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The Introduction of Tropical Flavours into British Cuisine, 1850-1950
Korean Minjok Leadership Academy
Choi, June Young
Research Paper, AP European History Class, Fall 2009
Table of Contents
II. Background: before 1850
III. Improved Maritime Technology and British Fruit Imports
IV. The Development of Canning Technologies and its Impact
V. Cooling and Refrigeration; Their Effects on Tropical Fruits Trade in Britain
VI. World War: The Impact of WWII on British Tropical Fruit Trade and Cuisine
VII. The Change of British Cuisine in Relation to Fresh Fruit Trade
Though several historical researches had been conducted about the history of British cuisine, there had not been only few papers
that looked into each ingredient, and most of them had been confined to the ones that took the staple positions in the kitchen, such
as bread, tea, or coffee. Fruit was considered of minor importance. This paper thus tries to focus its attention to the British cookery
from 1850 to 1950 in relation to fresh fruit trade, which has never been taken place before. This study of British cuisine was confined
to the common level, what the common people ate, not the top classes of society. As sources, cookbooks were selected to represent
the era of their publications; by examining them a proper idea about the popular diet was found. They were then related and analyzed
along with the technological innovations that came along, and the process of diversification of British cuisine was well explored.
Contrary to the popular negative belief about the British cookery, which mostly implies that it was in a dull state for all of history, it has shown
considerable advancement ? by this I mean diversification of ingredients and cooking methods ? throughout the last 250 years. One interesting
notion about this popular belief is that prior to and during the industrial revolutions, what the common people took as their daily diet was virtually
the same ? same in the way that it lacked animal protein, but only rich in potatoes and vegetables. This in fact is a trend that can be
applied to many European nations of the time, but it was first in Britain that the process of diversification in cookery that took place. It is in
such trend, that this paper tries to direct its focus upon. Furthermore, by placing its sight upon the trade of fresh fruit, which was extremely
fragile in transportation and fell secondary in need compared to food products like grain, a great deal of unspoken truths can be said about the
capabilities of international trade and goods exchange of that time; tropical fruits had shown the perhaps the slowest changes, but implied the
affordability of the technological changes in the common level. Trade of fresh fruits and its effect on British cookery relates well with the trend in
cookery in general ? expansion and diversification.
II. Background: before 1850
Although many countries import various food products from outside these days, in the earlier times this was not the same. Before the arrival of the
industrial revolution, most European states relied on self-supporting methods of acquiring food. Those food items that were imported from abroad
were mostly traded within Europe, and only in rare cases like spices and nuts, were they shipped on a truly ¡°international¡± trade route. England
before the industrial revolution imported most of its grain need from the fertile plains of France, Hungary, and Russia. There of course had been very
small quantities of importation of fresh fruit from abroad, for example, the first shipment of fresh banana in England was documented to be in the
year 1633, but to common people, that is to say, the working class, the price of imported fresh fruits remained so high that it was virtually not
affordable for them.
In this backdrop, the one most significant factor in lowing the price was to decrease the cost of transportation. With the pre-modern sailing ships of
the 1500s to 1600s, the Carracks and the Galleons were too small and too slow to transport fresh food products from abroad. It is widely known
that the Spanish frequently used galleons as the main transporter of shipment from their New World colonies, but the items transported then were
not fresh food, but rather items like silver that did not give much about transportation time. To exemplify, the Argentinean Pampas region, widely
known its cattle herding, exported hide rather than the meat; the meat was left for local consumption ? or in some cases, just thrown away ? and
the hide were exported due to lack of methods to transport the meat freshly. This stalemate could only be broken by the introduction of new
technologies of transportation, notably steam ships and railroad.
The significance that England holds is its special place during the era of industrialization. There were good reasons that the British were able to import
the fruits the earliest among its European rivals. It was because of the great amount of British colonies at the time. With the defeat of Spanish Armada
in 1588, Britain became one of the strongest maritime forces at that time. Later defeating its rival, the Dutch, made Britain the sole ruler. It was with
this strength that Britain was able to colonize a vast amount of land all around the world. By 1850 the British Empire had its influence on virtually all
parts of the world, starting from India to Canada. This vast Empire made possible the good flow of raw material to the British Isles, making industrialization
easier. Another factor is that the ever growing number of British population, since the industrialization increased the demand for new food products,
notably fruits. As Britain emerged as "the first industrialized nation", its population increased triple amount than that of before, and this combination of
industrialization and population growth made it ever more paramount for British to be dependent upon foreign food imports.
The end result brought from the two factors was that British no longer needed to depend upon food imports from other European nations. Even during the
1850s, British grain imports were mainly from France, Russian, and the Baltic regions, but around 1900, more than 87 per cent of them were from outside
Europe (1). Following next to this trend was the rise of real wages among the working class. Such rise brought about the
change in the dietary habits within them, and the consequence was that fewer families were obliged to depend of simple diet, mainly on potatoes. With the
increased real wages, they now could demand on the market fish, meat, green vegetables, and fruit. This demand was met to some degrees by the increase
of domestic productions, in the case of fresh fruit, in areas such as Kent, the Vale of Evesham (2). However, such reinforcement in
fruit supply was limited to the fruits that could be grown in British soil and climate. What could not be grown, had to be imported from abroad. Much of the
additional demand had to be filled from elsewhere.
The importation of fruit into Britain has two separate and distinct origins. First is dried fruit, and the latter is fresh fruit. Dried fruit, mainly currants, dates
and figs had been recognized to have good keeping qualities, for they posed no difficulties in shipping long distances even by some of the most primitive
methods. However, the very small scale of this trade should be kept in mind, for it has been estimated that the capacity of shipping required catering for
these imports from southern Europe and Turkey only amounted to 8 or 9 thousand tons per year in the first half of the eighteenth century (3).
