Anything from sixty to ninety per cent of expenditure by the mass of the population went on food. Bread, gradually becoming more refined, and potatoes remained the main components of the working-class diet throughout the period. Meat consumption rose particularly from the 1880s when frozen meat imports became available. Beef and mutton could provide stock for soup as well as a main course. There were attractions also in cheap bacon imports where the men could get the bacon and the wife and children the dripping on their bread. Nutritionally, one of the most significant growths in consumption was in milk, but the average working class family consumption was less than two pints per week at the start of the 20th century and cheap condensed milk remained very popular. Green vegetables were rarely available and seldom feature in accounts of eating habits.
Margarine as a cheap alternative to butter came in the 1870s and the reduction in sugar duties allowed the production of cheap jam to satisfy the Glasgwegian sweet tooth. A bacon and egg breakfast was becoming common amongst the middle class by the 1880s, but in the published diets of the less well off eggs hardly feature. Until gas cookers began to become available from the 1870s most cooking at home was in a pot at an open fire and therefore choice was limited. Ready-cooked meat stalls, generally of doubtful hygiene, remained popular and fish and chips caught on for the same reason when they were introduced in the second half of the 19th century. There was also a growing consumption of cheap, imported canned meats such as corned beef.
For most of the period consumption of beer and spirits declined and tea increased in popularity. The temperance tea-room, most famously those of the co-operative societies and Miss Cranston's, became increasingly popular, particularly as meeting places for women in the afternoons. An increasing range of cakes and biscuits began to be produced to meet this demand. More exotic foods such as bananas, pineapples and even tomatoes were on the whole seen only at the tables of the well to do.
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