Category Archives: Food


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

© 2009-2013 All Rights Reserved

Food Household

An Outlandish Dish

I thought I’d share some more early modern recipes, since they have proven so popular. Today, cheese, an ‘Outlandish Dish’, poaching eggs the overly-complicated way, Mutton in Blood, & a rather curious soup.

To make the Lady Albergaveres Cheese:

To one Cheese take a Gallon of new Milke, and a pint of good Cream, and mix them well together, then take a skillet of hot water as much as will make it hotter than it comes from the Cow, then put in a spoonfull of Rennet, and stir it well together and cover it, and when it is come, take a wet Cloth and lay it on your Cheese mot (mold) and take up the Curd and not break it; and put it into your Mot; and when your Mot is full, lay on the Suiker (?), and every two hours turn your Cheese in wet Cloths wrung dry; and lay on a little more wet, at night take as much salt as you can between your finger and thumb, and salt your Cheese to both sides; let them lie in Presses all night in a wet Cloth; the next day lay them on a Table between a dry Cloth, the next day lay them in Grass, and every other day change your Grass, they will be ready to eat in nine dayes; if you will want them ready sooner, cover them with a blanket.

To make an Outlandish Dish:

Take the liver of a Hogg, and cut it in small peeces, then take Anni-seed, or French-seed, Pepper and salt, & season them therewithall, & lay every piece severally round in the caule of the Hogg, and so roast them on a Bird spit.

To poach Eggs:

Take a dozen of new laid Eggs, and flesh of foure or five Partridges, or other, mince it so small as you can, season it with a few beaten Cloves, Mace, and Nutmeg into a Silver dish, with a Ladle-full or two of the Gravy of Mutton, wherein two or three Anchoves are dissolved; then set it a stewing on a fire of Char-coales and after it is halfe stewed, breake in your Egges, one by one, and as you breake them, pour away most of the Whites, and with one end of your Egg-shell, make a place in your Dish of meate, and therein put your Yolks of your Eggs, round in order amongst your meat, and so let them stew till your eggs be enough, then grate in a little Nutmeg, and the juyce of an Orange; have a care none of the Seeds goe in, wipe your Dish and garnish your Dish with four or five whole Onions &c

To roast a shoulder of Mutton in blood:

When your Sheep is killed save the blood, and spread the caule all open upon a Table that is wet, that it may not stick to it; cut off a shoulder of the sheepe, and having picked Time, shred and cut small and put it into some blood, then stop your shoulder with it, inside and outside, and into every hole with a Spoone; then lay your Shoulder of Mutton upon the caule and wrap that about it, then lay it into a tray, and pour all the rest of the blood upon it; so let it lie all night, if it be Winter you may let it lie twenty foure hours, then roast it.

The Jacobins Pottage:

Take the flesh of a washed Capon or Turky cold, mince it so small as you can, then grate or scrape among the flesh two or three ounces of Parmasants or old Holland Cheese, season it with beaten Cloves, Nutmeg, Mace, and Salt, then take the bottoms and tops of foure of five new Rowles, dry them before the fire, or in an Oven, then put them into a faire silver Dish, set it upon the fire, wet your bread in a Ladle-full of strong Broth, and a Ladle-full of Gravy of Mutton then strew on your minced meat, all of an equall thicknesse in each place, then stick twelve or eighteen pieces of Marrow as bigge as Walnuts, and pour on a handfull of pure Gravy of Mutton, then cover your Dish close, and as it stews adde now and them some Gravy of Mutton thereto, thrust your Knife sometimes to the bottome to keep the bread from sticking to the Dish, let it so stew till you are ready to Dish it away, and when you serve it, if need require, add more Gravy of Mutton, wring the juice of two or three Oranges, wipe your Dishes brims and serve it to your Table in the same Dish.

