Although Colt has gone to great lengths shipping the oysters in from America, they would not have been seen as the delicacy they are today. They were once so common that, in Victorian England, pickled oysters were poor people's food, and they were often used to bulk out steak pies, steak being far more expensive.
This meal would, however, have struck the English diners as exotically American. At the time, American culture was determinedly distinguishing itself from European – and especially British – culture.
The menu served here is taken from an account in Nathaniel Hawthorne's English Notebooks.
Walter Noone is referring to the events of the War of 1812 between Britain and the United States. The war lasted from 1812 to 1815, during which time the British burned Washington DC. Numerous battles took place on land and at sea, among which was the Battle of Baltimore, where the British were forced to withdraw, unable to breach the defences of Fort McHenry. This battle was the inspiration for Francis Scott Key's poem, which became The Star-Spangled Banner. The American victory in the war was an important step in the development of the country's sense of nationalism and independence.
Between 1846 and 1848, the United States engaged in a war with Mexico as a result of the Texas Revolution (see bookmark to Page 8, " named for the Texas Navy..."). After the US army invaded Mexico City, Mexico was forced to sell California and New Mexico to the United States. The campaign in Monterey began on 19 July 1846, and marked the official start of the war.
The Pomo are Native Americans from the northern part of California. At the beginning of the nineteenth century it was estimated that between 10,000 and 18,000 Pomo lived along the Pacific coast, making up seventy tribes and speaking seven related languages. After contact with European immigrants, their weapons and their diseases, the Pomo population rapidly declined, until by 1851 it was estimated that only 3,500-5,000 were left.
On 15 May 1850, 60-400 Pomo people were killed in a mistaken revenge attack by the 1st Dragoons US Cavalry, in an event now known as the Bloody Island Massacre.
Every year on 5th November, the British celebrate the failure of a Catholic plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1606. Until 1859 it was illegal not to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night, during which an effigy of Guy Fawkes, the chief conspirator, is burned on a bonfire. In modern times the night has become an excuse for large-scale firework displays; its original anti-Catholic meaning has largely been lost.