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September 06, 2008


Rachel Laudan

Adam, a great piece of detective work. One so often thinks of dishes for the well-to-do creeping down the social scale as the poor emulate the rich. But here, as you say, you have an example of the well-to-do, as a charitable act, giving the poor a version of high cuisine. There must be other examples. Christmas boxes? (not quite charity, of course).Even those soups offered by the rich to the poor, often derided by historians, may have in some cases been relatively luxurious food.

But this is so well documented. Great stuff.


Well coincident with this period in the UK there was a whole bunch of "Cookery for the Working Classes" type books, most of which would be of little use or interest to the Working Classes of course. So there was an active interest in the diet of these people, if not much being done on a practical level (sounds familiar).

In Italy (and most likely elsewhere) there are lots of special occasion dishes (especially pies for some reason) for that seem to be derived straight from upper class recipe collections from 3 or 4 hundred years ago. Could be a result of Upper class donations at Lent/Easter/Christmas to the poor I guess, would be interesting to chase this up.

As additional detail, here is a bit more of the description of the Hot-pot:

"Each dish was surmounted by a silk flag, bearing the Mayor's arms and initials of himself and Mrs Radcliffe, with the wish, "A merry Christmas and a happy New Year. From the Mayor and Mayoness (Mr. and Mrs. David Radcliffe). With all good wishes. 1885"

Laying it on a bit thick maybe, but if this didn't create a lasting impression, I not sure what else would!

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