By Nicky Rossiter
We seldom go more than a few hours without thinking of food of some sort – a snack, a meal or a feast. But how often do we think of food as history.
Improvements in transport by sea and by transcontinental railway flooded Europe with grain from the prairies of the United States and Canada in the late 19th century reducing the price of bread by half.
In 1880 the arrival of a ship from Australia with a cargo of frozen meat marked another turning point and along with cans of corned beef reduced meat prices by nearly half.
Cultivation of sugar in Australia and the West Indies and new tea plantations in Assam and Ceylon made other staple food items cheaper too. By Victorian times people in towns and cities who did not bake their own bread had become addicted to white bread regardless of the fact that the whiteness was achieved by ‘roller-milling’ which removed most of the wheatgerm and bran.
We often forget that people had to rely on a frying pan or pot held over an open fire for all their needs. Bakers would ‘rent out’ oven space at Christmas for those lucky enough to have meat to roast.
Believe it or not fish and chips played a major part in improving the nutrition of poor people from the mid-1800s. Cooked in batter, the fish retained its food value while potatoes supplied vitamins and minerals.
In 1902 Will Kellogg first marketed Corn Flakes, the result of squeezing wheat dough between rollers, toasting it, and adding a little malt flavouring. The bland, crunchy, cardboard flakes did not reach Britain until 1924 when Kellogg employed teams of unemployed men and Boy Scouts to give away millions of samples of Corn Flakes.