What did it mean to eat like a Victorian? There was no single culinary experience in the 19th century. Just like the era itself, Victorian Britons had diverse tastes and habits, and the food they consumed often reflected their ingenuity.
Named after Queen Victoria - who reigned in the United Kingdom from 1837 until she passed in 1901 - the Victorian era was a long period of time filled with shifting trends, attitudes, and innovations.
Food itself was part of these changes. Like women who went to extreme lengths to live up to beauty ideals, Victorians displayed resourcefulness and creativity in the foods they prepared. Their eating habits largely depended on necessity, taste, technology, and access to certain ingredients. Factors like wealth and class also shaped a person's diet. The middle and upper classes often could afford better quality food than their working-class counterparts.
Food for everyday Victorians may not sound appetizing to 21st-century stomachs, but it was enough to help people survive the 19th century.
The famous housekeeping expert Isabella Beeton even recommended fried cabbage as a good option for "economical" meals that would feed a whole family.Does this show some tasty ingenuity?
The 19th century saw the birth of the most popular breakfast item: cereal. American entrepreneurs like Sylvester Graham developed breakfast cereals to provide a healthy food. Some took it even further - John Kellogg developed corn flakes as a bland food to curb people's sexual impulses.
Though processed breakfast cereal gained traction in mid-century America, Britons didn't enjoy prepared cereal until the beginning of the 20th century. Instead, British Victorians generally ate gruel, oats, and porridge.Does this show some tasty ingenuity?
Denby Dale Pie
Civic rituals and festivals punctuated life in the Victorian era - and food played a role in such festivities. No one made celebratory food better than the community of Denby Dale in West Yorkshire. To mark national occasions, bakers in the town created giant meat and potato pies. Some of the events that warranted a giant pie were the repeal of Corn Laws in 1846 and the 50th anniversary of Queen Victoria's reign in 1887.Does this show some tasty ingenuity?
By the middle of the era, most Victorians consumed some kind of meat during the week. Not every cut or type of meat was the same though. Wealthier Victorians enjoyed the best pieces of succulent meats, while their poor counterparts had to make do with cheaper cuts.Does this show some tasty ingenuity?