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Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

How many times have you have heard your parents, or grandparents, proclaim how much better the food tasted when they were young. ( Mind you, that depends on how old you care to admit you are. )  This post is entirely topical at the moment, given the recent disclosures about what they have managed to sneak into what we currently eat. All this fuss about a bit of horse meat, is as nothing compared to what went on in the past. All manner of things went into our daily staple, Bread, the lesser evil being some ground down Derbyshire Stone, unoticed at the time, the Bread was gritty anyway, as corn mills were still pretty basic affairs. That other favourite item, Cheese, had plenty of things thrown into the mixture to increase the colour and taste. Everyone is familar with the famous red cheese of Gloucestershire, but how many folk would have realised that some unscrupulous makers had added Red Lead. It was a popular choice was this variety, and its no wonder, that regular customers, developed a nervous shake and showed the early signs of brain damage. Now I don't know about you, but I love a dollop of Mustard on my Roast Beef, when we have saved up to buy some that is. Back in time, it had an added ingedient called Lead Chromate, this inhanced the colour, for people thought the best quality was a bright yellow. I am not suggeting for a minute, that the famous firm of Colmans would stoop so low, as indeed they didn't, but there were plenty of others who did. Just imagine this, after a good thick slice of Pork Pie, and with a dash of mustard, the next day you came down with a severe bout of stomach pain and Diarrhoea. Which one would you blame, knowing that they didn't always use the best cuts of pork for that pie anyway. Custard and other similar items like Blancmange, also had some rather nasty stuff added to produce many bright colours. Green, was a favourite at the turn of the century, made by adding Copper Sulphate. One Blamange flavour, still popular today, was Chocolate, a product which, to aid the mixing process, Arsenic had been added. Gives a whole new meaning to the term, " Chocoholic ", as small doses of Arsenic are habit forming. You would have thought twice today, about excepting an invitation to afternoon tea, if you were aware that those mouth watering Bath Buns, had also been mixed with a touch of Arsenic.


Most people know that Tea, in the early days was a very expensive commodity. It didn't take the rogues long to work out that a few substitutions could be made. In the 1860s, some retailers, could be seen accepting, and paying for, large bags of leaves bought to their premises. These were off the Sloe, and Whitethorn trees, which were then dried, cured, and ground up to resemble Tea. Pickers were paid about 1d a pound, and could earn up to 5 shillings a day, depending on how fit and able they were. And of course if there were any of the said trees where they lived. The largest product by far though, for adulterations, was undoubtedly, Beer. In the last 5 years of the 19th century, over 190 brewers were prosecuted for adding obnoxious subtances to the brew. Arsenic, to add body and give it a good head, wasa fairly common practice, so was substituting other thing for Hops and Barley. Like baked Horse manure. What stands out, is that until they were tested, very few drinkers complained about the quality. You may, at the time, have decided to switch to drinking Coffee instead, but the swindlers had got there first. Horse offal and manure was again in use, as were the cheap roots of Chicory, ground up together with a few Coffee beans thrown in for good measure. As most folk wouldn't have known a good cup of coffee from cats pee, they got away with the cheating. Now there nothing wrong with a bit of horse meat, as a great many will tell you, having eaten it in the form of "Vienna Steaks ", during the last War. It's just that its not mentioned on the label. Mind you, we all enjoy our Faggotts and Peas, as well as a bit of " Black Pudding ", both of which are made from animal leftovers, so complaining about a bit of Dobin in your Beefburger seems a bit pointless.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

February 28, 2013 at 11:42 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Beer, as everyone knows, was the staple drink of most working men and women during this period. It was cheap, and as we should all be aware, in plentiful supply. Given that today, we seem to have developed the habit of consuming far too much of the stuff, how does the price compare with now. You would be surprised to learn, that alcoholic drinks today, are in fact cheaper than they were then. If you fancied a change from the fluctuating quality of the beer, and it was sometimes pretty awful, you could always buy something a bit more refined. A bottle of Port Wine, could be had for 1 shilling and 9 pence, and it was a lot stronger than the beer. Sherry, which seems to have been the bottle of choice for the festive season, would have cost just 1 shilling and 6 pence, and if you felt like drinking like a gentleman, Claret, was a mere 1 shilling a bottle. Really push the boat out, and a fairly good bottle of Champagne, could be had for the pricely sum of 2 shillings and 5 pence. The favourite spirit though was Gin, and a bottle of 33% proof, would have set you back 2 shillings, which was really good value at the price. Whiskey, and that great drink that sailors preferred, Rum, were both priced at 2 shillings and 3 pence a bottle, again, at the same strength as the Gin. The top of the scale though, and a great reviver for travellers in distress, ( if you had seen the adverts of the dog and the barrel ) was Brandy. At 3 shillings a bottle, it was kept for special occasions, and it was a poor house that didn't keep a spot handy, for those nasty shocks we all have in life. When my grandmother had a fall in the snow one winter, grandad whipped out the bottle and poured a glass, wafted it under her nose, and promptly drank it himself. Never one to waste a good drink was my grandad.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

March 10, 2013 at 12:46 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Now, from the note book of a long serving Coroner, comes the tale of what can happen, if you abide too strictly to the old rule of, " waste not, want not ". Thomas Taylor was the sitting Coroner for West Yorkshire, between 1852, and 1900. He had seen and heard many things in those years, but must have shook his head when this one came up. We should all know by now, that food hygene wasn't all that good before everything began to be packaged and labelled, and such is the case here. Robert Coulson was a succesful Farmer, in Seaton Ross, near Pocklington, and together with his wife, Elizabeth, wasn't short of a few bob. The meat they consumed was slaughtered on the farm, and the resulting extra fat, ( Suet to you and me )  was stored in the dairy. The 59 year old Elizabeth decided, that on this day in 1868, they would have Beef and Dumplings for dinner. It wasn't unusual to eat meat that was bit off, for the cooking would have killed off most of the nasty bugs infecting it, but not so with the dumplings, which were boiled. Dispite the servant telling her the suet had a bad smell, which her own nose must have confirmed, it ended up in the dumplings anyway. It's toss-up, which of the two, the bad beef or the dubious dumplings, put paid to poor old Elizabeth, but finish her off they did. Another example of the perils of Victorian England, and certainly one not recommeded by Mrs Beeton.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

June 24, 2013 at 11:20 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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