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The Rising Burgh: 1560 to 1770s

Everyday Life


By Alistair L Goldsmith

Murray of Polmaise service This was an age of discovery. As the city started to expand, a growing affluence was experienced by the new middle class. This coincided with an expansion of trade with the Old as well as the New World. New foods, initially treated with some suspicion, or as curiosities, began to appear. Apricots, asparagus, beetroot and French beans arrived. The potato, which was to become a staple food, came from the New World about 1570, although it was nearly half a century before it began to establish itself as a common vegetable.

Delftfield Pottery Turkeys from America and guinea fowl from West Africa were new comestibles in 1600. The scarlet-skinned, lust-provoking "love apple", or tomato, was seen for the first time, although it was not generally available until late in the 19th century. A middle class diet of the 1670s included soup or broth, bread, and meat (including fish and fowl) twice daily. Vegetables in season could be expensive. There was little in the way of milk and eggs. A lot of alcohol was consumed. Fruit was available, and tarts were eaten although puddings were not very popular. For the very rich, those with stores of winter ice had sorbets or water ices. The food of the poor remained much the same as it had been, bread, root vegetables, some meat (mostly pork) and ale.

In 1640 the first teahouse was opened in England. By 1770 tea imports, and the race to be first with the new harvest, had become a national obsession. Although heavily taxed, tea had become established as an important commodity, commercially and domestically. By this time coffee and chocolate were established as important adjuncts to commercial life. Nevertheless they were still beyond the reach of common people for whom ale was the principal drink. By 1715 gin and rum were becoming available in sufficient quantities, and of a quality on occasion superior to the native whisky. Imported fortified wines, including Madeira, Port, French Claret and German Hock added variety to the drinking habits of the rich.

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