By the mid 1850s, this situation began to change, as real wages rose and demand for different kinds of fruit surmounted. The festive mood of Christmas
ever more increased the seasonal demand for dried fruits imports, and items like currents and raisins from Malaga grew more and more popular.
Although fresh fruits were quite more difficult to transport than those mentioned earlier, the imports of orange and lemons were of some peculiar
characteristics, for they had ¡°longer shelf life¡± and other fresh fruits. Thus, without the help of the more advanced transportation technology, it was
possible to import them in considerable quantities, making it became affordable for the commoners to get access to those fruits earlier than to other fruits.
Although the most common ways of giving a taste of lemon or orange for most British familiar cookery was by adding dried peels or rind, it is notable to
see such exception in accessibility to imported fruits. In British cookbooks for common people of 1865
(4), several entries that contain ¡°lemon flavoring¡± and
¡°rind of lemon¡± appear ? implying the familiarity of lemon within the British cuisine. At first, the trade of these items was dominated mainly by the southern
European region, but as time passed on Spain became the dominant supplier of orange and Sicily emerged as the principal source of lemons. Davies notes that,
¡°According to the letter book of a Liverpool merchant, Thomas Leyland, he obtained most of his ¡®China oranges¡¯ and ¡®sour oranges¡¯ from Seville. He also
imported oranges from St. Michaels in the Açores and attempted to bring in lemons from Portugal.¡± With the imports of other fruits, such as apples and pears,
France was always the principal supplier of them. Keep in mind that the import of ¡°tropical¡± or ¡°exotic¡± fruits at that time was quite limited in its kinds. The
following table illustrates this point well.
Table 1. Imports of Fruits and Vegetables into Grat Britain and Ireland in 1840 (5) |
Value (Pound Sterling)
Oranges & Lemons
As can be seen from the table above, the import of ¡°exotic¡± fruits are not even listed under an individual category like mangoes or bananas. They are simply listed,
¡°Unenumerated fruit¡±, and this, which is basically the combine of ALL the imports of exotic fruits, are considerably little. This few amounts were imported for
the sales to the higher classes of the society, not the common people. The import price in 1840 for these fruits were high, as mentioned earlier, thus it was
only the upper class who afford them. Note that the reason for such small imports in pears and cherries is that they were easily grown in Britain, hence reducing
the needed imports to satisfy the demands.
III. Improved Maritime Technology and British Fruit Imports
As mentioned in previous chapter, the single most important aspect in determining the public¡¯s usage of tropical fruits was the cost. In the earlier times,
before 1800¡¯s that is, transportation was mainly done by sailing ships, which took great influence from the prevailing winds and ocean currents. The
ships thus needed to in some cases circumnavigate from the shortest route by distance in order to take advantage of currents and winds. An example
would be the route from Europe to Americas. Although the shortest way by distance is to take the trans-Atlantic way from the west coast of the Iberian
Peninsula, but most sailing ships took the way through the coast of Africa, where the winds blew more favorably. Thus, it was under these circumstances
that the ships were obliged to not take the shortest way, and it was not until the age of steamships that cargo ships could take the more straightforward way.
From about 1825 to 1875, sailing ships built for speed was used to carry the cargoes in international trade. These ships were constructed swift and light to
gain maximum speed from the wind. Thus tonnage fell secondary to agility. They usually fell in the 80 to 160 tons category. In the height of their times, it is
estimated that more than 300 of them were in service. These vessels were employed on routes from Spain, the Mediterranean, the Açores or, in some cases,
the West Indies. Despite their advantages in speed, their size and carrying capacity made the sailing types of vessel less and less favorable for oceanic trade.
In the case of fruits, this was the same, and in the case of more perishable types of fruit, they were not suitable either. It was fortunate, that a new type
of ships began to emerge. The coal-driven steamers soon came to replace the wooden sailing ships, but at first these steamers were seem less favorable
than their predecessors. In the earlier half of the 1800¡¯s, when steamers first began to appear ? in fact it was in 1807 that the first true steamship was used
commercially ? their technology was far from profitable for long distance journeys. At this level, their locomotive systems had to be supported with far too
much coal, and as they were still relatively unreliable, they were unsuitable for long distance travels. Many of the record journeys of the early 1800's were
conducted with the aid of both sail and steam engine. One example of such would be the S.S Savannah's New York to St Petersburg in 1819.
Thus, to break through this situation, efforts to improve on the efficiency of the ocean-going steamers were conducted. Such development first began with
the advancement in the construction and design of the hull. This progress came about with the coming of better methods to treat iron to acquire quality steel.
Until then, when iron was used in shipbuilding, it was mostly applied as reinforcing sidings to the wooden ships. Iron, it seemed, was too brittle and heavier
than wood to be made suitable for oceanic voyages. Early steamers worked as tugboats or ferries in rivers or canals. However, there existed two critical
points that propelled researchers to work on metal ships. The first was greater tensile strength of iron over wood. Despite iron¡¯s heavier weight to that of the
wood¡¯s, such character made possible to build larger ships with far less thickness than wood. Thus in total, iron ships weighed approximately 25% less than
the same capacity wooden ships, so the ships could carry far more cargo without losing her buoyancy (6).
The second character was the limit to a ships size in regards to its building materials. The structural limit of a western wooden ship was 300 feet. However
there was practically no restriction on the size of a steel ship, except for the buyer¡¯s ability to pay for the construction of such large ships. The advancement
in enine performance were also completed around this time. The compound engine, in which the steam is expanded to generate power in two separate steps,
made possible to get higher boiler pressure, even with reduced coal consumption. To simply put it, compound steam engines became stronger. Therefore these
characters made inevitable for inventing more efficient metallic ships that were equipped with steam engines. It was in the 1880 that Britain's steam tonnage
matched up with sailing tonnage.
