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Tomatoes were poisonous: that is what people "knew"

1501 - Would you want to live then?

Life in the 1500's

The next time thou art cleansing thy hands and grumble for the water's temperature isn't just to thy liking, ponder upon how things were in yonder days.

Getting married in June, one month after your yearly bath

Most folk were wedded in June for they had their yearly bath in May, and yet did smell somewhat sweet by June.

However, they began to smell, and thus maidens carried a bunch of flowers to mask the body stench. Hence the custom today of bearing a bouquet when being wedded.


Babies got lost in the bath water

Baths were naught but a large tub filled with hot water. The master of the household did enjoy the privilege of the clean water, followed by all other sons and menfolk, then the women, and finally the children. The infants were last of all. By this time, the water was so befouled that one could verily lose someone in it. Hence the saying, "Cast not the babe out with the bath water."


Cats and dogs rained too

Houses were adorned with roofs of thatch - thick straw heaped high, sans any wood beneath. It served as the sole place for creatures to find warmth, and so all the cats and other small beasts (mice, insects) took residence in the roof. Upon rainfall, it would become slick, and at times, the animals might slip and fall off the roof. Hence the saying "It's raining cats and dogs."


Canopy beds caught the bugs

There was naught to prevent objects from tumbling into the house. This brought about a real predicament in the bedchamber where insects and other droppings might soil thy clean bed. Thus, a bed with tall posts and a sheet draped over the top provided some safeguard. This is how the beds with canopies came into being.


The "thresh hold" kept the straw from slipping out of the house

The floor was but earth. Only those of means had aught else than dirt, whence the saying "dirt poor" cometh. The wealthy had floors of slate which would become slick in the winter when wet, and thus they scattered thresh (straw) upon the floor to keep their footing secure. As winter endured, they added more thresh until, upon opening the door, it would start to slip outside. A piece of timber was placed in the doorway, whence cometh the saying "thresh hold."


Nine days of left overs

In those elder days, they did prepare their meals in the kitchen with a large kettle that ever hung over the fire. Each day they kindled the fire and added matters to the pot. They ate chiefly vegetables and had not much meat. They would sup the stew for their evening meal, leaving remnants in the pot to cool overnight and then start anew on the morrow. At times, the stew contained victuals that had been therein for a goodly time. Hence the rhyme, "Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old."


Chewing the fat to show off for the neighbors

At times, they could acquire pork, which rendered them feeling quite distinguished. When visitors did arrive, they would display their bacon as a show of affluence. It was a sign of prosperity that a man could "fetch home the bacon." They would slice off a mite to share with their guests, and all would sit about and "chew the fat."


Tomatoes were the scapegoat for lead in the pewter


Those of means possessed plates crafted of pewter. Victuals with high acidity did cause some of the lead to seep into the food, resulting in death from lead poisoning. This occurred most frequently with tomatoes, leading to them being deemed poisonous for the next 400 years or thereabouts.


Guest were treated to the upper crust

Bread was apportioned according to one's station. Workers received the burnt bottom of the loaf, the household enjoyed the middle, and guests were served the top, or the "upper crust."


Holding a wake to see if the dead would wake up

Cups of lead were used to drink ale or whisky. The mixture would oftentimes render the drinkers senseless for a couple of days. A passerby would deem them deceased and ready them for interment. They were laid out upon the kitchen table for a couple of days whilst the family gathered around to eat and drink and watch and wait for signs of awakening. Hence comes the custom of holding a "wake."


The graveyard shift would listen for someone who had been buried alive to ring the bell

The local inhabitants of olde England began to run short of places to inter their dead. Thus they would exhume coffins, carry the bones to a "bone-house" and reuse the grave. Upon opening these coffins anew, 1 out of 25 were discovered to bear scratch marks on the inside, revealing the dreadful truth that they had been interring folk yet alive. Hence, they would fasten a cord to the wrist of the deceased, run it through the coffin and up through the earth, and affix it to a bell. A watchman would have to keep vigil in the graveyard through the night (the "graveyard shift") to hearken for the bell; thus, one could be "saved by the bell" or was considered a "dead ringer."

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