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School fare in 1748

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  • School fare in 1748

    Apparently, there's a record of what was served at a school founded in Bristol by John Wesley in 1748. It looks like mainly porridge and bread with milk and cheese. It seems there's meat once a day -- unless there are vegetables! Fruit comes in the form of an apple pudding to follow the meat, which means yet more wheat flour (but probably some healthy beef suet (kidney fat) to make that old English favorite suet-crust pastry).

    Judging by this list, it's about as un-primal as you can get. Meat comes only once per day (and not even that on Fridays) and it seems there are no raw vegetables or fruit and not much cooked.

    I dunno ... I guess if the helping of meat is a large one ... And maybe not every item is recorded -- perhaps it's taken for granted that some seasonal vegetables accompany the meat.

    Also, I guess there might be food that isn't supplied by the school. Boys might be sent some food by their families or buy some with their pocket money; they might steal fruit -- "scrump" it -- from people's trees when it's around, as boys proverbially did back then.

    Further, I suppose the dairy produce isn't pasteurized and homogenized, and this is in the days before the wheat breeding that William Davis talks about that seems to have made wheat so much more harmful. And perhaps more people's guts were more able to tolerate some of the foods in pre-antibiotic days.

    All the same, this sounds like a diet that is both pretty limited and pretty inflammatory. (I'd have thought you'd have been on the edge of scurvy apart from anything else.) If the school kept medical records back in those days, wouldn't it be interesting to check them out and see what problems were coming up?

    The English theologian John Wesley (1703-1791) founded a school for the sons of Methodist ministers, near Bristol, in 1748. ... There were three brief meal breaks for breakfast, dinner, and supper, but the fare was Spartan. ...
    The Old Foodie: School Fare, 1748.

  • #2
    The whole concept of institutionalized public schooling isn't very primal. Even if you could show that health problems were higher for that group, you wouldn't know if it was related to the food, the stress, or being forced to sit behind a desk all day.


    • #3
      I would've liked to see how they put up with kids like me. Beatings never worked on me so I can see their lives being more hellish than mine.
      In all of the universe there is only one person with your exact charateristics. Just like there is only one person with everybody else's characteristics. Effectively, your uniqueness makes you pretty average.


      • #4
        Also, they were eating real foods from real farms, no factory farms, chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides, genetically engineered mutant food, no engineered sweeteners like HFCS, no soda pop, twinkies, ding dongs, big macs etc, etc, etc and blah blah blah


        • #5
          Originally posted by dragonmamma View Post
          The whole concept of institutionalized public schooling isn't very primal. Even if you could show that health problems were higher for that group, you wouldn't know if it was related to the food, the stress, or being forced to sit behind a desk all day.
          This would presumably be a private school, since the article says that it was "for the sons of Methodist ministers". (Actually, I wonder if that can be right, since while Methodists said they based their teachings on John Wesley's, he was actually a clergyman of the established church so why would he be setting up a schools for the sons of Nonconformist ministers?) However, I daresay public schools can be as stressful as public ones -- perhaps more so in some cases.

          I think if one found that there were, for example, a lot of gastrointestinal problems, it would be a pretty safe assumption that the diet had some effect. However, we're moving into the realms of speculation here, unless there actually are medical records for the school ...

          Evidence of very bad schools -- which I doubt Wesley's was -- medically damaging pupils at a somewhat later date are what caused Charles Dickens to write Nicholas Nickleby. At the time there were many boarding schools in Yorkshire where parents could send their children at cheap prices. In practice, this often meant ones born out of wedlock -- a parent could get them "out of sight and out of mind".

          A particularly brutal individual called William Shaw (upon whom Wackford Squeers was based) ended up in court on charges of neglect after nine children in his "care" went blind.

          There's a full account of the trial and aftermath in the Penguin Books edition of Nicholas Nickleby, but I found a short excerpt online:

          "William Jones, 11, told a court in London how the pupils washed in a horse trough, shared two towels, ate meagre unappetising rations and slept five to a bed in a 30-bed dormitory. Their first job every morning was to de-flea their beds with quills. ...

          "About nine months after Jones had been to the school, his sight was affected; he could not see to write his copy, and Mr Shaw threatened to beat him. " The boy was sent to the washhouse where he remained for a month, by which time he was completely blind. As were nine other boys sharing the wash-house with him.
          Shaw was fined but not closed down. However, it was said that shortly after the success of Dickens' novel you could tour Yorkshire and find hardly any of these schools. The publicity caused by the novel simply shut them down, even the good ones -- no one would send a child down into Yorkshire any more.

          Real-life inspiration behind tale of cruelty (From The Northern Echo)

          It's an interesting instance of the power of the mass circulation of information. I guess the internet is playing the role that a Dickens' novel did in the 19th-century.


          • #6
            Thank you for linking to one of my favorite blogs. I love the old foodie. Looking at some of the historic menus is a real eye opener.

            Thank you for the other link also. It is shocking the things that occurred in even relatively modern history. Blind in less than a year? That is insane.


            • #7
              that IS an interesting blog. thanks