Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Great-Grandmother's Food

Have you heard recently the statement, "Don't eat anything that your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food"? I agree in principle, but in practice there appears to be some conflict.

There does not appear to be a good consensus on what the Victorians (England, 1850 to 1900) consumed. One source has their daily calories at 2100, another says 4000-5000 for men, and 3000 for women. The latter also states that the typical breakfast for a poor man was, "two chunks of stoneground bread smeared with dripping, accompanied by a large bunch of watercress", whereas another article states that the standard fare for poor people was "bread, butter, potatoes, beer and tea, with some bacon for those earning higher wages." Did they really consume 10 servings of fruit and vegetables a day, especially in the winter months? Wouldn't you think that all that boiling meat and vegetables were subjected to in order to make them "wholesome" would prevent any shadow of a water-soluble vitamin from coming through?

In any case, there are some lessons that can be learned from the cookery of over a century ago. (Shall we say, that of my great-great-grandmother.) Have some brown bread. An egg. Some milk and peas. Watercress and cherries. Mutton, if you like it. Drink a cup of tea. Be too poor to afford sugar.

The Girls' Own Paper from 1880 has a few recipes for "economical and wholesome dishes made without meat." White bean soup, red bean soup, lentil soup, pea soup, Italian macaroni, cauliflower au gratin, and rice and cheese. Check them out!

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