© 2009-2013 All Rights Reserved

Custom Food London

Have you any work for a tinker

Today’s fragments are a series of images of 17th century London street sellers; hawkers who tramped the streets of the capital selling their goods and services.  From fresh rabbits to hot apples, chair mending to chimney sweeps, it was possible to buy just about anything from these wandering vendors.







© 2009-2013 All Rights Reserved
Arte of Gardening Food Medicine

It breedes winde and belly-ache

These snippets come from a 1599 guide to the provenance of fruits, herbs, and vegetables by T Butts; a curious work which combines origins and history with specific health-related facts.

That Grapes are verie nourishing, it is well seene by the Grape-gatherers in the time of Vintage, for they eat little or nothing else, yet growe they passing fat and corpulent.  The superexcellency of this plant and frute is inestimable…. grapes cause thirst and wind: trouble the belly: immoderately used breed Collicke passions: puffe the spleene and make it sicke; encrease delusions in old folkes.

Those Peaches, whose meate cleaveth to the stone are commended of some, as also, such as seeme friezed over with a thinne downe, like a Quince… peaches being moist, soft, and flatulent, they endgender humours very subject to corruption; evil for old flegmaticke and weake stomackes.

The flowers of this plant are silver-coloured; and from them is distilled a water surpassing all other in fragrancy and sweete smell. Whence they are called Aurantia, gold in Latine, in English properly and truly Aurange, but we have both them and their name by tradition from the French. So we both speake and write it Orenge…  Exquisitely sweet oranges are too hot; the lower coole, and offend the stomacke: stuffe the belly: constraine the brest and arteries.

The citron, Limon or Orenge, growe especially on the sea-coasts of Italy. They were first brought out of Media into these parts. They beare fruite all the yeare long, some at the same time ripe and falling off, other but now budding and sprouting forth. All say a Limon in Wine is good… lemons cause collicke passions and leaneness.

If one eate three small Pomegranate flowers (they say), for an whole yeare, he shall be safe from all manner of eye-sore. Sharp pomegranates offend the teeth and gummes: constrain the brest; not for old folkes.

Hasil (hazel) nuts:
Nut in English, of Nux the Latine: and Nux a Nocendo, because it annoyeth all other plantes or hearbes that are subject and obnoxious to his leaves-dropping. They are windie, engender much choller: cause headacheth if much eaten.

Melons, commonly called pomions:
This fruite is the greatest or biggest of all Hearbes or Trees. That it hath a scouring and cleansing property is evident in that if you rub any part of the body with it, it becommeth much the brighter and cleaner…  it breedes winde and belly-ache.

The Olive was an Embleme of peace ever since the Dove brought an Olive leafe in her mouth into Noahs Arke. The Spanish Olives are bigger than the Italian. Besides that the Spanish have an odd unsavoury smell, and looke yellow, unpleasant to the eye. Olives cause watchfulnesse: much eaten they stuffe the head, especially the salted.

Foennill or Finkle (fennel):
Snakes and Serpents by eating of Foenill renew their age and repair their decaied sight by rubbing their eyes with it. Wherefore it used of us to the like purpose. There is a bad propertie in the seed, to breede poysonous wormes, whose poyson is curable by no Antidot. Fennel doth inflame the blood.

Sparage (asparagus):
Some say that Sparage causeth barrennesse: but it is not probable, sithence it nourisheth very much and manifestly provoketh Venus. Eaten cold, disposeth to vomit.

Surely it is a most excellent hearbe, and of speciall use. It hath this peculiar vertue, that laied in Wine it strengthneth and cheareth the heart, putting merry conceits into the minde. But it doeth greatly annoyeth sore mouthes.

Garlick, Onion, and Leekes are very holesome, but their odour is passing loathesome and offensive. Wherefore some have thought of a medicament to take away the sent of them. But none like Syr Thomas More: to take away the smell of Onions, eate leekes, and to convince your Leekes, eate a clove or two of Garlicke: and if then Garlicke breath be strong, choke him with a turd. Leeks dimmeth the sight.

© 2009-2013 All Rights Reserved

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