However, despite these new maritime techniques, apart from the import of orange and lemon from Spain, buying of fresh fruit did not show significant increase
in this era. Little impact was done to British fruit business, which was probably more significantly affected by railroad or other factors. Most of all, fresh
fruit, at that time, fell short in importance compared to other items. The increase in demand in products like meat, was greater than tropical fruits like bananas,
thus for a considerable time the fresh fruit imports remained about the same. In 1840, during which there were virtually no imports of meat, in 1887, it
increased to 700,000 tons. Furthermore, the provision of cheaper and faster overseas shipping ensured larger greater amount of traditionally imported crops
to be brought in. The cargoes of soft fruits were then used to fill the gap between demand and domestic supplies. We can look into Charles Dickens¡¯s A
Christmas Carol, first published in 1843, to get some insights into the public demands on fruits at that time. In his story, he shows a vivid display of what kinds
of fruits were sole in the peak of seasonal demand. Notable is that fruits like apple, pear, oranges and lemon were often mentioned, but there were no mentioning
of any ¡°exotic¡± kinds of fruits from the tropics, such as bananas or mangos. It would take another half a century for the tropical fruits to become popular
among the commoners.
Before the steamship era, still, some tropical fruits, notably bananas, were already known in England. This was due to the works of individual sailors, who
purchased tropical fruits on small scales to sell back at home. Such individual sailors carried tropical fruit trade in a very small scale, which ensured that the
price stayed very high and supplies hopelessly low. These first few came with the opening of trade with Africa, which caused a number of ships returning to
England to stop by at either the Canary Island or Madeira. These stops were usually conducted to acquire supplies, but once in port, individual sailors bought
several items on small scales to make own profits . Thus although the London market was provided with occasional fruity luxuries, it lacked the quantity and
scale to be made into a formal business. Until the mid 1800¡¯s there was no organized trade of bananas in England. This situation remained virtually the same,
even when regular steamship service began to operate between Liverpool and West Africa in 1853. For the fruit traders, there was no reason to carry perishable
fruits from some long 2000 miles to England, when they could simply buy the long-lasting citrus fruits with considerable success.
IV. The Development of Canning Technology and its Impact
It was first the French to invent canning technologies in its Napoleonic Wars to feed its soldiers. However, this method preserving food without spoilage
soon spread to the rest of the world. Today, canned food is a crucial method for food preservation in a wide range throughout our society, but it was not
until the 1860¡¯s that this method became effective. Historically, canning in Britain was brought about by Peter Durand, who built upon the French method,
in 1810, when he developed a process of packaging food in air-tight iron cans. At this time, canning was far from commercial. It took over six hours to
cook the food contained inside, and to make the matter worse, each can had to be sealed manually. Thus prior to the mid 1800¡¯s canned food was beyond
the reach of common people. It was the above middle class that could afford to buy canned food, and it soon became a symbol of middle-class status all
across Europe. Canning had insignificant effect upon the British cuisine, and even in English cookbooks of 1865, canned food does not appear.
The point most poignant in this case would be the lack of both demand and supply on canned goods. Prior to the subsequent rise of real wages in the
British working class, canned goods were produced in a local level, especially in each household. At the time, canning was used for a variety of methods
of preserving food, which included jarring and pickling of fruits and vegetables, and it was these ¡°canning¡± that most of British households relied upon to
last through winter, during which fresh fruits became unavailable. In the beginning of commercial canning industry, glass jars were the predominant medium,
but they soon were replaced by tin cans, which were far easier in production and transportation. These methods implemented glass jars with cork sealing,
but compared to the canned goods (in today¡¯s concepts), they were both less in nutritional and preservation values. However, modern concept of preserved
cans were not so popular within the British society, even after the development of technology. The inadequate making methods, which held production to
virtually a standstill (it took some 6 hours to cook a can), was a no favorable preconditions that could enable a mass production of canned goods. Around 1850¡¯s
canned goods which included fruits like peaches, and other food like tomato and peas were available, but they were so large that they needed to be carried in
wheelbarrow, and often had to be opened with hammer.
With the development of time-reducing methods of producing canned food in 1860¡¯s the situation got a lot more favorable, but not completely. Canned goods
still were economically inadequate, and it was not until the coming of the First World Wars that canned food was popularized. Thus, by the 1930¡¯s canned
foodstuff were implemented to British households with cheaper prices and carriable sizes. However, in fruits, especially the tropical ones, the cases were
not the same, and they were often considered not as a primary listings of foods to be canned. Thus, although canning was well under way by the mid 1930¡¯s,
canned tropical fruits were popular well into the 1940s. In A Concise Encyclopedia of Gastronomy published in 1942, it is stated:
... Pineapples are tinned or canned, whole or in chinks or slices to an ever-growing extent, for export and for use at any time of the year
either in fruit salads and in their own juice, or else in tarts, puddings, fritters and many other ¡®Sweet¡¯ forms ...
A Concise Encyclopedia of Gastronomy, published in 1946, then gives several recipes that have canned pineapples, but in the earlier cookbooks,
none of recipes that have canned pineapples appear. Because in earlier cookbooks recipes with pineapples does not appear ? either canned or fresh
(7), it would be logical to conclude that the raw fruit was not available in the public market as early as late 1800¡¯s and its price, which
would be the key determining factor in an ingredient¡¯s popular appeal, was set up above the affordable line of most people. In the 1890¡¯s one recorded of
price of pineapples are 1s. 6d. to 2s. 6d. (8), but it is explicitly stated that " ... they may be sliced and whole, and are admirably
adapted for first-class dishes ...", which accounts for the nature of the fruit¡¯s consumption in England before they became popular. They were
available on the market, as is today¡¯s caviar of truffles, but were not accessible to the public. Pineapples are known for its perishability, and because the
ripening process completely stops after harvesting, they were much more difficult than bananas or other fruits to be shipped into Britain without the aid
of quick and economic shipping or processing methods.
