Robinson Crusoe Quote

"He preferred, however, "gourmandization," was an idolater of a certain decent, commodious fish, called a turtle, and worshipped the culinary image wherever he nozed it put up."
---The Contradiction (1796)

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Fun with Spoon Victuals in 1736

The other day, I posted a Bill of Fare designed for the workhouse at St. Martin in the Fields.  And while this might end up telling us something important about the gastronomical life of an 18th century urban pauper, one thing remains unanswered.  How do we know how all these sundry puddings and porridges dishes tasted?

A Workhouse Plan
Notice separate dining halls for men and women
I couldn't find any recipes from the existing workhouse records of St. Martin of the Fields, but today, I dug up a couple receipts in the overseers' minutes from a neighboring workhouse.  And considering that many of these 18th century workhouses seemed to spy on each other on a semi-regular basis (hoping to devise new ways of keep their poor alive and working on the cheap) I think it's very likely that there was a lot of recipe poaching going on too.

The following were recorded in 1736. 

'Milk Porridge' (Breakfast 5 days a week): "That to every gallon of milk there be two gallons of water and and a proportionable quantity of salt and half a pint of oatmeal."

Pease Porridge (Dinner on Mondays) "That the every gallon of liquor there be put one pint and a half of pease and that a hock of bacon of about six pounds be boil’d in the whole quantity of porridge to give it a savory taste.”

Plumb Pudding- (Dinner on Saturdays) "That to make sixteen plumb puddings there be such 15 lb suet, 15 lb raisins and 18 quarts of milk, two bushels and one peck of flower, three quarters of a pound of rice and one pound of salt.  Each of the puddings to be divided for men and women into sixteen parts and for boys and girls into twenty four parts."

But which one to choose, my voracious readers?!  Regrettably, I haven't yet had the chance to whip up any of these historic "spoon victuals" for myself.  However, I've attempted to approximate the experience of an 18th century pauper during my lunch break by sampling as many soupy porridge-like dishes as I can (all found within five minutes of an archive, of course).

The Runner Up: Unidentified Hungarian Goulash
(Consumed at Westminster City Archives, 4.00)
The Winner: Spinach Agnoshi
 (Consumed at LMA Archives, 4.50)