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Industrial Revolution: 1770s to 1830s

Everyday Life


By Alistair L Goldsmith

A Good New Year The late 18th and early 19th centuries represent a time of expansion and industrialisation. For the rich it was an era of graciousness and good living. Sophistication in cookery increased as new ideas were imported to the national diet. Previously rare or expensive foods became more available, although not necessarily cheap. Rhubarb, Brussels sprouts, Swedes (from Sweden!) and broccoli became known although it took time for them to become accepted. A strain of strawberry imported from Chile led to the hybridisation in 1806 of the fruit we recognise today. In 1759 Arthur Guinness started to produce his Dublin porter or stout and Schweppes' mineral waters appeared in 1783.

Grocer's Shop By the turn of the 18th century the city was expanding as the industrial revolution gathered momentum. The diet of the workers in the factories, or the handloom weavers in their attics, was reliant upon how much of their incomes could be spent on food. If food prices rose sharply as a result of shortage because of a poor harvest, or availability from Europe reduced by the Napoleonic War, diet and its variety was affected. However, the working class artisan, in times of relative plenty, had access to a wide variety of foods.

Happy New Year In reality the household in an overcrowded tenement, ill equipped for the practice of culinary arts, afforded little time or energy for cooking. Quickly cooked, tasty, economical, and hopefully hot, meals became the norm. The resulting diet was dominated by bought bread, potatoes in their jackets, and bacon which could be cooked in minutes. These had the added advantage of being available in small quantities from shops. This avoided storage problems and eased the strain on the family exchequer between paydays. For the more affluent, soups and stews, puddings and the Sunday roast became the routine when wages were high and food prices low. Tea, by the first quarter of the 19th century, was becoming essential. The very poor subsisted on a diet of bread, potatoes and weak tea with occasional treats of butter, cheese and bacon. Purchasing prepared foods, for example pies and sausages, was customary.

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