It was a stately home once described by Robinson Crusoe author Daniel Defoe as the ‘glory of Fife’ when he visited in the 18th century and drew visitors from the elite classes.

And according to a diet book discovered, family and guests at the Earl of Rothes’ former home, Leslie House, frequently dined on the luxuries such as goose, veal, lobster and oysters.

Servants too regularly tucked into salt beef, mutton and herrings with meals often washed down with ale brewed in house.

The 18th century diet book what was being eaten 300 years ago at the Fife mansion and would seem to go against writer and author of The Dictionary of the English Language, Samuel Johnson’s critique of the nation’s diet. He once declared oats is a grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.

However, these records written 50 years prior to Johnson’s 1773 journey of Scotland with James Boswell seem to confound his claims.

Now a team of volunteers led by OnFife, Fife cultural body, is transcribing a diet book, kept by kitchen staff from 1721-23, to form a fuller picture of what was on offer at the time.

Had Defoe sampled the Leslie House menu, he wouldn’t have been disappointed. If he had tired of red meat there would have been the option of some tongue, chicken or pork. For the more adventurous there would be the option of rabbit, grouse or duck with spinach, asparagus or artichokes on the side.

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Fish fatigue seems out of the question. To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, if a man were tired of all the Leslie House fish options, he was probably tired of life. Trout, salmon, flounder, cod, haddock, perch, skate and wolf-fish are all listed.

As well as lists of ingredients, there are glimpses of dishes served. National bard Robert Burns might have taken a ‘sneering, scornful view’ of fricassee or French ragout, but not the Earl of Rothes as both dishes appear in the book.

And there’s every chance they would have been followed by honey berry tart or tansy cake – a sweet, herbal pancake traditionally served at Easter.

The book also contains helpful hints. Pinned into the page for 28 December 1721, is advice on how to make ale keep longer.

OnFife Collections archivist Andrew Dowsey said: “The family, of course, enjoyed more variety than servants, but we’re keen to find out exactly how it was better.

“Another key focus will be how diet changed with the seasons. Volunteers have already spotted a proliferation of pigeon in January – a familiar Scottish trend.”

The Leslie House books reveal diets that are fairly typical of what the rich and their servants were eating at this time.

A flick through the Household Book of Lady Grisell Baillie, for instance - which covers from 1692 to 1746 – reveals a similar diet at Mellerstain House in the Borders. In some instances, there is a richer and more varied diet for the elite.

The texts suggest a very tightly controlled food regime and no luxury –better than that of the labouring poor, but similar to the diets of soldiers and sailors.

Leslie House, built from 1667 to 74, was designed by architect John Mylne Junior and his son, Robert. Its grandeur was diminished when three of its wings were demolished following a fire in 1763.

Volunteers in Fife are also identifying what food cost and, sometimes, its source, but the books, with their hard-to-decipher handwriting, reveal more than just diet.

They also record old weights and measures and less familiar Scots words such as sea catt for wolf-fish, lapster for lobster and green goose for young geese. And a list at the back of the diet book discloses when guests came to Leslie House and their length of stay.

Once volunteers have analysed the 1721-23 book, they will scan a diet book for 1699 to see how tastes changed over those 20 years.

There are also plans for an Eat Like an Earl food tasting event when covid guidelines allow.

The house dubbed Villa De Rothes was the centre of life in the village and once rivalled Holyrood Palace for size and glamour, was damaged by fire in 2009 and is now on the Buildings at Risk Register for Scotland. There are plans to restore it and to create 17 luxury homes.