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Peas Porridge in the Pot 9 Days Old

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Posted on : 2:34 PM | By : Nic | In : , , , ,

Everyone has heard the child's song, "Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot 9 days old..."  The more I research this, the more answers I get about what that means, lol.  After all of the reading I have done, I think it's pretty simple, and here's my theory from the point of view of an amateur experiential archeologist. :)


Back in the old days, people didn't have a plethora of pots and pans to choose from.  They didn't have all kinds of fancy machines, or even many utensils.  In the 1800's they might have had a cast iron cook pot and a skillet and some bread pans.  These worked on the cookstove or over the fire.  Before that, everyone cooked on an open fire, and everyone use a large cast iron kettle or cauldron. 

Another problem was that it was difficult to store food.  If you had leftovers, you couldn't pop it in the fridge.  It had to be dried, smoked or in cold storage in the cellar.

Thus people made pottage, or porridge or what we call stew.  People threw in what they had with some water and simmered it over a low fire continuously.  Some theorize that at night the pot would get cold and therefore food went bad so no one would rely on the pot to store the food, but anyone who uses their fireplace as their only source of heat knows that you never let the fire go out if you can help it.  You bank the fire at night to keep it going, and sometimes you get up in the middle of the night to feed the fire.  

Hot foods need to be kept above 140 degrees in order to stop bacteria from growing.  The key to this is to keep it steaming, and if you can keep up a continuous simmer then the food in the pot could stay good indefinitely.  Another difference back then was that you didn't eat a different food for each meal - there was no such thing as breakfast foods.  People would make a nice loaf of bread in the bread box, serve it with a hearty stew filled with all kinds of things from the harvest, followed by a nice cup of beer since water was often contaminated.  They ate this at every meal, but it changed a little bit every time as other things were added to replenish the pot.

This kind of cooking lends itself particularly well to a food storage.  A crock pot is not necessarily energy efficient, but if you have a wood stove (even one for heating) you could cook stew on it this way.  And if you don't have a way to make bread, dumplings are a quick and easy way to get some grains in your diet as well.  Stew was also another way to make meat go further, and it made it possible to draw nutrients from inedible parts such as bones and legs.   And unlike other cooking methods, you keep the nutrients from boiling the vegetables and drink it up in the broth.  AND if you are really desperate, it makes yucky things palatable, like dried crushed insects.

Comments (1)

Great Post. I didn't know that!
Thanks!