Thursday, 14 January 2010

What was on the menu in January 1861?

Image from Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management

Hi, I'm Tess, this is my first post here. Kate asked me to join in to share my love of all things culinary, I'm very new to blogging so please be gentle.

It's impossible to discuss cookery in a historical context without mentioning Mrs Beeton. Her Book of Household Management is still a best-seller, even if most people tend not to follow the recipes. It's actually not a cookery book as such, it's far more comprehensive and covers all aspects of household management as the title suggests. Obviously, the house that was being managed was unlikely to be that of ordinary people, this was a tome aimed very much at the middle and upper classes who could afford a small army of staff to keep them in the style to which they had become accustomed.
Despite, or perhaps because of, this, it does give an interesting insight into social history, and with that in mind, my first post highlights the way our diets and purchasing options have changed. We now take it for granted that we can, for example, buy fresh strawberries at Christmas, but that wasn't always the case.
This extract from The Book of Household Management lists what would have been available in January ... assuming you were wealthy enough to afford them.
FISH.—Barbel, brill, carp, cod, crabs, crayfish, dace, eels, flounders, haddocks, herrings, lampreys, lobsters, mussels, oysters, perch, pike, plaice, prawns, shrimps, skate, smelts, soles, sprats, sturgeon, tench, thornback, turbot, whitings.
MEAT.—Beef, house lamb, mutton, pork, veal, venison.
POULTRY.—Capons, fowls, tame pigeons, pullets, rabbits, turkeys.
GAME.—Grouse, hares, partridges, pheasants, snipe, wild-fowl, woodcock.
VEGETABLES.—Beetroot, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, celery, chervil, cresses, cucumbers (forced), endive, lettuces, parsnips, potatoes, savoys, spinach, turnips,—various herbs.
FRUIT.—Apples, grapes, medlars, nuts, oranges, pears, walnuts, crystallized preserves (foreign), dried fruits, such as almonds and raisins; French and Spanish plums; prunes, figs, dates.
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1 comment:

  1. Looking at the list of available food, I think they ate a more varied diet than we do; a lot of meat though, I don't think most people eat that much now.