In this episode of The Life and Times of Hope for Charity, we'll look at the mid-18th century English kitchen.
Today, we can order our groceries online, and have them delivered to our house, then place them in a nice cold fridge or freezer. Then when we are ready to cook, turn on the stove or oven, or if we want to rough it, we can fire up the grill with the help of charcoal and lighter fluid. Having eaten more than we need many times, we place the leftovers in the fridge/freezer and eat them or not eat them later. “Leftovers, again? I hate leftovers!” Our 1st world children may say. If we do eat them, we can microwave the food and it will be ready in minutes. In addition, we have insta-pots, toasters, slow-cookers, air-fryers, roasters, convection ovens, burners, rice cookers, etc. And still, we don’t want the hassle and go out to eat.
However, in the 18th century, even the richest families did not have these luxuries. They did have servants to do the work for them, which the average home did not have, but even in the wealthiest homes cooking was hot, difficult, and back-breaking work.
The hearth is the front and floor of a fireplace. This is where the majority of the cooking took place. This area would have been designed large enough to hold at least some of the following: cast-iron pots, bars, hooks which were sometimes attached to a swing arm used to push and pull the hanging pot or perhaps a tea kettle in and out of the flames. Iron grates on legs would rest above or near the flames to hold the smaller pots or pans. A spit or hooks were used to roast meat. As is true today, the bigger the house, the bigger the kitchen or hearth, and the bigger the hearth, the more food could be prepared at one time.
Besides the hearth, there were bread ovens. White flour, however, was expensive. Therefore, wholemeal flour was more common in the average home. "Bread played such an important role in the nutritional needs of society that, when there were shortages in the supply of wheat, other grains had to be used to avoid mass starvation."
Cooking tools used in the 18th century included hooks, paddles, tea kettles, roasting spits, long forks, spoons, ladles, tongs, etc., mostly made with wrought iron. Imagine how heavy these tools and the pots and pans would be! (This website is explores this topic more.)
In the average home, you would have used wooden, earthenware, and/or pewter plates and cups. In the upper classes, you probably would have eaten on earthenware, stoneware, or porcelain and used crystal or porcelain for your drinks. They used wooden or pewter spoons and iron knives with wooden or bone handles in lower-class homes. Forks were usually used in wealthier homes. Silver was the preferred material for eating utensils among the wealthy, which led to the term "silverware". In the mid-18th century, most forks were still two-pronged.
Where did they eat?
It all depends on the size of the home. Some homes in Hope for Charity have a shared kitchen and eating area, while others have separate eating areas. Tables and chairs were much like today. They were made in varying styles, lengths, with chairs, benches, or both.
This was a quick look at the mid-18th century Georgian era kitchen. Did you learn anything new? I hope you enjoyed this peek back in time. Next month we'll plan to explore the food common to this period. I'll also plan to share a traditional recipe or two! Make sure you are subscribed so you don't miss the rest of this series, The Life and Times of Hope for Charity, or any future posts.