V Cooling and Refrigeration; Their Effects on Fruit Trade in Britain
In the previous chapters, we¡¯ve looked through the impact of canning and maritime technologies in the development of British tropical fruit market,
and we¡¯ve also seen that their impact had considerable dedications in the formation of market. Same kind of contribution can also be found on the
new cooling and refrigeration technologies. The first refrigeration technique goes as far back as 1756, when William Cullen at the University of
Glasgow in Scotland made an elementary method of obtaining cold temperatures through artificial means. However, it was in the 1820¡¯s that British
scientist Michael Faraday made possible the obtaining of liquefied ammonia that true ¡®refrigeration¡¯ could be made a reality. By the late 1800¡¯s refrigeration
technologies were beginning to be used for the transportation of meat products into Britain, from places such as Argentina and New Zealand.
Attempts to carry tropical fruits were almost always made by the merchants, but its stability and reliability were hampered by the pace of ripening, the
greatness in distance, and the lack of speed in methods of transportation. In some parts of North America, one of these factors, distance, was relatively
less severe, and even with sailing vessels, merchants were able to ship tropical fruits like banana from Jamaica to Florida from as early as 1870s. It
was comparably easier to transport bananas from Jamaica to Florida, than to transport them from the Canaries or Açores to London or Liverpool. Sailing
vessels, as stated earlier, however were capable of transporting dried fruits and those fruits with long shelf life. By far the most among them was the citrus,
and in 1854, it was documented that "... sixty million oranges were imported for the London market alone, and some fifteen million lemons ..."
(9) However, despite this significant number of imports, oranges were still considered as "winter luxuries."
(10) There were also the imports of other trade fruits, like pineapple and melons, although few in number. Until this time,
refrigeration of fruits was not implemented.
After the primitive forms of refrigeration became available, they soon were used extensively, especially for carrying long-distance cargoes. In 1874,
the first test of carrying meat over long distance was conducted, during which, with the use of natural ice, meat was able to be transported between
the US and Britain (11). Progress soon followed. In 1877, Frigorifique started to carry its regular cargoes of
meat from Argentina to Britain, and
in 1880, the very first shipment of mutton from Australia arrived in London. It showed that with the technical difficulties overcome, the meat market
could digest a large quantity of imported frozen meat. However, it is notable that the carrying of live cargoes, that is to say living as in the case of fresh
fruits, and dead cargoes, exemplified by meat, took different methods in transportation. Fruits and vegetables required separate mode of treatment
during its long oceanic voyages. With "living" cargoes, the point is not to freeze them to an extent of death. Rather, because they continue to ripen
and breathe after harvest, the task is to slow down this process to a considerable extent, so that they would still remain fresh in their destinations.
In the cases of "dead" cargoes, meat had to be stored in much lower temperature to prevent the growth of microorganisms. Thus the fact
that meat was safely transported over long distances does not directly indicate the availability of tropical fruits to be transported. It took several attempts
to formulate the necessary procedures of transporting refrigerated fruits. In February of 1889, a cooling chamber was installed on the RMS
Grantully Castle, and in Cape, about fifteen tons of grapes were loaded into this chamber. But, for couple of reasons this shipment did not
arrive in London in good conditions. The temperatures were kept too cold for fruits, and the wrong kinds of grapes were chosen for shipments.
However, the fact that meat was able to be transported opened up a new array of possibilities for the transportation of fruits as well. This meant
that technology was developed to a feasible point, and the experimental voyages soon resulted in the emergence of many new origins of overseas
fruits and vegetables. Among such new sources was the Canary Island. Before, the islands were lacking in facilities so that no major attempts
were made to commercially export its immense fruit products. However, with this solved, the Canary Islands exports of bananas and other fruits
soared. One interesting thing is that because there were virtually no wood in the Canary Island, the wooded cartons used to ship fruits had to be
bought from Norway, to be reassembled by the laborers in the island. They were mostly female workers. A similar type of development was taken
in Madeira as well. Especially in the Canary, governmental efforts were conducted to foster the banana industry. The following table illustrates the point well.
Table 2. Canary Islands Exports, 1897 - 1902 (13) |
As can be seen, the export of bananas from the Canary Island grew from 66,461 in 1897 ? 1898, to some 1,197,616 in 1901 ? 1902. In contrast to
the export of oranges, which stayed within about the same range, though showing some fluctuations, the growth of banana export is phenomenal.
It can be deduced that the Canary Islands, with its cheap labor, and rights of free importation of artificial manure, took the upper hand in exporting
the fruit to Britain. In the mid 1890¡¯s, Madeira was reported to have exported some 30,000 bunches of bananas a year
(14), and along with the Canary Islands
made almost all of bananas going into Britain. By the 1890, with the adequate cooling facilities that delayed the natural ripening process of the plants,
bananas were successfully transported over long distances. Thus, the second wave of imports of tropical fruits was done at least in the 1890¡¯s when
cooling technologies were used to transport them. In the British cookbooks of 1964, Mrs. Beeton¡¯s Shilling Cookery Book, no entry except the
ones containing citrus appears. There is no mentioning of banana or pineapples. However, only about 30 years later, in Cassel¡¯s New Universal
Cookery Book, many entries including bananas, melons, and pineapples appear, and in the case of bananas, even the best deal price is mentioned.
Thus, although the reason is not directly stated, it can be easily deduced that the cooling technologies had a profound impact upon the import of tropical
fruits into Britain. Such development of technologies brought the vast diversification of the British cuisine. Where local fruits like peach were used as
ingredients for compote, bananas were being implemented in the late 1800¡¯s. Same goes with many other fruits. Pineapples were also mentioned, and it is
written to be excellent for winter, for preservation would make it available then. Melons and mangoes comes up in recipes of fruit salads, which in
previous cookbooks, had only fruits that were grown relatively near Britain. It is by the end of 1800¡¯s that these trends begin to appear, and they changed
the array of items on British families.
