#History, Victorian Cooking

Victorian Cookbook: Workhouse Gruel

Welcome to what might be the first in a series of posts on Victorian recipes. I hope most of them will taste nicer than this one for workhouse gruel, but this seemed like a nice simple recipe to begin with.

Ingredients:

3 dessert spoons of oats

1 pint of water

Salt to taste

Method:

Mix the oatmeal with a little of the water until it looks like the image to the right. I don’t know about you, but I’m excited.

Put the rest of the water in a pan and add the oat mixture. Boil for ten minutes.

This may or may not be how wallpaper paste was invented.

If it looks like dirty washing up water, you’re doing it right.

Add salt to finished gruel and allow to grow tepid.

By this stage, the gruel should look like despair. Specifically, the despair of Victorian orphans.

Next, you’ll need some test subjects.

Because I’ll do anything in pursuit of my art, I sampled this and, let me tell you, it looks like it tastes. The salt doesn’t seem to aid the flavour unless you like the taste of bilge water.

Test subject 1 (age 40) described it as “inoffensive” but I found it highly offensive. His nickname from now on will be Mr. Bumble.

Test subject 2 (age 15) said “Good grief” when he tried it. He now sympathises even more with the Victorian poor.

Test subject 3 (age 8) consented to have his photo taken:

But he wouldn’t actually eat the gruel.

If you make this, let me know how it went in the comments. Next time, I’ll try to make something you might actually enjoy eating.