Hello there beautiful people!
I have a question for you!
How many times have you told your children to eat their veggies and stay away from all this junk food they so readily like to devour?
Well, I know I have been ranting about that to my kids for ages!
But let’s be honest with each other… You do enjoy your fair share of a tasty burger, am I right?
Your friend Violet is guilty as charged as well! (Let’s just have this stay between us)
And speaking of junk food, I had always thought that it was non-existent in the past!
You know, my grandma always talked about how they used to make everything themselves at home! You know, before the fast food chains popped up…
So you can imagine my surprise and disbelief when I found out that fast food was very popular during our beloved Regency and Victorian Eras!
But how can this be? Did they use to eat pizzas and burgers? What do the falafels have to say about this?
According to Henry Mayhew’s list of “The Street-sellers of Eatables and Drinkables”, the Victorians had access to the most peculiar fast food delicacies!
Let’s try and set the mood first, as I understand your confusion.
You are a labour worker in the most overpopulated city in the world (during the Victorian era, that is). There’s lots of work for you, but no kitchen in your home!
Well even if there was one, you wouldn’t even get there before midnight.
Suddenly, the hot eels and sheep’s trotters that the seller is offering across the street start smelling awfully tasty!
The options are plenty. From baked potatoes, fried fish, meat pies, pickled whelks (brr), hot green peas (!), ham sandwiches, cakes, tarts, meat pudding and even eel jelly!
The choices were many and the street vendors thousands, to satisfy the needs of the working people and the poor ones that wandered the streets.
Well if I were a lady or lord, I wouldn't choose this over the lush meals prepared by my trusted servants at my luxurious manor…
However, there were also drinks that were popular with everyone and of course, ice cream was the thing!
Coffee, hot cocoa, tea, cooling refreshments and even warm milk were sold for those that started their day as early as dawn, and for the “fast gentlemen and loose ladies” that roamed the night streets.
So far so good, but the question remains: Was Victorian fast food healthy? Is there any comparison to contemporary fast food?
One would think that it was freshly prepared by a doting housewife or working woman for sale, right?
Well...no. And I am not even going into sanitation, as this was no one’s concern and wasn’t even regulated.
To make it clearer, have you ever heard of Sweeney Todd and the contents of his pies?
Don’t freak out, as it wasn’t the case that your meat pie would contain human meat, but the conditions and quality of this street food is what inspired the story.
And I thought our campaigns against fast food were intense! 😛
Given the fact that this fast food was ridiculously cheap, at a time when the price of good quality meat was skyrocketing and was inaccessible for any street vendor, there had to be substitutes or additives that greatly lowered the quality and threatened the consumers’ health.
Of course, the people most at risk from food fakers were those at the lower end of society and the ones that could only afford the “one penny meals”.
Growing awareness of the scale of adulteration in the UK eventually led to public anger, and the 1860s saw the first modern food standards legislation, which became stronger and more effective as the century progressed.
Soo I suddenly appreciate my pizza, regardless of its additives! 😛
Would you try any of this street food? Let me know what you think!
Written by Violet Hamers!