The History of Leith

March 15, 2008


In the 1500’s they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and added what little meat they had to the pot. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving the leftovers in the pot to get cold over night and then start over again the following day. Sometimes the stew had meat in it that had been there for sometime. Hence the rhyme, “Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot, nine days old”.

On occasions they managed to get pork, which made them feel quite special and when they had visitors, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that the man of the house “could bring home the bacon”. They would cut off a little bit to share with their guests and they would all sit around and “chew the fat”.

Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with a high acid content caused some of the lead to leach into the food, causing lead poisoning deaths. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next three hundred years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle and guests got the top or the “upper crust”.

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They would be laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather round and eat and drink and wait to see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding “a wake”. (Sounds a bit Irish to me).

Jim S

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