PPC (Petits Propos Culinaires)
Everyday Meals in Regency London: Part II, Changing Circumstances- Peter Brears
Travellers’ Food Club - Tom Jaine
John Fothergill: Mad, Bad or Wonderful? - Tom Jaine
Extract from Everyday Meals in Regency London by Peter Brears
One of the most interesting aspects of William Feltuss’ diary is the evidence it provides to relate a family’s diet to the head of the household’s changing occupation and income. In his case this covers the years 1809–13 when he did odd jobs for various tradesmen, 1814–19 and 1826–8 when he was a warehouseman for the East India Company, 1817–19 when he was periodically out of work, and 1828–32 when he lived in retirement. Each of these periods will now be considered in turn, taking a sample year from each one.
CASUAL LABOUR IN 1810
At this time, relying on his East India pension of £9 p.a. and casual labour, the family lived well but economically. It could a ord to entertain friends and family to dinner a few times a year and buy a goose at Michaelmas and Christmas, but for most of the year it subsisted largely on the cheaper cuts of meat and vegetables. Since neither breakfasts nor suppers are mentioned in the early years of the diary, it is probable that they were light meals of bread, butter and tea. e main meal of the day was dinner, taken around noon or the early afternoon in common with most of the working classes, rather than the early evenings favoured by the fashionable elite. It comprised a single main component usually accompanied by a vegetable.
Since Sunday was the only day of the week on which work ceased, it provided time to cook and eat a good dinner, sometimes inviting guests, and sometimes being invited to dine at the homes of friends and relations. e Feltuss family dined with the Harradinces, Southams and Bennets on seven (14% of ) Sundays,only inviting the Bennets and Southams back once in return for dinners of:
1-7-1810 shoulder of veal, bacon, rice pudding for 4 guests;
23-9-1810 baked leg of pork, beans, potato, damson pie for the Southams.
The choice of main dishes for Sunday dinners included:
Mutton 33% of dinners, of which two-thirds were shoulders, the remainder legs and a neck; Beef 22% comprising ribs, steaks, steak pies, and baked joints;
Pork 8.9%, both legs and loins;
Veal 8.9% shoulders, knuckles and breast; Pig's Heads 6.7%;
Calf's Head 4.4% served with bacon;
Bacon & peas, leg of lamb and fowl 2.2% each.
Sweet puddings were solely reserved for Sunday dinners, and appeared infrequently, only a dozen being made throughout the entire year. Usually made from fresh fruits, they commenced with gooseberry puddings in June, mixed cherry, currant and gooseberry pudding and a rice pudding in July, hot plum pudding and cherry pie in August, damson puddings and pies in September and apple puddings in October and November. e only other puddings to be made were savoury suet dumplings, one being made in January and another in November as accompaniments to veal.
Of the 313 weekday dinners of 1810, William missed 30 (9.6%) while being employed as a porter and carrier at the auctions and a further 20 (6.4%) when dining with the Harradince, Bennet and Southam families, Mr Mitchell and Mr Plowman. Just over an average of one weekly meal per week, some 18.5% of the total, was made of leftovers from the Sunday dinners. Of these 36.2% was mutton, 13.8% beef, 15.5% veal, 8.6% each pork and goose, 5.2% pigs’ heads, 3.5% calves’ head, and 1.7% each fowl and leg of lamb.
The remaining 193 (62%) weekday meals were made up of:
Beef 24.4%, of which 7.7% was steak, 4.7% salt, and the remainder leg and aitchbone, buttock, leg and skirt, either roasted or made into pies etc.;
Mutton 16%, of which 6.2% was shoulder, the rest being chops, knuckle, leg, loin, neck and scrag, some cooked in broth, some hashed etc.;
Fish 13%, of which 5.2% was salt, the rest being cod’s head, eel curry, flatfish, flounders, haddock, mackerel, oyster stew and sprat curry;
Bacon 13.5%, accompanied by beans, cabbage, eggs, greens, liver, peas, potatoes, turnips and veal;
Offal 11.9%, including beef sausages, cow heel, lamb fry, pigs’ fry, tongue and ears, sweetbreads and kidneys, tripe and a ‘Bullock’s burr’ or sweetbread;
Pork 8.3%, of which 4.1% was either pickled or salt pork and a pig’s face, usually served with peas or carrots;
Veal 5.2%, including knuckles, cutlets and mince;
Heads 5.2%, of which 3.6% sheep and the rest either calf or lamb;
Lamb 2.1%, including chops with pickles, leg and neck;
Fowl 1.5%, including William’s grey hen that was made into soup;
Irish stew, rabbits and eggs 0.5% each.
Vegetables are listed for some 46.8% of daily meals. Of these just over half were potatoes, the others being:
Greens 13.5%, especially with bacon;
Peas 10%, including pease pudding 3.5%, soup 3% and grey 0.6%, with both fresh and salt beef and pork;
Cabbage 8.8%, usually accompanying bacon or pork;
Carrots 5.8%, usually with beef or pork;
Turnips 5.8%, especially with mutton or lamb;