Disgusted by insects and weird soups that fusion restaurants sometimes have on their Menus? Complain no more: there is worse than that. Here are the common treats that Victorians had on their tables…
What was the food like in the Victorian Era?
Of course things were different if people belonged to low, middle or high class. Working class people ate very little, with meat only two times a week, and for the poorest mostly potatoes, bread and cheese were the only things on the table (and it even got to rotten vegetables).
The middle class ate well, with breakfast, lunch and a big dinner. For rich people the meals were a way of showing their wealth with a rich breakfast, lunch and dinner with many courses. Breakfast was a very important meal for everyone, though, and always included eggs, and when possible bacon, ham, coffee and fruit.
If you enjoy drinking tea, you should know that the habit of afternoon tea was invented by the Victorians, as their dinner was eaten later than nowadays and they needed a little pick-me-up to get through the evening. At the beginning of the Victorian period people relied on what was available locally or pickled and preserved. When better transport was built, like railways, new food got into the daily diet and transport refrigeration allowed meat and fish to be imported cheaply.
Basic foods were mutton, pork, bacon, eggs, bread, potatoes, rice, milk,
flour, sugar, jam and tea.
Here are 5 weird ones.
A hot drink, made from ground orchid roots and later on, in the latter part of the nineteenth century, the basis changed to sassafras, or similar herb that had been popular since the 1600s. It was used medicinally, as it was nutritious and heavily sweetened.
Very common during those times, a bloated herring, cold-smoked whole. It was a street food and had a slightly gamey flavour, served on a long fork and toasted, and eaten whole, including the head and eyeballs.
Calves’ foot jelly
It looked like aspic, and was made with calf’s head and calf’s feet boiled for a long time and strained. Then jelly was added together with calf’s brains and the mix was poured into a mould. Then refrigerated enough to be able to slice it and served mainly to invalids (!).
Butter, flour, hot water, salt and not much more constituted the ingredients for this soup. You could also add nutmeg or spices if available. Appetising, isn’t it?
Meat was expensive for the working classes and if you couldn’t afford it but you still needed some proteins you could buy Broxy, a sheep that had dropped dead with an illness. Cheaper than other kind of meats, broxy was eaten by the poor who, together with some protein, could also get tetanus, toxoplasmosis or salmonella…