Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Usual Allowances.

I know that I have several times in the past repeated the shameful modern fact that we in the developed world throw away one fifth of the food that we buy for the household. Clearly, we do not accurately estimate the quantity of food that we get through at home each week. Alternatively - we do estimate it correctly, but then can’t be bothered to cook it, and decide to eat out instead.

So, how much food does one person get through in a week? We had a glimpse of this in a previous story about WW II rationing and the Food Ministry’s hints about how to manage within those restrictions, if one lived alone. Today I want to revisit the issue from a different perspective.

British cookery book writer Mary Jewry’s intent in Food Consumption and Kitchen Equipment (c.1894) was to assist the inexperienced housewife to estimate food requirements for the whole household based on what one member would be expected to consume in a week.

She says:

It is essential that a housekeeper should know the average weekly consumption of food of each person in an ordinary family … For this purpose, we subjoin a list of the usual allowance, which will of course vary much from differing circumstances, but it will give a general idea on the subject.

Food for one person weekly.

Tea – two ounces
Coffee – one quarter of a pound, for breakfasts
Cocoa paste – one quarter of a pound, for breakfasts
Sugar – one half pound
Cheese – one half pound
Butter – one half pound
Milk – one quart, varying with the taste of the family
Bread- eight pounds for a woman, sixteen pounds for a man or boy
Meat – six pounds
Beer – one gallon for a woman, seven quarts to a man
Potatoes – three and a half pounds

Of course this estimate of quantities must be modified greatly by the habits and tastes of the family, and by the fact of residence in the town or the country. A large supply of vegetables, fish, or puddings will greatly reduce the scale of meat; and making tea and coffee for numbers will reduce the amount of these articles. We merely give this general idea of quantity to guide, in a measure, the inexperienced housewife. We should have been thankful for such knowledge ourselves, as without it one invariable buys more than is actually needed for the consumption of the household.

These amounts seem enormous to me. I am not having my quota of breakfast chocolate, that is for sure, and I am certainly not eating six pounds of meat a week, nor (sadly), half a pound of cheese. Do you – could you – get through this much in a week? Remember that the butter, sugar, and milk would include that used in cooking, and that bread would be the breakfast cereal.

For the recipe for the day I give you one which will reduce your meat consumption at the same time as it helps you avoid wasting leftovers, by using salt fish remaining from the previous day. It is from one of Mary Jewry’s other books - Warne’s Every-day Cookery: containing one thousand eight hundred and fifty-eight distinct recipes (1872),

Salt Fish the Second Day.
Time, twenty minutes.
The remains of salt fish previously dressed; same quantity of mashed potatoes and parsnips ; a quarter of a pound of butter; a little Cayenne; one egg.
Pick the remains of the fish into small flakes; butter the bottom of a pie-dish, place it in alternate layers with the mashed parsnips and potatoes ; sprinkle a little Cayenne in the dish. Bake for about twenty minutes in the oven; turn it out on a dish; garnish with a hard-boiled egg cut in slices, and pour over it a little melted butter, or instead of the sliced egg, use egg sauce.

Quotation for the Day.

Honest bread is very well, it's butter that makes the temptation.
Douglas William Jerrold.


A Cup of Chai Tea said...

After a long time I visited your blog

Fay said...

A gallon of beer a week. That's 12 'stubbies' for a woman. Well I guess that you need something to wash down all those meat sandwiches. Based on a 40 grams slice of bread, that would be 12 slices a day. I would have thought an allowance of flour might be useful. No doubt there would have been dripping for cooking as well.

Carolina said...

So, if you don't drink coffee, tea, or beer, can you have more milk? And then a pound of bread...too much! Actually, I think alot of it is too much. At least, for me.
Is interesting, tho!

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't people's homes have been considerably less cozy than they are today?

Going further back, Alessandro Filippini's daily menu cookbooks call for staggering amounts of food, even keeping in mind that the meals were served in courses and people were expected to pick only what they liked. However, his directions for setting up the dining room specify a temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit. People who keep the thermostat at 65 are considered extremely thrifty these days.

I think that people can eat a lot more without hurting themselves if they are burning it just to stay warm.

Jenny Islander

Anonymous said...

and where's the fruit & veg?