Welcome to another episode of The Life and Times of Hope for Charity. Today we will catch a glimpse of Georgian-era meals. And how those differed between the Upper Classes and the Middle-Lower Classes. At the end, I'll share two authentic recipes from the period.
Breakfast (or Morning Repast)
One thing to note is that meat and bread were staples in most English households for every meal.
“Meat made up a large portion of the diets…of eighteenth-century England... Because of the high demand for meat, the quality was generally rather poor, especially for the lower classes."
"As for bread, a staple of life then as now, the population seemed to prefer white bread to dark bread. Farmers grew more wheat to meet the demand for white wheaten bread."
"For breakfast, the gentry ate enriched, fruited spice breads or cakes and lightly spiced buns flavored with caraway seeds served hot... there was butter, honey, marmalade and jams made from various fruits, such as raspberries, cherries and apples.
Breakfast might include kippers... Kippers are usually herring or a young salmon split, cleaned, boned, dried, and rubbed with salt and pepper, then fried or baked and served hot at the breakfast table."
What do you think of some of these "pre-hunt" breakfasts served in the "grand country houses of England"?
"...baked halibut steaks, fried whiting, stewed figs, pheasant legs, broiled kidneys, pulled fowl, sheep’s tongues, potted pigeons, collared tongue, kidneys on toast, sausages with fried bread, pigs cheek and Melton pork pie, as well as the more familiar pork sausages, blood sausages, and bacon..."
The Middle-Lower classes would have consumed breakfast early before leaving for work or after the farm animals were attended to, depending on if they were city or country dwellers. If they ate an early breakfast, they might have a small mid-morning snack.
Their breakfasts may have included meat, perhaps bacon or sausages, white bread if possible (rye or barley if not) with butter and jam, Porridge or Gruel, with tea, coffee, or chocolate.
"Gruel is a food consisting of some type of cereal—such as ground oats, wheat, rye, or rice—heated or boiled in water or milk. It is a thinner version of porridge that may be more often drunk rather than eaten."
Whichever name the particular English family called it, it was usually a "small" meal.
"... usually roast pork or any meat along with stew and boiled vegetables. There was also soup and dessert in the end..."
"In towns many shops sold pies and pastries, while street sellers offered shellfish and other ready-to-eat items."
Interesting Tidbits: Hope for Charity takes place in 1747. What we know as the "sandwich" today didn't become popular in England until about 1760, and it started out as a man's food consumed at late-night drinking/gaming parties.
"Afternoon tea was introduced in England by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in the year 1840..." Although the English loved their tea long before "Afternoon Tea" became common.
"For an upper-class individual, there were cultural rules that dictated everything from dressing for the meal to leaving the dining room.
Every meal consisted of two courses and a dessert. However, a course in eighteenth-century upper-class society consisted of between five and twenty-five dishes.
When the second course was served, new dishes, new utensils and a new table cloth were placed on the table. The second course consisted of as many dishes as the first. However, the dishes for the second course were lighter, with accompaniments to the meats such as fruit tarts, jellies and creams... After the second course the table cloth was removed and dessert was served. Dessert usually consisted of food that could be eaten with the fingers such as dried fruit, nuts, small cakes, confections and cheese..."
In the common family, supper did not have the fanfare of Upper-Class society. The family ate their meal and then returned to work to finish whatever tasks needed to be done before bedtime. As with the elite, the middle-lower class families loved their meat and bread, however, it all depended on the family's finances, and living circumstances as to what was available to them.
"Many different types of meat were consumed, sometimes at the same meal, among them beef sirloin, venison, mutton, ham, bacon, hare (rabbit), chicken, geese, turkey, pigeons, ducks and partridge... White soup contained veal stock, cream and almonds. Sometimes it was thickened with rice or breadcrumbs... Lobscouse, a stew of meats and vegetables... the fare might be cold meats and a hunk of Cheddar cheese. There were many types of cheese available, too.
The English loved their puddings, both then and now, both savory and sweet... And syllabub, a drink containing cider or wine sweetened with nutmeg, milk and cream, was enjoyed."
Saying Grace (Praying before the meal.)
Saying Grace began long before the 18th century. There are examples of Jesus praying before meals, and traditional Jewish prayers before meals. There is the Lord's Prayer where God is asked to "Give us this day our daily bread...".
However, to get an idea of the English way of Saying Grace, I went to the Church of England's website and this is what I found:
One of the most traditional graces goes like this:
“For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful and keep us always mindful of the needs of others.”
In my family, we do not have a set prayer. We pray for whatever is on our hearts, in Jesus' Name with thanks to God the Father (Colossians 3:17-my family verse). Many families teach their children prayers such as "God is great. God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. Amen." What about your family? How do you pray before meals? Assuming you do pray before meals. Thankfulness is an important part of our relationship with God. Let us thank Him for our food!
After researching this topic, I am very thankful for the ease with which I can obtain and serve food to my family. So glad you joined me today. Did you learn anything surprising or interesting about the Georgian-era mealtimes? Tell us about it! And if you are not yet subscribed, please consider pushing that subscribe button below and joining my fantastic group of readers.