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Food, the cost of, in Elizabethan England

Records show that a penny bought a good, substantial meal with many courses at a tavern or country inn; several pennies would be needed for this in London. Ten eggs cost a penny in London.

Wages, however, were similarly small. A good cook might receive only £5 for a full years work, so game poaching during this period wasn't done for amusement, but to fill bellies.

Disguising the 'over-ripe' meat in cooked dishes was considered a mark of sophistication; unusual combinations being given high marks.

Cooks prepared oysters with sugar; sweets were cooked with sours; fish with fowl; meats with fruits - and the cook's skill was proved, if the guests failed to identify what they had eaten.

Steak and kidney pie with oysters is a carry-over from this period, and other meats, pies; and in Scotland haggis (Robert Burn's "Great chieftain o'the puddin' race"), made with oatmeal, onions, beef suet, beef lungs, intestines and pancreas, liver and heart - all cooked in a sheep's stomach bag.

If you enjoy cooking take a minute to look at ‘Simon Scrutton French Cookery Classes’ on Google – and learn how to make top class bistro-style dishes. Suitable for beginners upwards. Small classes.

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