Sunday, 27 April 2014

1797 Workhouse Diet Day 1: Beer, Gruel, and Radios.

Day One's Stodge-ometer Rating: 6/10. 

It has begun! Yesterday's sumptuous 1797 workhouse menu:

1pt beer, 6oz rye bread, 2oz Edam cheese.
1pt onion gruel.
1pt beer, 6oz rye bread, 2oz cheese, 
a choice of treacle or butter.

A couple of 'firsts' for me yesterday. I ate my breakfast under media scrutiny, which is not something I've done before. I started eating it on 'Wake Up with Whiteley', the breakfast show on our local BBC radio station. The host, David Whiteley, was genuine charm personified, and asked all the right questions. You can hear the interview for the next seven days. Click here and fwd to 2:20 to listen

The other 'first' was, of course, consuming beer at breakfast. It was very low alcohol, and drinking it at 8am was not as bad as I anticipated, but it did make me feel a bit giddy (and caused lots of burps, if the truth be known).

Then another radio interview: North Norfolk Radio's Dick Hutcheson and I had a quick phone chat on air and made a date to do the same next week. Following this modest media frenzy, I gained some extra Twitter and Facebook followers- hurrah!

I found the breakfast filling, but then again I didn't do much physical activity in the morning. The rye bread is extremely chewy and tough. Click here to each a YouTube film showing the ingredients.

My intention was to have milk pottage at lunch time, but I still haven't managed to find a definitive 1797 recipe, so I went for the gruel, adding onions for a bit of flavour. It was joyless gloop, as expected. It took half an hour to eat and made me very bloated, on top of the breakfast beer. 

To prove that I ate it all up, here's a my empty bowl:

I had to eat supper after performing in a concert. My fellow singers were all tucking into a beautiful buffet as I gnawed at my dry rye bread. 

Bread in the workhouse was very low quality, solid, cheap stuff. Rye bread was a particular Norfolk favourite and mine was made for me (watch it being made on YouTube here). It turned out to be a good replica! I was almost tempted to dip it in the beer to make it easier to chew. 

It made me wonder: How did toothless workhouse inmates manage? It was very slow-going, and the added flavour from the small amount of cheese was most welcome. The diet allows an extra treat of a bit of treacle in the evening; a sugary tonic in an otherwise savoury day.

As Day 1 draws to a close, my bloating has diminished and I am already craving fruit, but feeling ok, and not hungry. Interestingly, the worst thing for me about missing out on the buffet was not the food, but the shared experience. 

As always, easy links to all the social media platforms are just below. Feel free to comment or ask questions, too.

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