Early Southerners ate a rather limited and unvarying diet. At table the famished guest seldom found more than bacon, corn pone, and coffee sweetened with molasses. Pioneering sociologist Harriet Martineau complained that “little else than pork, under all manner of disguises” sustained her during her visit to the American SouthFor the most part, slaves observed the same diet as poor white farmers. Though many kept gardens, and thus supplemented their rations of pork and corn with a wide variety of vegetables, they had otherwise little opportunity to augment their diet.. Another traveler griped that that he had “never fallen in with any cooking so villainous.” A steady assault of “rusty salt pork, boiled or fried … and musty corn meal dodgers” brought his stomach to surrender. Rarely did “a vegetable of any description” make it on his plate, and “no milk, butter, eggs, or the semblance of a condiment” did he once see.Christine Baumgarthuber is a writer for The New Inquiry and runs the blog The Austerity Kitchen.
The hours that followed first sleep individuals passed in diverse manners; no custom or obligation imposed itself on this time between times. Ekirch writes that this period bore no name other than the “watch” or “watching.” Reluctant to leave a warm bed, many were content to do just that–watch. Others chatted with bedfellows, smoked pipes, comforted ill kinsmen or tended fires. Neighbors visited. Sometimes they broke bread. And frequently was the call of nature heeded. “When you do wake of your fyrst slepe,” counsels the medieval physician Andrew Boorde, “make water if you feel your bladder charged.”Bundle Theory
Many thought bundling strange. One prominent New York physician called it a “ridiculous and pernicious custom.” Others blamed it for the precipitous decline in Yankee morals. But its defenders deemed it an economical and humane prelude to marriage. A couple bundled burnt no candles, they insisted, and other household members could rest easy knowing they had spared their visitor a tramp home in the winter night.Baumgarthuber has also written pieces like:
Peppered, salted, sprinkled with finely chopped parsley, fried in butter, and dunked in vinegar, locusts make a dish whose savor is rivaled perhaps only by pan-seared stag beetles fattened on wine and flour. Browned meal worms served on a biscuit pairs well with woodlouse purée and is a terrific entrée for a main dish of grilled Buff-tip caterpillars or chafed chrysalides. Plump baked moth, oven-fresh and piping hot, is a dessert so surpassingly sweet as to upstage any visions of sugar plums that may dance in children’s heads.Workingman's Bread
“How well can we live,” Juliet Corson asked herself, “if we are moderately poor?” On the radical origins of home economics.Not By Bread And Marg Alone
Oleomargarine’s initial foray into the marketplace went anything but smoothly. Dairy farmers hated the stuff, and officials in the United States, Canada, and Australasia placed bans on the artificial coloring that made it resemble butter. This they hoped would render it less appealing to consumers. Such interference came to nothing; people grew to love the product, particularly those in pinched circumstances. In his 1936 novel Keep the Aspidistra Flying, George Orwell notes the “half-eaten bits of bread and margarine” strewn about the lodging-house bedroom of his narrator, a downwardly mobile advertising copywriter turned bookstore clerk. And social reformer Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree’s 1911 study on unemployment quotes the diary of a “casual worker” (a man employed only intermittently):
Tuesday, July 12.—Earned a shilling at wharf for working three hours. Breakfast—bacon and bread; dinner—bacon and bread; tea—margarine and bread.
Wednesday, July 13.—Went out at 5.30 A.M.; walked round to several different jobs…. Breakfast—margarine and bread; dinner—dripping and bread; tea—kipper and bread, and not much of that.
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