Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Food History: Hams! Hams! Hams! Christmas in Carlow - 1891

As I've mentioned previously, Carlow was a pretty cosmopolitan and prosperous place back in the 1800s and here's a nice advert from 1891 showing the range and variety of food and drink available at this time. Perhaps it's also testament to the sheer number of people who could afford these items within the town environs and in the many Big Houses a little beyond.

And this was just one shop of a few that sold these kind of products ... some lucky local people were going to have a good Christmas that year...

The Carlow Vindicator 1891 - Local Library

Morris's stood on the corner of Burrin Street and Bridewell Lane, on part of the site where the town's hideous post office now lurks. Judging from the maps at this time, it was quite a large establishment - as it would need to be to stock such a range. Calling itself an 'Italian Warehouse' - with the subtitle of 'The Marsala House' with fancy-shmancy script - is a superb piece of marketing exoticism that would appeal to the landed gentry returning from trips abroad back in the day.

I will draw your attention to some of the lines listed:
  • Coffee roasted and ground on site daily
  • Doomvera tea - 'The Tea of the Future' (Nope, I have no clue either...)
  • Whiskey, scotch ... even old Islay malt
  • Old Cognac in wood and 21 year old brandy
  • Large range of champagnes, plus Hock and Moselle wines
  • Gin, rum and liqueurs
  • Guinness's stouts, Bass and Allsopp's ales and Royal Pilsener
  • Fruits and nuts - fresh, tinned, preserved and crystalised
  • Rices, spices, jams and jellies
  • Cossaques [sic] (Christmas crackers), biscuits, chocolates (Cadbury's and Fry's) and other confectionary
  • Meat, fish and cheese ... including Gorgonzola
  • Those special Hams! Hams! Hams! (No turkeys of course...)
...and much more as you can see.

Part of me would love to have seen this place at Christmas ... busy with customers, packages being loaded up for delivery around the town, plus new lines arriving from far flung places...

Perhaps it's no different to shopping in any supermarket now in a way, but my romantic, nostalgic - and possibly naive - side makes me think I'm somehow missing something special, like some kind of food-focussed time-traveller's FOMO.

I'll leave you to mull over the stock with this last bit of 19th century marketing blurb that's stuck on to the end of the advert...

'Whiskey that needs no eulogy.'

What does that even mean?


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