By laying out a penny you may save a pound

These snippets from late seventeenth century Scotland provide advice for shoppers on how to avoid buying stale eggs or bad bread in the food markets of Edinburgh.

The anonymous author states in the introduction:

To be skill’d in buying Flesh, Fowl, Fish, and other Marketings, is not only creditable and commendable in Masters and Mistresses of Families, Servants and others, but by well understanding what is good or bad, and to chuse accordingly, much money may be sav’d which in buying bad penny worths is in a manner thrown away: wherefore to enable you to avoid being cheated and imposed on, I have put this small Book into a small price, but great in value, for by laying out a penny, you may be instructed to save many a Pound.

Beef:
If old, it will be rough & spungy, full of skins and strings; If young, the flesh will be a pleasant Carnation red, the fat whitish; If old, it will be a dark duskey Colour, the fact inclining to yellow. Bull-beef in the feeling it is brawny and tough, not to be pinched or easily broken with your Nailes the fat gros and fiberous, smells strong and ravenish if you rub it warm between your Finger and Thumb.

Mutton:
If young the flesh will pinch up tender and full again, but if old, it will remain so, especially in the skinny part. If young the fat will easily part from the flesh. If Ram-mutton the flesh will  be a very deep yet dusky red, the Fat spungy, pinched up it soon wrinkles, the flesh pressed rises presently.

Pork:
To know the legs whether new or stale, put your fingers between the bone and flesh, and if upon smelling there be any ill scent, it is turning, or if the skin be clammy, the bending of the joynt over limber, the like is to be feared. If you find many knots like hail shot in the fat, the Pork is measly.

Ham:
Thurst a sharp pointed Knife under the bone, and if it come out without much greasing, and cast a pleasant Savour, the Ham is good, if the contrary not; then try the fat on the edges, raise a sliver, if it be white, firm and well scented it is good.

A Swan:
If old full of hairs, if young smooth, if new limber footed, if stale dry footed

The Partridge:
If old their Bills will be white, and Legs of a blewish colour: if young their bills black, and Legs yellowish.

Sturgeon:
If it be bad it will crumble and grow rough between your Finger and Thumb; if it be good it will cut like Wax, feel oylly, have some small blew gristles or sinews streaking here and there.

Crab:
If new the claws stiff, the Eyes not easily moved, and of a bright red, the throat pleasant, but the contrary of these signs denotes them to be stale boiled and nought.

Butter:
When you buy Butter, receive not the taste from the Teller, but with a knife take it yourself, for many times there is a good bit placed to decoy you, when all the rest is bad. If you buy salt Butter, and it be in a cask, thrust your Knife in the cleft about the middle of the cask to prevent being cheated by the tops being packed, and smell presently to it; if it has a strong smell it is rank.

Eggs:
Put them against the Sun, if the Whites look of a muddy or dusky colour; the yolk not lying even in the middle, or broken, they are decaying. If you have not this advantage, shake them, and if they squash or swag much they are stale, indeed though new Eggs may a little shake, though little to be heard or felt.

Cheese:
Try it well least there be Worms or Weavels in it, or little Mites. If it be over moist or spungy, it is subject to Maggots.

Bread:
If you find little knobs in your bread it is old and stale; If it taste sweet it is made with Corn; If Rye be mixed with Wheat it will be known by the over moistness.

Fruits:
If pulling the stalks of Pears or Applles, they come out without breaking, the fruit is rotten at core, how sound soever it appear outwardly. Pricked Oranges and Lemons are known by the Softness and some Spots, also a fading of the colour. If a Mellon be Hollow, the top end will be rough.

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