Keep in mind that just because refrigeration in shipping became available, it doesn¡¯t mean that every household was equipped with coolers. In fact, it
was the opposite. In the 1890¡¯s it can be deduced that refrigeration technologies did not establish itself in the British households in the 1890¡¯s. In fact
it was only in the 1920 that less harmful refrigerants such as HCFC and HFC had been developed, making refrigerators suiting to home use. This
development well supports the implementation of cooling in common British cuisine. Refrigerators became available, but still, the prices were set on too
high levels. It was only after the Second World War that refrigerators became widely available to the public. Looking into the recipes provides good
insights on this trend. In Good Housekeeping Invalid Cookery Book, which was published in 1926, the vast increase in variety of ingredients
can be seen. Lemon, which used to usually appear as juice forms, is, to a greater degree, used whole, meaning that the availability of the fruit must
have had grown larger ? presumably due to advancement in refrigeration. Furthermore, items such as bananas appear more frequently in recipes. After
the war era, the changes becomes clearer, and in the cookbook published in 1950, King Edward¡¯s Cookery Book, more ¡°modern¡± way of
treating foodstuff begins to take place. Recipes of ice cream containing essence of vanilla are written, and fruits are preferred to be used as whole
rather than being used in essence form or in juice form. The entry of ice cream in cookbooks well establishes that by that time, British household
cuisine had, on a regular basis, used refrigerators as a means of cooking and preparing their food.
VI. World War: The Impact of WWII on British Fruit Trade and Cuisine
The outbreak of the World War 2 marked a new phase in the human history. The war lasted for only ? although some others might say it a long time ?
for seven years, from September 1st, 1939 to September 2nd, 1945, but it had very profound effects upon the lives of many, even to these days, and this
was not exceptional in the tropical fruit trade and British cuisine. The home front in Britain was closely tied with the carrying of supplies from foreign
countries. Germany had begun its submarine campaigns from the early stages of the war despite the pressure that US might join the war in the Allied side.
This German strategy of isolating Britain reached its peak, when France surrendered and left Britain as the sole survivor on the European continent. Soon
after, massive German air raids became parts of English life. It was under this backdrop that the British tropical fruit market had no choice but to shrink,
along with it the British cuisine to cope with.
When the war started with the invasion of Poland in 1939, the tropical fruit trade was well under its way. As stated in the earlier chapters the introduction
of innovative technologies made it easier to carry and retain the freshness of the fruit thereby promoting its trade and usage at British homes. However,
with the outbreak of the war, the situation became somewhat different. The war condition set by both interior and exterior circumstances hampered
the continual of the business. From outside of Britain, German U-boats worked rigorously to halt the Allied shipping in Atlantic Ocean. It was not only
the trade of tropical fruits but rather ALL of ships going in and out of the British Isles that became targets of German operation. The fruit business soon
confronted the full effects of the war.
The German efforts to hamper Allied supply line did have considerable impact. Several of the ships that were used to transport fresh fruits, notably oranges,
lemons, and bananas, were sunk down by torpedo attacks. In 1940, total of seven ships that were equipped with the facilities of transporting bananas
were torpedoed and sunk. These were Cahgres II, Carere, Samala I in September, Sulaco I and Matina II in October, and Casanare, Mopan and Aractaca II in
November. As time passed on into the 1942, it became harder and harder to make safe journeys to places like Jamaica and the Canaries, where bananas
and oranges were grown and sold. Not only fruit price began to rise, they became ¡°inaccessible,¡± and even with money there were times in London when
the supplies simply could not cope with demands.
Another factor in debilitating transportation was requisitioning of trade vessels. Because most ships in the tropical fruit business were equipped with good
cooling chambers, they were extremely prone to be requisitioned by the British government. Such taken ships were then modified and used for carrying
other supplies for the Allied army. Usually, fruit-transporting ships were faster than ships carrying other cargoes due the perishing nature of their loads ?
they needed to sail faster than their goods would perish. Thus, for the beginning part of the war, such ships were granted the privileges of sailing independently,
without restrictions from the British government. Other vessels were bunched together in convoys of merchant ships, and were protected by the navy.
However, following the fall of Norway and occupation of France, a whole wide variety of ports and airfields became available to the German forces.
This meant that they could now start taking more direct route in interfering with the Ally ships. The fruit trading companies were in a tremendous concern.
In fact, this was reflected on the Ordinary General Meeting of 31st of December, 1939 in Elders and Fyffes Company, a firm that was basically in charge
of the banana import within Britain. It is written :
... It is, however, a source of satisfaction to your Directors to be able to report that although navigation became very difficult and voyages were in
some cases prolonged, they were all safely performed and that cargoes were discharged and distributed with remarkable promptitude ...
The executives here stated their grave concerns towards the surmounting hostilities within the Atlantic and the Baltic seas. By 1941, it became clear that the
German U-boats were threatening the industry, and the company became more and more hesitant to conduct its journeys. However, even with this
unfavavorable conditions, the trade still took place, but something dreadful struck Jamaica, the main exporter of banana even before the war started. Several
hurricanes struck Jamaica in 1939, and to make the situation even worse, a deadly Panama disease took great portions of the banana plant. By the former,
some 90% of the crops were damaged or ruined. Especially, the blight continued well into the war and even after, effecting the price of bananas not only
in Britain but also in the United States (16). It was under these circumstances that most of the tropical fruit business became
a stalemate and decreased in their
size. Resulting from these two factors, the total imports of bananas into Britain fell from a total of 288,000 tons in 1939 to 193,000 tons in 1940. No
bananas but only small quantities of tomatoes were being shipped from the Canaries to Britain when hostilities commenced in September 1939.
Thus it was only natural for the British government to restrict the trade of fresh fruits, despite the guaranteed independence in the early part of the war.
