All posts tagged: victorian food adulteration

The Gothic Horror: Food of Darkness

The man who robs a fellow subject of a few shillings on the highway is sentenced to death but he who distributes a slow poison to the whole community escapes unpunished. Frederick Accum, 1820 We abandon the classical period and enter a new era that can only be described as a gothic horror. The dark shadows that cloud the classical food culture began to gather somewhere in the mid-seventeen hundred when enlightenment thinking and notions of progress “lit-up” the minds of Europe’s greatest thinkers. The gothic horror is a genre that concerns itself primarily with the supernatural, unexplained events and things that go bump in the night.  Quite the antithesis of Cartesian rationalism that sweeps away our fear of the hocus-pocus or the inexplicable force of nature. Yet, the fallacy of rationalism is the belief that the light of reason lights up the full spectrum of our knowledge. The light of reason can be compared to a beam of light shining in the darkness of our knowledge.  We shine the light in one direction and it lights up …

Candid(e) Thinking: Elementary Food

The nefarious tradesman may have successfully managed to chase the hapless Professor Accum out of town yet the memory of Accum’s accusations continued to trouble British society. For the sake of the public good Parliament determined to give the damp, rat-infested corridor a good spring clean – but it lacked the turn-key to unlock the door to the filthy space infested by men of ill-intent. Enter Thomas Wakely, Arthur Hassel and Dr. Henry Letheby quintessential men of their time. Learned, analytical and methodical to the core. Could it be these men were the inspiration behind Arthur Conan-Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes? Relying on the microscope, the fastidious scientific recordings of their research and the Analytical Sanitary Commission they were able to prove, conclusively, that food was adulterated – better still they could prove who the adulterer was. In the end, it was all so elementary. At the same time but working across the channel in France the brilliant Louis Pasteur was beginning to reveal a whole new, hidden world of creepy-crawly-critters living in food and beverages which …