All posts tagged: Britain

A 19th century British soldier’s diet

Many thanks to Dr. Aoife Bhreatnach for her guest post, this amazing piece gives us a very round idea of the politics, economics and little known facts about Army Food during the Crimean war. Follow Aoife on twitter @GarrisonTowns  and visit her very interesting website. And now, enjoy the post! Rough and unpalatable, often unwholesome: a 19th century British soldier’s diet. Recruiting sergeants, while plying potential soldiers with drink, waxed lyrical about the comforts of army life. Regular, daily meals and a bed to himself would have seemed luxurious to many men who joined the army, because most recruits were among the poorest in society. But the quality and quantity of food served to the British soldier during the nineteenth century was poor and inadequate. Even worse, the unlucky recruit soon discovered that he had to pay for that food out of his meagre daily wage of 1 shilling as part of a ‘stoppages’ system, whereby soldiers paid for their own clothing, boots, food and equipment. While the Treasury and War Office slowly, reluctantly improved …

Food Rationing in WWII Britain

Very often we read that during wartime, specifically WWII and the following recovery period, nutrition of the overall population had not only good standards compared to our modern diets but it is actually considered that the generation that was brought up under such harsh conditions had indeed less nutritional deficiencies. Regardless of appearances or even taste, food safety was a top priority and with just enough to ensure well balanced daily meals, food rationing without a doubt saved millions of lives in the battlefields and the home front. In the case of Britain it took much more than a stiff upper lip to carry on with life in spite of the war, but it was a combination of factors such as social policy and direct action from the government to administrate scare resources and actively engage the whole of the population in taking actions to ensure their survival. In a previous post I talk about the Ministry of Food and the Victory Gardens that provided the population with a permanent and unlimited source of vegetables. …

The Elegant Economist

By Eliza Acton In previous posts I’ve reviewed other titles of the penguin series: Great Food, one by M.F.K. Fisher and Isabella Beeton. Eliza Acton unintendedly ended up in a very controversial affair when a certain Mrs. Beeton -you might have heard of- The latter decided to compile a mammoth of a book aiming to help young housewives like herself to have a detailed all in one reference to master the art of managing a household. Commendable as this task was, Beeton –deliberately?- failed at one tiny detail: provide references of the many sources she consulted to compile her works. You can read my review on The Real Mrs Beeton here, this is one of the few books that has been written about her. In The Elegant Economist we get a glimpse into the writing style and overall approach Acton had on cookery. Although it is customary for us nowadays to find shelves filled cookery books that are too often written by women, this certainly wasn’t the case in 1845 when Acton’s Modern Cookery was …

Sandwich. A global History

Bee Wilson Reaktion Books Edible Series   This little book is part of the series that includes titles that explore the history of foods such as soup, cake, wine, cheese, pie, sauces, etc. you will be able to read it in one go with a nice cup of coffee.   The size of the book speaks for its depth, it doesn’t mean to be an encyclopaedic study but just an entertaining and well documented history of the humble sandwich. Some of the aspects that the author explores are how this food came to be and why did it root so deep and fast across social classes, cultures and proved its resilience through time and still stands strong as the default and most beloved on the go meal. Its convenience, reliability, endless possibilities of filling and portability are just some of its best features. A sandwich however also testifies the shifts and changes of our dietary habits, routines and ways in which we have had to cope with the demands of our modern life. A sandwich says the author necessarily carries …

The real Mrs Beeton. The story of Eliza Acton

By Shelia Hardy The history press, 2011   Eliza Acton (1799-1859) has proved herself to be quite the elusive black swan!   She was, like several other female national treasures, a very educated and inquisitive woman who by choice, chance or both remained single until her death and her private life remains mostly a mystery.   In short: she went from being a pretty normal Ipswich girl to become a poet, governess, entrepreneur (she owned a school for girls), researcher, writer and food-security and nutrition literacy advocate…. But she must have had other passions, pursuits, desires…of which we know very little.   Hardy, the author of this book certainly made a big effort to track down as much information as possible not necessarily about Miss Acton since it appears to be so little, but about her family, acquaintances, political and social events that influenced Eliza’s life and work.   I have to say with all honesty that I found the first half of the book a bit too slow. And grew somehow impatient. Nevertheless I carried …

Britain’s Food (and industrial) revolution

Britain not only lead the industrial revolution by transforming the transport system, creating steam to power machinery and invented Portland cement. It also meant the second biggest food revolution since the Neolithic. Survival farming became forever associated with underdevelopment and large scale food production remained as the “best” and most progressive way to ensure food supply to the ever growing urban developments. This of course meant deep changes in the traditional uses of farm land and agriculture, crop rotation and sustainable animal farming became crucial to achieve a steady and sustainable food production, this was particularly important due to Britain’s limited and most valued resource: land.