broasting the episodes, and will likely be picked up by public television stations. Support public televsion. Or you can buy the series on DVD or Blue Ray and plan your own viewing parties sharing Downton with the unititiated. You can now go back to the beginning and see how the relationships between characters developed, the hints of what is to come from a new perspective. We know that Shirley MacLaine has been cast to play Martha Levinson, Cora’s mother and Mary’s Grand Mama. Join the game of trying to predict what is going to happen in Season 3.  I follow @hughbon (Robert) and @brendancoyle99 (John Bates) and so far there has been a turkey shoot. That’s all I got.  I have heard about the US version coming soon.  Shondra Rhimes is expected to  produce Guilded Lilies, centered around an upscale New York Hotel in the 1890s. So all it not lost.

Downton Abbey  merchandise emerges

There is also merchandise to be purchased and trading cards to be exchanged. The timing for the first product launch in the UK was just in time for Christmas. Past Times offers pillows and cups. You are likely to find more US/Canada based online stores spring up to feed your desire for all things Downton. June 2012 Update:  There is great buzz as Knockout Licencing has just been granted Downton Abbey licencing rights for US and Canada. There may soon be Downton Abbey furnishing in your home, who knows?

I came across the talented comic artist Chad Thomas who drew some cheeky Valentine Abbey cards. I had meant to share, but I got wrapped up love and chocolate for the big day (you know how distracting chocolate can be). I was delighted to see that Vanity Fair picked up on his talent, working with him to develop a series of trading cards which provide commentary and plot predictions. I am sure he is now happy his wife introduced him to the show.

A sample of the Vanity Fair Trading Cards

The humble/universal Pancake

Many of us have a mini-break today and a chance to sleep in and prepare “brunchy” type foods. Time for some comfort food to make you feel better as you go through Downton Abbey withdrawal. We have already experienced withdrawal once in our home, so I am going to prepare pancakes… it helped the first time. Besides Shrove Tuesday is coming up tomorrow so time to practice.

Pancakes are probably the earliest and most widespread types of cereal food eaten in prehistoric societies, which provided a nutritious meal to help you get ready for a day of hunting, gathering–or in our day–shopping. There are a number of variations around the world so a fitting dish to prepare where ever you may be today.

Shrove Tuesday (aka Pancake Day):  Giving up Downton for Lent?

Shrove Tuesday observes the first day of Lent. Shrove Tuesday is observed mainly in English speaking countries, especially Ireland, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand and Canada but is also observed in Philippines and Germany. Shrove Tuesday is linked to Easter, so its date changes on an annual basis.

Whereas Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus after his death on the cross, Lent recalls the events leading up to and including Jesus’ crucifixion by Rome. This is believed to have taken place in Roman occupied Jerusalem.  It is common these days for believers to surrender a particular vice such as favourite foods or smoking. Whatever the sacrifice it is a reflection of Jesus’ deprivation in the wilderness and a test of self-discipline.  Perhaps you will be able to give up Downton for Lent.

In most traditions the day is known for the eating of pancakes before the start of Lent. Pancakes are eaten as they are made out of the main foods available, sugar, fat, flour and eggs, whose consumption was traditionally restricted during the ritual fasting associated with Lent.

Jamie Oliver & Worst Cooks in the World

I feel for Jamie Oliver. He and other English celebrity chefs have had a tough time of making over British cuisine. There was a recent article posted on NPR’s food site which talked about how things had gone terribly wrong after WWI. Sadly, the problem goes back alot longer than that, likely even farther back than Victorian times, but in Mrs. Beeton’s delightful book, Beetons Book of Household Management, published in 1861, she conceded the reputation “that we (the English) are the worst cooks on the face of the earth”.

So I give credit to Jamie, whose tireless efforts to boost the quality and nutrition of British cooking started in his own kitchen, and worked its way into school cafeterias in Britian and the US.

Simple (low fat) Pancakes

yummy non fat, yet very filling, pancakes

This is my all time favorite pancake recipe. My father loves pancakes so when he had heart issues a number of year ago I began a search for a heart healthy recipe. It is my traditional, “get up early, make and serve to my hosts as a thank you for having me over” gift.

Enjoy for Shrove Tuesday.  Only a few ingredients, it is light, fluffy and can be used both as pancakes and waffles.  Beware these are very filling.

From Jamie Oliver, Naked Chef 2


  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup flour (122 grams)
  • 1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup milk (110 millilitres)
  • Pinch salt


  1. First, separate the eggs, putting the whites in 1 bowl and the egg yolks into another.
  2. Add the flour, baking powder and milk to the egg yolks and mix to a smooth thick batter.
  3. Whisk the whites with the salt until they form stiff peaks. Fold into the batter. It is now ready to use.
  4. Heat a non-stick pan on a medium heat.
  5. Pour a little oil onto some kitchen paper and spread onto the pan. Pour some of your batter into the pan and fry for a couple of minutes until it starts to look golden and firm.
  6. At this point, sprinkle your chosen flavouring onto the uncooked side before loosening with a spatula and flipping the pancake over. Continue frying until both sides are golden.
  7. You can make these pancakes large or small, to your liking. You can serve them simply dowsed in maple syrup and even some butter or creme fraiche. Or try one of these great flavorings. Nice one.

Makes 4 very filling pancakes.  I dare you to eat more than 2!

Optional Toppings:
Corn on the cob: yes it is pretty great!
Bacon or pancetta
Stewed apples
Maple syrup