By November 1940 the Ministry of Food banned the total imports of many fruits, including bananas. Lord Woolton, the minister at that time had
concluded that it would be better to have one enough fruit than insufficient amount of many kinds. The ¡°one fruit¡± selected in this case was oranges,
and all other fresh fruit trade became prohibited. Oranges in this period were not even real fresh oranges. Britain was then basically dependent upon the
imported oranges since it did not grow any domestically, mainly in the form of concentrated juice. This form of fruit, usually packed in cans and cartons,
were easier to carry over long distances in a variety of vessels. The equated packaging size of the tin cans made efficient packing possible, whereas the
¡®living¡¯ version, with its circular shape, would have ate up lots of unnecessary space. It is thus perfectly understandable the embargo set by the British
Moving on from this embargo, the government used a variety of propagandas to ¡®justify¡¯ its selection of orange. All the other fruits were considered
too much of luxury during the war. Even the importation of dried banana was prohibited. It is written :
... responded by mounting a high-pressure campaign which decried the food value of fruit in general and of the banana in particular. Through
radio talks, articles and advertisements in the press, government-paid speakers informed that public that there was ¡®nothing important in either
oranges or bananas that cannot be got from vegetables¡¯ ... (17)
But this does not mean that the British government had turned banana into an unnecessary aspect in British life. It is well supported that the government
considered the embargo only temporary measures during the war times. Evidences could be found in Britain¡¯s support of the Jamaican fruit growers.
As stated in earlier parts, the banana production in Jamaica, as well other sources, had been directly hit by three devastating forces ? hurricane, black leaf
disease, and the war. This meant that by the law of economics, the price of banana would rise greatly, and because the demand could not cope with the
risen prices, there came to exist a big surplus in supplies. It was a matter of time that the production fell to the grounds. As a matter of fact, by 1944,
only one third of the prewar acreage was used for growing bananas in Jamaica. This situation could lead to the decay of the banana industry, which was
negative for Britain, considering its future trade.
In the following years the British government therefore tried to save or aid the dying industry through buying some portions of the surplus bananas
although they could not be taken to Britain. They were purchased and then thrown away. It was a means of the British government to keep the
production of bananas for future. If left to decay, the drop in supply would later make the market price of the fruit up high. Up to some 12,000,000
stems per year, bananas were bought to preserve the core of the banana business. The price agreed upon was 3s. per stem, which seemed to be the
suitable price at the times, when considering that the average price in the year 1938 was 3s. and in 1939, 3s. 10d. These measures did indeed had some
temporary effect in keeping the banana industry, but soon the condition began to change. The cost of living index led to a general increase in the
wage level throughout the island. Additional costs from the leaf spot disease which, having made their appearance a few years before, were now
becoming more difficult and costly to control. (18) Thus the production fell anyways. While the purchasing price of the
government rose to some extent later, that was not significant enough to stop it. Thus the number of stems bought with government subsidies
dropped to 4,000,000 in 1944, from 23,699,000 in 1938. (19)
All in all, the Second World War had itself no positive impacts on the tropical fruits business. Moreover, what the British war cuisine was perhaps the
most food-saving in all nations of the time; hence there were no places for fresh fruits. The embargo set by the government was followed rigorously,
and soon English citizens had orange juice instead of all other fruits. The lasting impact of the war was by itself somewhat negative. However, the
improved shipping and preservation technologies made through the war era worked later to diminish the price in imported fresh fruits in general,
which then would have profound effect on the household tables of Britain. Canning, for example, although having been invented a quite earlier, did
not penetrate into everyday lives of the people until the end of Second World War.
VII. The Change of British Cuisine in Relation to Fresh Fruit Trade
To see the changes in British cuisine in relation to fresh fruits, we must first look at the economic aspects of the situation. The evolution of common
cuisine, which in this paper is represented by "the British cuisine" is similar to the pattern of change of real wage. As real wages rose, more money
could be spent upon buying food ? which meant people now began to care not just eating itself, but also what and how to eat. This is the core
essence of the matter here. Thus, for fresh imported fruits to be accustomed into the British cookery, their price must be lowered to a considerable
degree, either by means of reducing the cost in transportation or making the real wage greater. Usually, the former was much a greater factor, for
rate of price falling was more significant than rise of real wages.
To see what the cuisine was actually like, we need to take closer looks into the cookbooks of that time. But there is a catch ? cookbooks must be
chosen wisely to represent the general outline of cookery at that time. Several books, each from its own distinctive periods of the time gave ideas
on what the people ate at that time. Mrs. Beeton¡¯s Shilling Cookery Book is a typical Victorian age cookbook. It was published in 1865,
a year around which steamships more and more came to replace sailboats. Thus, in an analysis with regards to steamship was necessary. First, there
were in total of 40 recipes that included any ingredients such as lemon, rind of lemon, lemon juice, orange, vanilla, or any fresh fruits that had to
be imported from abroad. Out of 600 recipes in the book, this number was somewhat small. Thus, although the price of individual fruits are not
specifically mentioned, it can be easily deduced that the price of fresh fruits, or even its processed products had a high price level, seldom suitable in
¡°Shilling¡± cookery book. One interesting thing was that there were no sign of oranges in the entire recipe book. Again here, reasonable deductions
had to be made. As stated earlier, both oranges and lemon are citrus fruits, and they have the relatively same sources ? Spain in particular, and about
the same lengths of shelf life. The difference here is thus not its supply, but rather its use. While lemon was used in a wide variety of usages, such as
with fish or in desserts, oranges did not, when compared to that of lemons, have such wide usage. Until orange became cheaper, they would stay out
of the common kitchen. This relation to price could be easily found in recipes that used lemon as well. While in modern cookery, we consider the use
of lemon or lemon juice, in fish recipes almost as a routine, the usage of lemon in this book was mainly confined to rind and peel. Juice was also
used, but they were not juice that was juiced freshly, but rather processed juice sold commercially. Fresh lemon was seldom used. Among the total
of 79 recipes that contained fish, only 4 of them used any traces of lemon. This was a quite different frequency compared to later recipes.
