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Bonus: "Meals in Nether-England" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Bonus: "Meals in Nether-England"

The November 6, 2012 Poetry Fishbowl made the stretch goal of $500.  W00T!  You are all awesome.  Have some bonus material for The Steamsmith.

Meals in Nether-England

The timing and terminology of meals has changed through history.  The Victorian period was a time of wide, fast changes because society and technology were so much in flux.  The references therefore show a jumble of vocabulary, timing, and content.  In nether-Earth, some of those changes happened earlier, so the Victorian period is a little more settled.  The timing and quality of meals also reflects social and economic class.  Nether-England has slightly better conditions than historic-England in some regards, for example owing to the earlier development of canning (both alchemical and mechanical) as a food preservation method.  This makes things like jam and potted meat much more available.

Below is a summary of meals typical in nether-England.  The full set only occurs during holidays or other occasions when people are up for eighteen hours or so, running around getting hungry a lot.  The poor and the lowest servants of stingy masters might only eat one or two meals a day.  Workers and most servants have three meals, if they can fit one somewhere in the middle.  Wealthy people and upper servants may have four or more meals, particularly for social purposes or to keep up energy during very long days.

Breakfast is the first meal of the day, served early (anywhere from 6-8 AM).  A heavy meal, it contains as much sustenance and variety as people can afford.  That might be bread or porridge for lower classes.  Better fare includes eggs, fresh fruit in season or fruit preserves, bacon, kidneys, muffins, etc.  Milk is a popular beverage where available, because it's fresh from the morning milking; otherwise cider, juice, or tea may be poured instead.  Servants and workers typically get up earlier to have their own breakfast before the leisure class gets up.

Elevenses is an optional light meal, always served before noon  (typically around 11 AM, hence the name).  There is a hot beverage which may be tea, coffee, or cocoa; and a side such as a coffee cake, pastries, or bread.  French and other fancy pastries are a hallmark of nether-England because it dominates the western world even more than historic-England and is thus able to draw influences and servants from other cultures so easily as to be ubiquitous among the upper classes.  Workers sometimes carry a sack lunch, particularly hand pies such as Cornish pasties, to be gobbled down somewhere near the middle of the day when they can spare a few minutes.  Few jobs provide an official break.

Tea is an optional but very common meal, always served after noon  (anywhere from 3-6 PM).  The earlier it is, the lighter it tends to be; afternoon tea is the custom among the middle to upper classes.  This is very popular as a social meal consisting of fine tea, clotted cream, dainty sandwiches with fillings such as cucumber or herbed butter, finger foods like potted meat on crackers, cheese, scones, and sweets such as biscuits.  The later it is, the heavier it tends to be; evening tea is the custom among the working and lower classes.  This is a holdover meal favored by factory or shop workers coming home at 5-6 PM and needing something to eat immediately rather than waiting for dinner.  So heartier dishes such as potatoes and puddings appear, alongside sandwiches made with gravy or leftover meat if people can afford it.

Dinner is the main meal, served in the evening around 7-8 PM.  This is the heaviest meal of the day, and the most likely to contain meat.  The wealthiest people may have meat every day, even more than once; but much of the upper and middle classes will serve meat several times a week instead.  A very popular solution is to cook a big roast or ham once or twice a week, and then use the leftovers to make cottage pie, stew, sandwiches, and so forth in subsequent meals. 

This is also a major social meal for the upper class, who throw splendid dinner parties with upward of a dozen courses.  Even eating alone, they typically demand half a dozen courses including soup and salad.  Dinner usually features a main dish with meat if it's available; nobles may have several kinds on the same table.  Popular meats include pork, beef, turkey, fish, and game such as venison or grouse.  Then there are several sides such as vegetables, savory puddings, pickles, and jellies; followed by dessert of sweet pudding, fruit or fruit preserves, pie, cake, etc.  The beverage is often alcoholic: ale or beer for the lower classes and wine for the middle and upper classes.  The closer blend of French into English culture in nether-Earth deepens the use and quality of wine available.

At dinner, servants usually set the house table first and fix their own meal afterwards.  This is because part of the recompense in many great houses consists of the "broken meats" -- whatever food comes off the table goes to the servants because the wealthiest or stuffiest people won't touch leftovers.  This is one way in which people in service have access to considerably more and better food than they could otherwise afford.

Supper is an optional late meal, served right before bed (cited at 9-10 PM, but often later).  It is light, often soup and bread with butter or preserves.  This is popular with people who have a heavy dinner rather early, such as at a party, then are hungry again by the time they get home several hours later; or people in well-lit households who stay up late working or reading and then want a snack before bed.

