Monday, July 8, 2013

Baking in Victorian England

From English Historical Fiction Authors:
In the Victorian period, food was expensive. A middle class family could expect to spend a little more than half their income on food. Their diet, just like with the upper classes, included a half pound of bread daily. A laborer’s diet might include two pounds of bread, with his wife and children getting something over half this amount.

This was often delivered directly to houses by bakers or pastry cooks. There were also street markets, stalls, and shops called such names as pastry shops, pie-shops and confectioners, where families could purchase a variety of baked goods. Families could prepare their own bread in their own oven or have it baked in a bakehouse, too. The family coal budget was one of the issues that led to making these different choices.

In the home, who was making the bread depended on the size of the household. Servants were relatively inexpensive and readily available during this period. Many families could afford to hire a maid-of-all-work. Next up would be families who could afford this and someone to do “heavy work.” Then, you get into larger households, where there might be cooks, kitchen maids, and scullery maids to specialize in food preparation.

Who made the bread outside of the home? According to A.N. Wilson in The Victorians, the baking life was a tough one. It only became worse during the London Season when bread orders increased. Eleven at night was the start of a baker’s day, when he made the dough. He was able to sleep on the job for a couple of hours while the bread rose, then had to do the rest of the physical tasks of preparing rolls and loaves. Kneading was sometimes done with feet, perhaps making for a less-than-clean product. The bakehouse was alarmingly hot as well, up to ninety degrees Fahrenheit. Some bakers had to deliver the bread they made, too. They only had five to ten hours off per day and all but none during the Season. Wilson says statistics show London bakers rarely lived past the age of forty-two. (Read entire post.)

1 comment:

julygirl said...

It is still a task that most of us leave to the pros.