Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Economy of the Kitchen, or What's a Meat Screen?

Another night of late-night (7:30 pm) grocery shopping, and I am still amazed at how inexpensive food is in England.

Not sure what to attribute it to. Without the 24-hour Wal-mart culture, perhaps actual closing times make the shelf life of fresh food more measurable. Which is why we can buy bags of day-old rolls for 9 p. NINE PENCE! I can't think of the last time I bought anything in America for less than a quarter.

But you can buy day-old bakery items at Wal-mart. What you can't buy is close-to-expiration meat, vegetables and fruits at lowered prices. So why here? I think it's the fact that Americans are keyed to buy EVERYTHING NOW and store it up like the cold war is back in fashion, grocery shopping maybe once a week but more likely once every two or even three weeks. But here, where a lot of people don't have cars and shopping carts (or trolleys) are roughly a third of the size of those in America, grocery shopping can be a several times a week thing. Which doesn't make it odd to buy a trout that will expire tomorrow, if you are eating it tomorrow.

Another factor is the lack of taxation on food products. Which is pretty commendable considering people need food to, well, survive.

Today I was flipping through the section in Beeton entitled, "Economy of the Kitchen." I found this listing of items that Mrs. Beeton considered important for the running of a kitchen. Let's see if it's aged well over time:

1 Tea-kettle
Well, yes. This seems to be a necessity over here. Give me a crust of bread, water, shelter, a tea kettle.
1 Toasting-fork
Gone with the invention of the toaster, I'm afraid.
1 Bread-grater
Hmm. Had to look this one up. Apparently they still sell these to restaurants. To make bread crumbs, from what I gather. Bread was a lot harder and courser in those days.
1 Pair of Brass Candlesticks
Class. I think I have a jar candle somewhere.
1 Teapot and Tray
Ooh-la-la. Suppose I can still get this at Pier One, so not so odd.
1 Bottle-jack
Ok, I'll get it out of the way: One bottle of Jack! Essential.
6 Spoons
Well, yeah.
2 Candlesticks
To go in the candle-holders, presumably.
1 Candle-box
Not sure. When I search for this all I get is that grunge band.
6 Knives and Forks
Also a given.
2 Sets of Skewers
Still use 'em today.
1 Meat-chopper
You mean a knife?
1 Cinder-sifter
I think electric and gas stoves snuffed this one out.
1 Coffee-pot
Natch. Everyone has a coffee maker.
1 Colander
I have two.
3 Block-tin Saucepans
5 Iron Saucepans
Woah. What is this? Did someone not look at the wedding registry? Attack of the saucepans!
1 Ditto and Steamer
Not sure either.
1 Large Boiling-pot
How large? Clambake large? Witches' brew large?
4 Iron Stewpans
Please tell me the difference between a saucepan and a stewpan.
1 Dripping-pan and Stand
1 Fish and Egg-slice
Too bad Mrs. Beeton died before the Slap Chop was invented.
2 Fish-kettles
Ok, so you like to poach fish. But do you really need two fish kettles?
1 Flour-box
Gone with pre-packaged groceries
2 Frying-pans
I have three.
1 Gridiron
Sounds like a torture implement. Apparently lets you grill things over a fire. Not too hand unless one has a roaring fire in the middle of their kitchen.
1 Mustard-pot
1 Salt-cellar
1 Pepper-box
Again, all useless. Who doesn't keep their mustard in the squeezy tube, or for the ritzy, the jar?
3 Jelly-moulds
Maybe your Aunt Agnes has one left over from when Jellied items were considered acceptable pot-luck contributions, but three?
1 Cheese-toaster
This is the thing you order when your friend has a Pampered Chef party and you have to buy something.
1 Coal-shovel
Last time I checked, I didn't cook my Spaghetti-Os in a steamship.
1 Wood Meat-screen
Torture device or gay porno? Neither. A box that sat in front of the fire to roast meat.


  1. lol! very interesting! Maybe the dripping pan and stand are the equivalent of a modern roasting pan and rack setup?

  2. lol! very interesting! Maybe the dripping pan and stand are the equivalent of a modern roasting pan and rack setup?