Cassel¡¯s New Universal Cookery Book was also examined. With its publication date of 1894, it showed well what the British ate at the turn
of the century. In here the number of entries having foreign fruit showed a sharp decline. Among more than 2000 recipes in the book, only 22
of them had traces of imported fresh fruit. Compared even with Mrs. Beeton, this is a very small number. However, this lack of entry was the
characteristic of this cookbook. In fact, this book had the highest price and lowest price of imported fruits. This made it deducible that some imported
fruits were made affordable by this time. Bananas had consumer price of 6d. to 1s. per dozen, which is a price quite lowered than the previous era.
It was also noteworthy that this book included some extensive recipes of pineapples and bananas. This very fact well illustrates the notion that these
fruits were made more accustomed to the public in general. There were about five recipes on banana alone, and for pineapples, there were six. By this
time, melon and mango were introduced in British cuisine.
Next is Good Housekeeping Invalid Cookery Book. This book was published in 1926, and it shows well the post-WWI and pre-WWII diet
of the British people. This book showed great surge in both the number of recipes with imported fruits. It was perhaps the shortest of the books
that were discussed so far, only 254 pages in total, but perhaps with the most prolific entries with imported fruits. In this stage of development,
many new changes can be found. In fish dishes, a great number of them, if not the majority, use lemons, either in fresh form or in juice forms.
The rate of which rinds and peels were used as substitutes of fresh lemon had been reduced. It seems that adding fresh lemon was a common
practice in a typical British kitchen. It is even directly stated in the book, that "... among the most suitable flavorings is fresh lemon rind or juice ..."
This statement shows that even rinds were made freshly from the fruit itself. Moreover, the use of vanilla is first observed here, mostly in essence
form, but considering the fact that vanilla are best flavoring in essence, this condition could be understood. Even in modern cookery, we use vanilla
essence more often than the pod itself. Oranges become more common, and a vast increase in dessert section is noteworthy. Starting from orangeade,
tens of recipes with oranges are attributed to desserts. In the context of economics, this meant that people now could afford not just the meal itself,
but rather on the sweet items that followed after a meal. The post WWI cuisine of Britain definitely diversified and expanded; the number of recipes
with foreign produce increased, and the cooking methods started to care not only whether to eat or not, but also what and how to eat.
Such increase in quality of food in the public sector was again boosted after the Second World War. If the impact of WWI was large, the impact of
WWII was gigantic. In King Edward¡¯s Cookery Book, this impact is well depicted. In a total of 319 pages, there were 190 entries that had fresh
fruits as its ingredient. The book itself was published in 1950. Moreover, not only lemon but also oranges are used extensively in its fresh form. As
stated earlier, the application of the newly advanced canning technologies are notable, More ingredients that are canned began to appear in some of its
recipes. The recipe "Pineapple Upside Down Pudding", for the first time in all the examined cookbooks, has "tinned pineapple" as its ingredient.
With the war efforts, during which virtually all food had to be imported from abroad, the canning methods had drastically evolved, to a level which
made its price considerably low. Everything from eggs to pineapples was canned, and this accumulated know-how during the war times helped in
distributing canned goods throughout the public. Through improved transportations of the WWII, new kinds of fresh fruits are visible in the recipes.
Tangerines and cocoanuts are examples that could not be seen in any of the previous books. While fruit ingredients that appeared still remained ?
such includes lemon rind and dried lemon peel ? their position grew smaller, and gave ways to new and diversified imports.
An important factor to taken into account is that the King Edward¡¯s Cookery Book was published in two editions. The first one, published in 1904, well depicts
the British cuisine in its glory days, but for the second revised edition, published in 1905, the post-war social condition did not allow such affluent usage of
ingredients. Food was strictly rationed during the war and even into the post-war era. In fact, food rationing was reinforced after the war, mainly to distribute
food to the European areas under British control, which was devastated by the war. Under these circumstances, it came as a big surprise, when the author,
or the reviser in this case since Florence A. George had died, stated in his introduction that the book does not reflect the post-war social ambiences. Rather,
he suggests the need to return to the old way of cooking, with using lots of food ingredients like fruits or fat.
He states: ... The greater part of this book needs no modernization at all: it is true that a second world war has produced far greater shortages
than the first, but ... A steak pie made with tinned meat may be a good emergency dish; but it is just not the same dish as one which is made in the
orthodox fashion ... So, in revising this book for a new edition, I have found very little to alter in the recipes themselves, though I have tried to
indicate, in some instances, how substitutes can be used ... (20)
Thus the Kind Edward¡¯s Cookery Book in its second edition was not reliable as its source of information about the Brutish post-war cuisine. The
food rationing was well under way even until July 1954 (21). He directly states the need to return to the orthodox fashion of cooking. However,
what is important is that this book properly captured the newly introduced ingredients made available by technological breakthroughs. Tinned
pineapple is a great example. With knowing that canning became popular after the WWII, tinned fruits can only be seen as the newly revised portions
to the book. Thus it is reasonable to see that this book properly illustrates the introduction of new ingredients, but however it should be considered
that it does not represents directly the British post-war diet.
Number of Recipes
Percentage of Recipes
Mrs Beeton's Shilling Cookery Book (1865)
Cassel's New Universal Cookery Book (1894)
King Edward¡¯s Cookery Book (1904/1950)
Good Housekeeping Invalid Cookery book (1926)
It has been shown, in the earlier chapters, that the introduction of many innovations had changed the way fresh fruits were imported, and how
it affected the British cookery. However, despite the available technology, there still are some notable character of British cuisine ? distilling.
