Many bills settled by the parish overseers in both Cumberland and Staffordshire were for beef. Usually, like those submitted by John and Grace Brown in Lichfield or by Edward Young in Dalston and Jno Halliburton in Brampton the bills just listed as ‘beef’ but occasionally ‘shin’, ‘leg’ of ‘calf head’ are itemised. Couple these bills with those made out for salt and spices and the likelihood is that the beef was used to make ‘beef alamode’, a type of stew or soup that could be eaten hot, or when cold and solidified could be cut into slices. In Brampton, the workhouse dietary specified hot flesh dinners on Sundays and ‘fragments of cold meat’ on Mondays.
Beef alamode was a very popular dish in Georgian England, so much so that there were entire eating houses devoted to it and it was a handy takeaway too. This was one pot cooking that could be kept on the stove for hours and used to feed large numbers of people. There are many variants on the recipe (or receipts as the Georgians called them) which were tailored to satisfy the demands of different ranks in society, but in essence the ingredients included the following: course beef, water, lard or dripping, flour, vinegar, onions, salt, black pepper and then an interchangeable selection of herbs and spices that could include mace, nutmeg, cloves, allspice and sweet herbs, or whatever else was at hand. In 1826, Lydia West supplied groceries including black, pepper, mustard, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves to the overseers of Uttoxeter and in 1829, Lewis Hall supplied pepper, mustard, clove pepper and nutmeg.
Cumbria Archives Service
PR60_21_13_8_1, Food and clothing Brampton Workhouse, c. 1765.
PR60_21_13_5_1, Jno Halliburton, 1811.
SPC44_2_40_8_10, Jan 17th to Aug 29th 1834 Dalston Parish to Edward Young, Settled October 10 1834
Staffordshire Record Office
D3891/6/31/22, Uttoxeter, Lydia West, 23 Dec 1826.
D3891/6/34/10/12, Uttoxeter, Lewis Hall, 1829.
LD20_6_7_169, Lichfield, St Mary, John Brown, 1831.