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Walnuts Artificial

Filled with carraway comfits, or mottoes written on strips of paper, these fake walnuts must have delighted late Tudor and Stuart banqueteers and generations of children until the introduction of mass-produced confectionery in the nineteenth century. They were the precursor of the 'fortune cookies', which many think are an ancient Chinese tradition, though in truth they were invented for the San Francisco World Fair in the early twentieth century.Walnut mould

A fruitwood mould for making a sugar walnut shell and kernel. Although this mould probably dates from the early nineteenth century, it is identical to moulds used two hundred years earlier to make this novelty sweet. Moulds like this were also used for making small walnut biscuits.

The Queen's Delight

Some of the little books on 'banquetting stuffe' targeted at gentlewomen in the early seventeenth century include recipes for these Jacobean fortune cookies. Recipes continued to be published until the close of the seventeenth century in such books as A Queen's Delight.

Making artificial walnuts

Artificial walnuts and kernels being pressed in gum paste from a walnut mould carved by Ivan.

Artificial Walnuts

Artificial walnuts on a gum paste tazza, with a garniture of jewel fruits, artificial almonds and sugar figs, all pressed from an early nineteenth century mould carved by Prati, confectioner to the House of Savoie.

These realistic looking walnuts are actually made entirely from sugar paste

Walnuts Artificial

Take searsed sugar, and Cinnamon, of quantity alike, work it up with a little Gum Dragon, steepe it in Rose-water, and print it in a mould made like a Walnut shell, then take white sugar plates, print it in a mould made like a Walnut kernel, so when they are both dry, close them up together with a little Gum Dragon betwixt, and they will dry as they lie.

From W.M., A Queen's Delight in The Queen's Closet Open'd (London: 1655).

Walnut with caraway comfits

Artificial walnut shells were sometimes filled with brightly coloured comfits or mottoes

Theodore Garrett's Walnuts

This 1890s chromolithograph shows a dish of real walnuts. The kitchen staff have carefully cracked them open and removed the inedible membranes. They have then put the nuts back in their shells and tied them up with a ribbon, so the guests at the dessert table can help themselves to a nut with a minimum of effort.

Real walnuts, prepared as above, but on a gum paste tazza

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