Monday, February 01, 2010

Street Boys Fare.

I am too intrigued by the street vendors of Victorian London to cast them aside just yet, so I hope you are not bored by another post on the topic.

As we discovered, the street food was not for the hoi-polloi, but for the folk lower down the social scale, many (perhaps most) of whom had limited or no cooking facilities in their homes. As always, the well-to-do can rationalize the situation of the poor, and I give you a fine Victorian London example today, from a gentleman who almost convinces that the street boys eat as well as the gentlemen in their clubs – Nay! Better, because cheaper, and more fun!

From yesterday’s source (Mayhew’s London Poor), we have:

Mr. Albert Smith, who is an acute observer in all such matters, says, in a lively article on the Street Boys of London:
"The kerb is his club, offering all the advances of one of those institutions without any subscription or ballot. Had he a few pence, he might dine equally well as at Blackwall, and with the same variety of delicacies without going twenty yards from the pillars of St. Clement's churchyard. He might begin with a water souchée of eels, varying his first course with pickled whelks, cold fried flounders, or periwinkles. Whitebait, to be sure, he would find a difficulty in procuring, but as the more cunning gourmands do not believe these delicacies to be fish at all, but merely little bits of light pie-crust fried in grease; - and as moreover, the brown bread and butter is after all the grand attraction, - the boy might soon find a substitute. Then would come the potatoes, apparently giving out so much steam that the can which contains them seems in momentary danger of blowing up; large, hot, mealy fellows, that prove how unfounded were the alarms of the bad-crop-ites; and he might next have a course of boiled feet of some animal or other, which he would be certain to find in front of the gin-shop. Cyder-cups perhaps he would not get; but there would be gingerbeer from the fountain, at 1d. per glass; and instead of mulled claret, he could indulge in hot elder cordial; whilst for dessert he could calculate upon all the delicacies of the season, from the salads at the corner of Wych-street to the baked apples at Temple Bar. None of these things would cost more than a penny a piece; some of them would be under that sum; and since as at Verey's, and some other foreign restaurateurs, there is no objection to your dividing the "portions," the boy might, if he felt inclined to give a dinner to a friend, get off under 6d. There would be the digestive advantage too of moving leisurely about from one course to another; and, above all, there would be no fee to waiters." After alluding to the former glories of some of the streetstands, more especially of the kidney pudding establishments which displayed rude transparencies, one representing the courier of St. Petersburg riding six horses at once for a kidney pudding, Mr. Smith continues - "But of all these eating-stands the chief favourite with the boy is the potato-can. They collect around it as they would do on 'Change, and there talk over local matters, or discuss the affairs of the adjacent cab-stand, in which they are at times joined by the waterman whom they respect, more so perhaps than the policeman; certainly more than they do the street-keeper, for him they especially delight to annoy, and they watch any of their fellows eating a potato, with a curiosity and an attention most remarkable, as if no two persons fed in the same manner, and they expected something strange or diverting to happen at every mouthful."

Kidney pudding
Procure one ox or eight mutton kidneys, which cut into slices the thickness of half-a-crown piece; lay them upon a dish, seasoning well with black pepper and salt, and shaking one ounce of flour over; mix all well together to absorb the flour and seasoning, then have a pudding basin lined as directed for beefsteak pudding, finish, boil, and serve as there directed. A pudding made with one pound of steak and a beef kidney is also very excellent.
The Modern Housewife, Alexis Soyer, 1851

Quotation for the Day.

The weather here is gorgeous. It's mild and feels like it's in the eighties. The hot dog vendors got confused because of the weather and thought it was spring, so they accidentally changed the hot dog water in their carts.
David Letterman.

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