Distilling is a technology used to make distilled alcoholic beverages like Whisky or gin, but the thing this paper would like to focus on is the
production of liquor. Liquor is distilled alcoholic extract of fruits or other ingredients. In the cases of fruits, the distilled products had much
longer shelf life, and thus could be shipped more easily in bottled forms. Before the actual fruits could be imported, the distilled versions were
one of the ways to bring flavor into many fruity dishes-at least in the continental Europe. Despite the availability of these liquors, British cuisine
was timid into implementing them eagerly into their cookery. This was found to be one unique character of British cuisine in the early 1900¡¯s.
It seems, that from a very early period in history, distilled liquor of various fruits were made available in Europe. Bols, the oldest distilling company
in Europe, began its business in Amsterdam in 1575, and produced liquors of fruits like oranges. Distilling plants were located in Amsterdam,
and in earlier years, because the general price of imported fruits like oranges were high, the price of distilled goods were maintained high. It
would be around the 1800¡¯s, when the price or fruits was lowered that any of these fruity liquors could be thought of an ingredient of cookery.
They were certainly not cheap, but when compared to the living versions, they could bring out the flavor in much small quantities. In the 1890¡¯s
famous French dishes such as 'Grand Marnier souffle', which implemented liquor as flavoring were widely known in European cookery. However,
one strange thing remains ? none of the cookbooks invested has any presence of such liquor for flavor. Among more than 4000 recipes that were
examined throughout 1850 to 1950, almost none of them had fruity alcoholics to bring out the flavor. Rather, simpler methods like rinds or juice
were used. Because Bols and Grand Marnier probably began their exporting to Britain before the latter part of 19th century, the supply of these
drinks were available at that time. It is simply that the British did not use them in cookery, but only for plain drinking purpose.
In the context of analyzing the change of common British cuisine, this paper attempted to explore how such factors as the improvement of maritime technologies,
improved canning and refrigeration, and the WWII altered the consumption conditions in British cuisine. In each of the factor, one common result was brought
about ? that imported fresh fruits became more approachable for the public. At first, the imports of these fruits were extremely costly, with only few individual
sailors bringing in few items for local consumption. The low supply kept the price high, enough for the general public to be unable to get access.
The combination of geographical and ecological concerns made a fragile balance between the cost and profit of fresh fruit imports.
But the prevalent flow of technological innovation reduced such costs to a considerable level, making the trade possible and profitable. Examining the specific
cookbooks of the time gave clear ideas about the effects of such factors, all of which directed towards one location - diversification. Accordingly, more of
non-indigenous fruits started to be used in common cuisines, and those that were uses as preservable forms, like dried lemon peels, started to be used in its natural,
fresh forms; all because the import price were made affordable by new innovations.
The general trend of ingredients is expansion and diversification, but this has many correlations with the power of the British Empire. The recipe having tropical
fruits continue to multiply until the King Edward¡¯s Cookery Book, which was published in 1904, the height of the empire. However, in the book of 1926, after
the First World War, such diversity declined, showing the total percentage drop from 31 percent to 11 percent.
(1) Davies 1990 p.10
(2) ibid., p.11
(3) ibid., p.11
(4) Beeton 1865
(5) Reynolds, The Banana, p.11
(6) Davies 1990 p.17
(7) Cassell 1894 p.1136
(8) ibid. p.1137
(9) Basil Greenhill, The Merchant Schooner, (1988), p.16
(10) Davies 1990 p.65
(11) R. A. Peters, Refrigerated Shipping, Wakefield Lecture presented at the University of Southampton, February 1982, p.1
(12) Davies 1990 p.68
(13) Osbert Ward, The Vale of Ortava, (1903), p.79.
(14) Here, each bunch has approximately 100 bananas on each, so it would be 3,000,000 bananas
(15) Elders and Fyffes, Limited, General Minute Book, vol. 2, p. 120
(16) Davies 1990 p.165
(17) P. Beaver, Yes! We Have Some: The Story of Fyffes (1976), p.76.
(18) Black, Jamaica¡¯s Banana Industry, pp.88-89
(19) Davies 1990 p.168
(20) Florence A. George, King Edward¡¯s Cookery Book, preface, 1904; (Second Revised Edition, 1950).
(21) Timeline of Rationing, under Rationing in the United Kingdom, Wikipedia
1. Beeton, Isabella. Mrs. Beeton¡¯s Shilling Cookery Book. London: Ward, Lock, and Co., 1865.
2. Heritage, Lizzie. Cassell¡¯s New Universal Cookery Book. London: Cassell and Company, Limited, 1894.
3. George, Florence. King Edward¡¯s Cookery Book. London: Edward Arnold & Co, (1904) 2nd revised edition 1950
4. Jack, Florence. Good Housekeeping Invalid Cookery Book. London: Good Housekeeping Magazine, 1926.
5. Simon, Andre. A Concise Encyclopedia of Gastronomy Section V Fruit. London: The Wind and Food Society, 1946.
6. Campbell, Elizabeth. The Encyclopedia of World Cookery. London: Spring Books, 1958.
7. Wiley, Mable. Warne¡¯s Everyday Cookery. London: Frederick Warne & co, Ltd, 1959.
8. Davies, Peter. Fyffes and the Banana: Musa Sapientum A Centenary History 1888-1988. London: The Athlone Press, 1990.
9. Article : Canning , from New World Encyclopedia.
25 Oct. 2008. 8 Aug. 2009 .
10. Grand Marnier. Marnier Lapostolle family story: Secretes and expertise. 2008.
Grand Marnier.com. 13 Sep 2009
11. Lucas Bols. Lucas Bols: the Company.
Lucas Boles website. 13 Sep. 2009 .
12. Wikipedia. Pineapple. 20 Sep 2009. Wikipedia.
15 Aug. 2009 .
13. Wikipedia Banana. 15 Sep 2009. Wikipedia. 15 Aug. 2009
14. Wikipedia, Rationing in the United Kingdom. 9 Nov 2009.
Wikipedia. 16 Nov 2009
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