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Wst-Nt-Wnt-Nt-rev - 5/6/07


Waste-Not-Want-Not-Review. A review by Mistress Jadwiga Zajaczkowa of "Waste Not, Want Not: Food Preservation from Early Times to the Present Day", edited by C. Anne Wilson.


NOTE: See also the files: pickled-foods-msg, potted-foods-msg, Preservng-CMA-art, egg-storage-msg, canning-msg, presrvd-lemons-msg, blood-dishes-msg, meat-smoked-msg, pickled-meats-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



Date: Thu, 12 Apr 2007 21:22:17 -0400

From: Jadwiga Zajaczkowa / Jenne Heise <jenne at fiedlerfamily.net>

Subject: [Sca-cooks] Leeds Symposium review-- yet another one

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>, East Kingdom Cooks

        Guild <EKCooksGuild at yahoogroups.com>


Waste Not, Want Not: Food Preservation from Early Times to the Present

Day, edited by C. Anne Wilson. (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press,



Those who have grown bored and fretful at this stream of reviews will be

pleased to know that this volume, papers from the Fourth Leeds Symposium

on Food History and Traditions, is the last in my possession. This

volume is of particular interest because most modern Americans have

little idea of the preservation techniques used before the 20th, or at

best the 19th, century. I certainly had only a hazy idea of drying,

pickling, and the 19th century innovation of canning.

Table of Contents:


   * Introduction, C. Anne Wilson

   * Preserving Food to Preserve Live: The Response to Glut and Famine

from Early times to the End of the Middle Ages, C. Anne Wilson

   * Pots for Potting: English Pottery and its Role in Food

Preservation in the Post-mediaeval Period, Peter Brears

   * Necessities and Luxuries: Food Preservation from the Elizabethan

to the Georgian Era, Jennifer Stead

   * Industrial Food Preservation in the Nineteenth and Twentieth

Centuries, H.G. Muller

   * Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Trends in Food Preserving:

Frugality, Nutrition, or Luxury.


Wilson's work in the introduction is reassuringly solid, if dwelling a

bit on the famine threat. Methods she covers include air-drying, burial

(one that we usually eschew, but which did indeed work well for cereal

grains under appropriate circumstances), including bog butter, salting,

parching, smoking, preservation of milk and cream (we seldom think of

butter and cheese as preservation methods, but they are), brine

preserving, etc. There is not an in-depth description of pickling here,

and lactic acid fermentation is not given much space. One thing she does

highlight is that the changes wrought by 'decay,' such as lactic acid

fermentation in bog butter, could turn something into what was

considered a delicacy. She also points out that medieval dried fruits

were considerably drier and harder than our modern jarred or

plastic-containered versions and therefore could be stored in a moister

environment. Wilson also places food preservation in the seasonal cycle

of foods, both for peasants and the well-off.


At first glance, Brear's "Pots for Potting" sounds rather narrow in

scope, but the light he sheds on potting or preserving fruits, pickled

meats, fish, lard, vegetables and even grains is invaluable. It's hard

for me to remember that preserves, i.e. jams, are uncommon in the

medieval and Renaissance record, still more to realize that the 'more

period' stoneware crock (compared to the glass jar) is not necessarily

as time-honored a tradition as we may think. Brears traces the use of

pots for 'potting' things back to the covered coffyns or pies of the

middle ages, which were often topped up with fat after baking and used

as preservation media for the fish, meat or other items inside. (I've

even found references to baking herbs in a dough coffin for

preservation). Admittedly, this Pots article is focusing more on the

post 1600 than the pre-1600 era, but knowing what developed after our

time period, at least in England, is a useful mark. Furthermore, what

foodie could resist hearing about the origins of meat- and fish-paste and

their pots, or the nineteenth-century bread-storage pot?


This volume catapults Jennifer Stead firmly into the company of Wilson

and Brears as food history writers for me. The only weakness in her

essay is a tendency to confuse the reader as to which period is under

discussion, but a reference to her footnotes, which generally are to

primary sources, is all that is needed to set one straight. Again, the

primary period under discussion is post-1600. Here, not only the

discussions of the introduction of techniques but the scientific

background and results of those techniques (such as the widespreadness

of rancid butter in the 18th c.) are invaluable. In particular, I have

always wondered about 15th-16th century references to gunpowder being

rubbed on meat. Stead's explanation of the use of saltpetre (and its

connection to nitre), salprunella and even gunpowder clears this up. She

also traces the precursors to airtight 'bottling' (ie: canning) of fruit

from recipes in the 1600s onward.


The last two articles are definitely out of our period, but are

fascinating as they remind us about the changes in the nature of food

preservation even in the last century and a half. That a cake of

portable soup (boiled-down broth, the precursor to the boullion cube)

made in 1771 remained substantially unchanged in 1938 is one of Muller's

fascinating tid-bits, as is an explanation of the spray-drying process

used for dry milk and instant coffee. Hunter's article is rather harder

going, especially for the reader who knows something of American

cookbook/cooking history or who has wandered the pages of Cornell's

HEARTH collection (http://hearth.library.cornell.edu/) The history of

preserving information in Britain is much different than America's! But

Hunter's analysis of when and to what class home preserving methods were

advocated is enlightening for the Britophile.


All in all, perusing this collection left me with a much improved

understanding of the diversity and development of food preservation.

Today, in the days of the sealed can, the deep freeze, and the

refrigerator, older techniques have been left behind, only revived in

Camping Without a Cooler. For Food service purposes, we are wise to

adhere to the 4 hours between 40 and 140 degrees rule. But it is worth

knowing how those who literally could not achieve such a standard worked

to preserve their food and protect it from spoilage.


-- Jadwiga Zajaczkowa, Knowledge Pika jenne at fiedlerfamily.net


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org