I can recall the first time I read Victorians detested vegetables; I had to choke back laughter. It sounds similar to modern times. In fact, Victorians found vegetables unsavory and unhealthy. Unhealthy?! Surely this idea was derived from the unappetizing aspect, but as we now presently, vegetables are very healthy. Part of the reasons for unappealing taste of vegetables was Queen Victoria’s preference for plain fare. “As the Monarchy goes, the population follows.” Or at the worst, they copy their reigning monarch to curry favors and put on heirs.
Practicality dictated vegetables were often rotten or spoiling by the time, they reached the table, as the refrigerator had not been invented yet. Iceboxes were coming into fashion, but the temperature could not be regulated, thus food spoiled or wilted from the extreme cold of the iceboxes. The usual ways of sustenance preservation such as salt did little to enhance the flavor of vegetables in the same manner it preserved and brought out the richer flavors of the meats. Nor did canning assist in the taste of vegetables dishes. Pickling was really the only manner of preservation that added any piquancy. Obviously, not every type of vegetable is appropriate to pickle. Variations of lettuce, for example would not make a good candidate.
Due to the era and its technological limitations, eating was a seasonal endeavor. Many Victorians ate the same things week after week after week. It was all planned of course, since waiting around would only result in the spoiling of precious food. Certain days were designated for certain types of cooking, such as baking on Saturdays and pork on Tuesdays. Since cooking was an all-day event, it was practical to plan the meals in such a way. The changes in food came with the seasonal harvest. It was simply the way of things.
Interestingly, it was the poor who actually ate more vegetables, however, as previously stated the vegetables were rotten. Vegetable soups is considered the poor person’s diet with potatoes, radishes, turnips, and other root vegetable being the most common sustenance for those in poverty, if they were so fortunate to have a meal that particular day. This knowledge alones magnifies the catastrophic repercussions of the Potato Famine that struck Great Britain during the 1840s.
Comparatively, the wealthy people of the Empire routinely dined of fatty meats and sumptuous sweets; the type of food that enlivens the taste buds and increases the girth. Vegetables were added to the dishes for color to enhance the visual presentation, from a garnish on the china or inside a food, which at times was section off to one side of the plate, never to be consumed. Healthy eating was not a priority nor was it commonly accepted one needed to focus on nutrition for a health and well-being; the prevailing ideology was far more epicurean. If one had the means, they would dine on the best taste their money could afford. The wealthy Victorians were not concerned about their appearance so much as their wealth and the pleasures it could afford and feasting was a high priority.