10 Weird Foods the Victorians Ate

The Victorians gobbled down some strange foods, from jellied eels to boiled calf’s head. Times really have changed. We might cringe at the thought of eating some of the foods on this list, but more than a century ago, many of these dishes were considered treats and delicacies.
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1) Jellied Eels – Yep! You heard it. Jellied eels. Imagine chomping down on an eel coated with its own “naturally-produced gelatin.” Some flavored their eel with vinegar or a dollop of butterThis was a popular dish that originated in London’s East End, sold directly from street carts, and continues to be prepared and sold in some places today—wanna try a bite?
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An example of jellied eels. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)
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2) Bloater Paste – This is a paté made from salted and cured herring—guts still intact. That’s right. The guts weren’t removed. The herring were then mixed with spices and sealed into jars, which made transport around England easily without spoiling. It became popular to spread this onto toast or include it in a sandwich. Are you retching yet?
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3) Flour Soup – Maybe the most unappetizing dish on this list… Flour soup includes water, flour, salt, butter, and caraway seeds. Another recipe replaced the caraway seeds with nutmeg, which seems only marginally tastier. Once all the ingredients were thrown in, the soup was boiled and mixed until it had a smooth texture.
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4) Pressed Duck – The process for this one is considerably cruel. So animal lovers, you might want to look away. According to Listverse, the cook would begin by strangling the duck, which was done to preserve the poor bird’s body fluids. From there, the duck’s legs, breast, and liver were removed. It was then semi-roasted and then pressed to squeeze out blood and juice, which were then made into a sauce to pour over the duck meat.
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An example of a duck press used to…well, press ducks. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Braveheart,  CC BY-SA 4.0)
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5) Slinks – A.K.A. Cow Fetus. When pregnant cows are slaughtered, their fetuses are ejected from their bodies or removed by the human hand. Victorian butchers didn’t waste this meat and offered it to their customers as a less expensive option to the pricier veal or lamb.
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6) Donkey’s Milk – Possibly the most edible thing on this list, donkey’s milk was bought by women who believed drinking it would make them appear more youthful. Some street vendors did bamboozle their customers, though, by mixing water with chalk. So, there’s that…
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Donkey! Many women believed drinking donkey’s milk would make them appear more youthful. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)
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7) Boiled Calf’s Head – Animal lovers, this dish might not be for you. Preparation for it included scraping off the poor, headless calf’s hair, removing its brains and innocent, dead eyes, and slicing off its ears. Then the head was boiled in salt water while the brains mixed with butter, lemon juice, pepper, and parsley. And for the display? The head was laid at the center of the table, while the brains were sprinkled around the calf’s tongue on a separate platter. Ready for dinner?
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8) Saloop – Coffee and tea were more expensive commodities, and so some shopkeepers offered a cheaper alternative called saloop. It was brewed from ground orchid root, but later on sassafras became the basis for the drink, the main flavoring for root beer. Saloop was flavored with steaming milk and sweetened with a lot of sugar—and I mean lots.
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Saloop was served in coffee houses as a cheap alternative to tea or coffee. Here, a soldier enjoys a cup. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)
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9) Spotted Dick – An interesting name, hm? It’s not nearly as dirty as it sounds. Spotted dick was made from suet pastry, dried currants, raisins, and sugar flavored with lemon and orange zest. This dessert first appeared in 1849 in The Modern Housewife cookbook. The chef to name it, Alexis Soyer, really should have reconsidered the name for marketing purposes.
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A heaping helping of spotted dick. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Jem Stone, CC BY 2.0)
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10) Egg Wine – Would you like some egg in your wine? Obviously an egg is needed for this recipe, then blended and stirred in with half a glass of water, a glass of sherry (lay on the liquor!), sugar, and nutmeg.
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Did any of these recipes actually taste good? No idea, but if any brave soul tries any of these concoctions, please share your experience in the comments!
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Further Readings:
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7 Victorian Recipes on History Extra
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Fish & Seafood on Go for an English
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7 thoughts on “10 Weird Foods the Victorians Ate

Add yours

    1. Have you tried spotted dick or jellied eel? I’ve tried two or three foods on this list (some good, some not so good) but have yet to muster up the courage to stomach either of these dishes.

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