Maryam Smith grew up both  upstairs (with her father) and downstairs (with her mother).  She is comfortable eating elaborate meals in company, but doesn't feel inclined to bother with such in private, because she's just as happy eating plain food as fancy food -- and that leaves more money in the budget for other things.  She also doesn't enjoy eating alone, and doesn't see any point in running two separate meal plans in a tiny household.  So there's one set of meals shared by Maryam and her servants, unless she has company over and more formal rules apply.  This is eccentric, but she's not the only solitary noble who does it.

Typically they put on a nice heavy breakfast with eggs and sausages with some kind of bread or pastry.  Tea is the light, early version.  Maryam is forever trading canned goods with her friends, as alchemists do when trying new recipes or methods, so quite odd things like potted pheasant salad or dandelion jam may appear.  Dinner features a big hunk of meat once or a few times a week with the intent of providing leftovers.  Special occasions may bring out an extra cut of meat, a fancy cake, or some other delectable item.  Elevenses and supper are served at need if somebody gets hungry. 

Another eccentricity is that only the most important items -- tea, sugar, meat, preserves, etc. -- are secured in Maryam's household.  Ordinary supplies are tallied but not locked, for menu planning purposes.  There is always a selection of cheap, minimally perishable snack foods such as a big wheel of cheese, a round of hard salami, and crackers or whatever bread is left.  In a household centered around an eccentric inventor, people can be up at any hour and may not have time for or even remember  the standard meals every day.

 *   *   *


Victorian Cooking: Upper-class Dinner
Victorian Life: Food and Cooking
Weekly Meals Eaten in the Victorian Era
What Time Is Dinner?

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12 comments or Leave a comment
From: technoshaman Date: November 10th, 2012 05:57 am (UTC) (Link)
Oooh, references. *saves for a later romp*
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 10th, 2012 06:03 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad you liked it.

There are a lot of great resources for the Victorian period online. This is a favorite: http://www.avictorian.com/
From: siliconshaman Date: November 10th, 2012 11:53 am (UTC) (Link)
Sort of reminds me of how meals worked out at university. Biology experiments wait for no-one, so you'd grab a full breakfast before heading in, snack from the coffee table at 11, and maybe again at 4-5, then grab a full meal at 6ish. If you'd a late night probably supper too.

Although, the 3rd year you practically lived in the labs and some of use had a corner set up with an improvised kitchen built from lab gear.
siege From: siege Date: November 10th, 2012 01:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
Remember to wash all glassware after use, and don't drink the dysentery.
From: siliconshaman Date: November 10th, 2012 07:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
Top shelf, milk eggs and bacon...bottom shelf ebola, dysentry and H1N5 cultures, don't get the two mixed up!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 11th, 2012 02:54 am (UTC) (Link)


The Teferact compound actually has separate lab space with its own refrigerators, to avoid exactly that problem. One scientist in his own space putting things in odd places is a minor hazard. Two or more is a disaster because you don't know if someone else is storing baking powder in the sugar dish or nitroglycerin in a bleach bottle, etc.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 10th, 2012 06:36 pm (UTC) (Link)


Yeah, over in Schrodinger's Heroes, Alex can cook with a Bunsen burner, but in a kitchen not so much.
From: siliconshaman Date: November 10th, 2012 07:55 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: *laugh*

Huh, that makes me wonder how the cooking varies between universes now... dimensional navigation though molecular gastronomy!!

Ohhh... now there's a thought, a nether-england / Schrodinger's Heroes cross over!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 11th, 2012 02:59 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: *laugh*

>> Huh, that makes me wonder how the cooking varies between universes now... dimensional navigation though molecular gastronomy!! <<

The pursuit of alchemy yielded some different equipment, which can be used for cooking; it's more expensive, harder to use, and gives better products. Then cheaper, ordinary versions are made that don't use alchemy so people who aren't alchemists can have something that does sort of the same job. One of the interesting quirks is that hermetically sealed canned goods are nearly immortal, with very little degradation of nutrition and flavor.

>> Ohhh... now there's a thought, a nether-england / Schrodinger's Heroes cross over! <<

Crash and burn. The question of how alchemical science interacts with conventional science has been tested to destruction: they go together like bleach and ammonia. I shudder to think what would happen, crossing nether-England with the Teferact.
marina_bonomi From: marina_bonomi Date: November 10th, 2012 12:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
And here I thought Tolkien had made up 'elevensies' for the Hobbits...

Very interesting post, Elizabeth. Thank you.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 10th, 2012 06:37 pm (UTC) (Link)

You're welcome!

It's fun to discover what things an author made up, and what are obscure finds from history or distant cultures.
From: siliconshaman Date: November 10th, 2012 07:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
No, he just borrowed it, and second-breakfast, from up here in Yorkshire, aka The Shire!
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