Condiments Cruets Penny Licks

Victorian condiment bottles and cruet sets did little more than continue a lineage established in Georgian times, whereby sundry flavour-enhancing comestibles would be brought to table in small bottles or flasks for liquid materials, and sifters, casters and shakers for powdered, ground or granulated additives. The same now somewhat archaic distinction was still in place; all such additives are properly known as condiments, but the name cruet(s) should by rights exclusively apply to the small bottles of oil or vinegar.

The contents of ketchup bottles were, though, a long way removed from the now ubiquitous tomato-based sauce which first appeared in 1895. To this point, the ingredients were very much open to interpretation, with soya bean, walnut, anchovy or mushroom being the most common constituents. It was also more of a stock, used as a cooking ingredient in its own right, rather than being a condiment, but nonetheless, it is possible to find ketchup bottles which date back to the very earliest years of Queen Victoria’s reign and beyond into the late 18th century

Another modern staple which was to make its debut in the 19th century was ice cream, hawked around the streets by vendors with hand carts, rather than vans. These vendors would purvey their penny or tuppenny scoops of plain ice cream in little glass pots known as "licks". These were fairly robust, and plenty of them endure making them eminently collectible, with the purpose of their sturdy construction being threefold; in the first instance, it would simply make them more durable, capable being used time and time again, surviving numerous droppages by sundry excitable children, lickage by those interminably jolly patch-eyed terriers that infested every strata of Victorian society, and constant washing and cleaning. Secondly, the thick glass would - to some extent - insulate the ice-cream from the hot, sticky mitts of the consumer and lessen the speed at which it melted - thereby prolonging the prandial pleasure.

Thirdly, and most perfidiously, they had the same effect as countless other "deceptive" glasses in that they gave the impression of containing more "good stuff" than was actually the case - an early example of packaging intended to convince the buyer that they were getting a better deal than was actually the case. Fact was, though, they did often provide something over and above what might be expected, as ice-cream and licks in the 1800's was a significant source of typhoid outbreaks due to the lack of pasteurisation and general uncleanliness with regard to dairy products - nothing better than fever, intestinal haemorrhage, encephalitis and death to go with your short-lived, initially refreshing treat.


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