Day 49: Bread-astrophe

It was utterly, utterly awful.

I tried, I really did, to like it.

I kept thinking, ‘What about all those extremely poor people in Victorian times, who quite literally had little to eat and for whom such a soup, if not wholly nutritious, at least filled their stomachs for a while?’.

For these people, Mrs Beeton’s cheaply-made Bread Soup must have been something of a blessing in disguise.  A few cuts of stale bread, some butter and stock, and you had yourself a filling dish.

I’ve tried something similar before, in the canteen of the company I work with here in Germany.  Bread soup makes an occasional appearance on the menu and I have to say it tastes pretty good.  As I now realise, the version I’ve tried obviously had more ingredients than the one given in Household Management.

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INGREDIENTS: 1 lb of bread crusts, 2 oz. butter, 1 quart of common stock.

Mode: Boil the bread crusts in the stock with the butter; beat the whole with a spoon, and keep it boiling till the bread and stock are well mixed.  Season with a little salt.

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Often, Isabella Beeton writes a comment against the title such as ‘Excellent’.  In this case, she sticks to ‘Economical‘ – no doubt if you had to eat such a soup out of necessity, you weren’t going to be under any illusions that it was a gourmet meal.  She does, however, eulogise the goodness of bread in a paragraph following the recipe by way of commiseration.

We took a spoonful each – but couldn’t even swallow it.

I used a mix of white and brown bread / crusts which, as my boyfriend pointed out, may have contributed to the cloggy dry taste. (”Why did you use that ‘fruity’ bread? Mrs Beeton didn’t have fruity bread”). I still maintain that even if it was made with just one type of bread, there was no way this soup was going to be palatable unless you willed yourself for it to be so.  But, I’ll try to make it again soon to test this theory.

If you were living in poverty and meals such as bread soup were all you could afford, then how utterly petty it seems to imprison someone or transport them to places like Australia if they stole a measly loaf of stale bread.

It’s now got me thinking – what other ‘economical’ dishes were made in the poorer households 150 years ago?

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