Quote Of The Day

"Victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake - Chessmaster Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower (1887-1956)"

Monday, September 30, 2002

A History Lesson:...
Next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water temperature isn't just how you like it, think about how things used to be....

Here are some facts about the 1500s:

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath about May and still smelled fairly good by June. However, they were starting to get a little pungent, so the bride carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odour.

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children - last of all the babies. By then, the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it - hence the saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water."

Houses had thatched roofs - thick straw piled high with no wood slats or sheathing underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the dogs, cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip off the roof - hence the saying, "It's raining cats and dogs."

Since the ceiling was straw, there was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could really mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That's how canopy beds came into existence.

Beds were made from straw, which of course is a home for insects of all kinds, particularly fleas, lice, and tics. These beds weren't very nice. The original meaning of the word 'lousy' is 'full of lice' (lice is the plural form of louse). As a result, everyone had lice and fleas. Rats also were common, and diseases spread from the rats to humans, through the lice and fleas. Moreover, any sort of minor injury here the skin got broken often led to death due to infection. This helps explain why life expectancy was only about 30 to 40 years.

Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight, then start over the next day. Sometimes the stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while, hence the rhyme, "Peas porridge hot, Peas porridge cold, Peas porridge in the pot nine days old."

Sometimes they would be lucky enough to be able to buy pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man "could bring home the bacon." They would cut off little chunks to share with guests and would all sit around and "chew the fat."

Those with money had lead-based pewter plates. Unfortunately, food with a high acid content caused some of the lead to leak onto the food, causing lead poisoning and death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 350 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

The floor was dirt. This gave real meaning to the expression 'dirt poor'. Only the wealthy could afford something better, which was often slate. But slate gets slippery when it's wet, especially in winter, so a layer of straw (thresh) was placed on the floor. As the thresh got dirty, more and more layers of straw were added throughout the wet season. The straw, or thresh, was held in place at the doorway by a piece of wood , called a 'thresh hold' ... from which we get the term for a doorway, 'threshold'.

Most people didn't have pewter plates, but had "trenchers", a piece of wood with the middle scooped out like a bowl. Often trenchers were made from stale bread that was so old and hard that they could be used for quite sometime. Trenchers were never washed and a lot of times worms and mould got into the wood and old bread. After eating from wormy, mouldy trenchers, one would get "trench mouth."

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 "upper crust."

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whiskey. The combination would sometimes knock them out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up, hence the custom of holding a "wake."

Graveyard overcrowding was a problem even in those days. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a "bone-house" and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, nearly 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they thought they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the "graveyard shift") to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be "saved by the bell" or was considered a "dead ringer".
[Culled from various "Isn't history wonderful?" type sites]

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous6:48 pm

    Fabulous information

    Thank you!

    ReplyDelete