As the festival party season gets underway, our Archaeological Archive takes a look at some items concerning cuisine & dining throughout the ages
Although they were around before Christmas existed, those Roman Londoners sure knew how to dine. In our archive are an abundance of bowls, dishes, spoons and knives dating from the 1st to 4th centuries. But there’s only one cheese related object. This holey ceramic fragment is thought to have been a roman cheese-mould. The grooves/ridges and holes in its base help with the separation of the whey from the curds and a weight would have been placed on top – hence the term ‘cheese-press’ is probably more applicable. Items such as this provide evidence for cheese making in Roman Britain and they are thought to have been introduced by the Roman army, for whom cheese was a staple part of their rationing.
“He’s making a list… he’s checking it twice… He’s gonna find out if you’re naughty or nice…” And if it’s the former you’re going to get a flesh hook! Despite its somewhat gruesome name, a flesh hook is no way near as nasty as it sounds. In fact they were used to remove large pieces of meat from the stewpot. The iron hook would have been attached to a long handle to provide a safe distance between the cook and the pot. By the end of the 16th century iron flesh hooks seem to have been superseded by skimmers (round, perforated scoops attached to a long handle). The perfect present for the cook in the house!
Finally, no good meal would be complete unless the food was washed down with a tasty beverage. And what better to drink from than your own personalised tankard? Personalised inscriptions on alehouse tankards were a standard occurrence in Victorian London and the verification mark on this tankard (a crowded ‘WR’) and its style suggest it dates to the very early 1800s. The one above is inscribed with ‘Mr Walley/Bucks Head/James Street/Bethnal Green’, presumably the owner of the Bucks Head pub. The story between the vessel getting from Bethnal green to Bishopsgate, (where it was discovered during a 1978 excavation) must be left to the imagination. Perhaps one festive drink too many helped it on its journey…
Discover these artefacts and many more on this month’s Archive tour, Eat, Drink and be Merry. Book your ticket now!